As of August 2014, China has not had any significant tsunamis in over 200 years. Historical records suggest a tsunami in 1782 devastated China, killing 40,000 people. In 1765, an estimated 27-foot wave from another tsunami swept up to 10,000 people out to sea. Storm surges are more common than tsunamis in China. A storm surge occurs when a cyclone creates a single wall of water.
Tsunamis are triggered by earthquakes, and China is a hotbed of seismic activity. While China is not known for tsunamis, the country is situated right at the edge of the Manila Trench. This trench stretches 800 miles under the South China Sea, all the way to the Philippines. The region is considered a high-risk zone for earthquakes., and seismic activity there could trigger a massive tsunami that would barrel straight toward the coast of China. Southeast China has four nuclear power plants near the coast that would likely be in the path of a tsunami originating from the Manila Trench, increasing the danger.
The South China Sea Tsunami Workshop (SCSTW) began meeting in 2007. The SCSTW meets annually to review and discuss tsunami risk for the region. It also makes recommendations for early detection and warning systems.