We explore how Coulomb stress transfer and viscoelastic relaxation control afterslip and aftershocks in a continental thrust fault system. The 1999 September 21 Mw = 7.6 Chi-Chi shock is typical of continental ramp-décollement systems throughout the world, and so inferences drawn from this uniquely well-recorded event may be widely applicable. First, we find that the spatial and depth distribution of aftershocks and their focal mechanisms are consistent with the calculated Coulomb stress changes imparted by the coseismic rupture. Some 61 per cent of the M ≥ 2 aftershocks and 83 per cent of the M ≥ 4 aftershocks lie in regions for which the Coulomb stress increased by ≥0.1 bars, and there is a 11-12 per cent gain in the percentage of aftershocks nodal planes on which the shear stress increased over the pre-Chi Chi control period. Second, we find that afterslip occurred where the calculated coseismic stress increased on the fault ramp and décollement, subject to the condition that friction is high on the ramp and low on the décollement. Third, viscoelastic relaxation is evident from the fit of the post-seismic GPS data on the footwall. Fourth, we find that the rate of seismicity began to increase during the post-seismic period in an annulus extending east of the main rupture. The spatial extent of the seismicity annulus resembles the calculated ≥0.05-bar Coulomb stress increase caused by viscoelastic relaxation and afterslip, and we find a 9-12 per cent gain in the percentage of focal mechanisms with >0.01-bar shear stress increases imparted by the post-seismic afterslip and relaxation in comparison to the control period. Thus, we argue that post-seismic stress changes can for the first time be shown to alter the production of aftershocks, as judged by their rate, spatial distribution, and focal mechanisms.