On 9 April 2000, a 91 Mm3 rock avalanche occurred in Linzhi Prefecture, Tibet. The event was accompanied by a deafening noise, with the rock mass travelling from a maximum elevation of 5132 m and coming to a rest at an elevation of 2163 m. It formed a landslide dam in the Yigong Zangbo River of some 55 m height, impounding a reservoir of some 2 Gm3 for a period of 62 days after which it emptied in less than 12 h. This event was a forewarning of a period of frequent geological disasters in China during the start of the 21st century. The ensuing Wenchuan earthquake (surface-wave magnitude Ms 8.0; May 2008), Zhouqu debris flow (August 2010) and Ludian earthquake (Ms 6.7; August 2014) led to the Chinese Government renewing its campaign against geological disasters and it has since invested heavily in scientific research to guide efforts to mitigate the impact of such natural disasters. This thematic set on Landslide Research in China was initiated to highlight this research. This paper provides a brief review of three of the featured subjects and accompanies the five papers published in the thematic set.