“Pandemics and Politics in Mao’s China: The Rise of the Emergency Disciplinary State”. by Dr Xiaoping Fang, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

4pm–5.30pm Wednesday 20 January 2021

Zoom Registration Required at: https://uofglasgow.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcoduqhqzkqE9OOGB6i1f2QZovlqby8lRMj 


During the 1961-1965 period, a cholera pandemic ravaged the southeastern coastal areas of Mao’s China which was already suffering from lingering starvation, class struggles, political campaigns and geopolitical challenges of the Cold War. This seminar focuses on the first global pandemic that had plagued China after 1949 and the resulting large-scale but clandestine emergency response. Based on rare archival documents and in-depth interviews with the ever-dwindling witnesses of the pandemic, this seminar examines the dynamics between disease and politics when the Communist Party was committed to restructuring society between the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The speaker argues that disease and its control were not only affected by the social restructuring that began in the 1950s and strengthened since 1961, but also integral components of this. Quarantine, isolation, total inoculation, epidemic surveillance and information control functionalised social control and political discipline, and therefore significantly contributed to the rise of an emergency disciplinary state, which exerted far-reaching impacts on its sociopolitical system and emergency response since Mao’s China, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaker bio

Xiaoping Fang is an assistant professor of history at the School of Humanities of the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His research interests focus on the history of medicine, health and disease in 20th-century China and the socio-political history of Mao’s China after 1949. He has published articles in journals such as Modern China, Medical History, the China Quarterly and Modern Asian Studies. He is the author of Barefoot Doctors and Western Medicine in China (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2012) and China and the Cholera Pandemic: Restructuring Society under Mao (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021).


The Scottish Centre for China Research Seminar Programme gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the MacFie Bequest. 

First published: 12 January 2021

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