China and Inner Asia
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
After 1949, interventionist and massive campaigns against pandemics in Maoist China have been claimed by the Chinese government, international academia, and the general public as hallmarks of the emergence of response schemes for fighting against pandemics. In this argument, the role of the socio-political system in shaping the emergency response scheme is always taken for granted and further highlighted. But medical technology (vaccines in particular) and transmission cycles of epidemics are usually neglected. This paper aims to analyse how politics, technology, and epidemiology contributed to end significant pandemics in Mao’s era. These pandemics include the plague in northern China at the time of the establishment of the PRC in October 1949, the seventh global cholera pandemic that affected China’s southeast coastal areas (1961–65), and the epidemic meningitis pandemic during the early stages of the Cultural Revolution (1966–67). The paper examines how the socio-political system facilitated the emergency response scheme that significantly affected the response to natural disasters, major epidemics, and public events in the following decades. It further retrieves medical technology and the epidemiology as the two indispensable factors in ending pandemics.