The global cholera pandemic reaches Chinese villages : population mobility, political control, and economic incentives in epidemic prevention, 1962–1964
Date of Issue2013
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
In 1961 the seventh global cholera pandemic, El Tor cholera, broke out in Indonesia. Between 1962 and 1964, El Tor infected the southeast coastal areas of China. This pandemic occurred at a time of significant reorganization for both the rural medical and health systems and the people's communes following the failures of the Great Leap Forward. This paper explores how local governments led rural medical practitioners, health care workers, and villagers to participate in the campaign against the spread of El Tor cholera despite the readjustment and retrenchment of the people's communes as social, administrative, and political units. I argue that, during this period of flux, the local government strengthened its control over rural medical practitioners by institutionalizing their daily work practices and reducing their freedom of movement, whilst simultaneously providing incentives for health care workers to join the vaccination campaign. The people's communes and the household-registration system after 1961 put further restrictions on population mobility. This cellularization of village society greatly facilitated the vaccination, quarantine, and epidemic-reporting processes, and contributed to the formation of an epidemic-prevention system and eventually a response scheme for managing public health emergencies in rural China. This process reflected the complexity of the mutual interactions between the political and medical systems under socialism.
Modern Asian studies
© 2013 Cambridge University Press. This paper was published in Modern Asian Studies and is made available as an electronic reprint (preprint) with permission of Cambridge University Press. The paper can be found at the following official DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X12000807. One print or electronic copy may be made for personal use only. Systematic or multiple reproduction, distribution to multiple locations via electronic or other means, duplication of any material in this paper for a fee or for commercial purposes, or modification of the content of the paper is prohibited and is subject to penalties under law.