Late-Breaking Panel | The COVID-19 Pandemic in East and Southeast Asia: Comparative Perspectives


This session examines how historical backgrounds, contemporary discourses and practices, as well as government strategies have shaped the COVID-19 pandemic in China, Vietnam, and Japan. The discussant for the session will add an important regional perspective on the pandemic.


Hy V. Luong, University of Toronto, Canada (chair, presenter)
Katsuma Yasushi, Waseda University, Japan (discussant)
Mary Augusta Brazelton, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (presenter)
Alexis Dudden, University of Connecticut, United States (presenter)

Hy V. Luong

University of Toronto, Canada

Vietnam’s War Against COVID-19

Vietnam has succeeded in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic despite its proximity to and a strong flow of tourists from China. Vietnam has had one of the lowest infection rates in the world and no reported death from COVID-19. Besides an early and detailed action plan, the Vietnamese government has successfully used the war metaphor to mobilize all government resources and citizens’ efforts, and to suggest everybody’s sacrifice for collective welfare. I suggest that Vietnam’s success also has to do with cultural practices, including the meaning and frequent use of face masks in daily lives.

Hy V. Luong is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. He was trained in Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley (BA) and Harvard University (PhD). He is the author or editor/co-editor of nine books, including Tradition, Revolution, and Market Economy in a North Vietnamese Village, 1925-2006 (University of Hawaii Press, 2010), and The Dynamics of Social Capital and Civic Engagement in Asia (Routledge, 2012, co-edited with Amrita Daniere). He has regularly conducted fieldwork in Vietnam since 1987. Luong’s research interests include social capital, discourse, political economy, and Vietnam. He is currently serving as Vice President of the Association for Asian Studies.

Yasushi Katsuma

Waseda University, Japan

Yasushi Katsuma is Professor in the International Studies Program of the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies (GSAPS) at Waseda University in Tokyo, while also serving the University as a member of its Board of Trustees. He is Director of the Department of Global Health Affairs & Governance in the Institute for Global Health Policy Research (iGHP) at the National Center for Global Health & Medicine (NCGM), Japan. He is also Professor and Co-Director of the Master’s Program in Global Leadership at Vietnam-Japan University (VJU) in Hanoi. Prior to the current positions, he worked for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), based in Mexico, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. He received his PhD (Development) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; LLM & LLB from Osaka University; and BA from the International Christian University, after studying at the University of California-San Diego. His areas of expertise are global health affairs and governance, human security and child rights. His recent publications include the following: Leave No One Behind: Time for Specifics on the Sustainable Development Goals (Brookings Institution Press, 2019; co-authored); “Next steps towards universal health coverage call for global leadership,” The BMJ (2019; 365: l2107; co-authored); "Challenges in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on good health and well-being: Global health governance as an issue for the means of implementation," Asia-Pacific Development Journal (Vol.23, No.2, 2016; co-authored).

Mary Augusta Brazelton

University of Cambridge, UK

Chinese Responses to COVID-19: Historical Perspectives

This paper considers Chinese responses to SARS-CoV-2 from a historical perspective. It suggests the lasting significance of early twentieth-century precedents in epidemic control, as well as specific events that set a course for health policy in the People’s Republic of China after 1949. Drawing upon the work of Miriam Gross, Xiaoping Fang, and others, I suggest that although the advent of the postsocialist period complicates the legacies of public health in the PRC, mass mobilization campaigns implementing hygienic reform, efforts to control information about epidemics, and strategies of medical diplomacy established during the 1950s and 1960s have had lasting influence that extends to present-day responses to the current global pandemic.

Dr Mary Augusta Brazelton is a University Lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science of the University of Cambridge. Her book Mass Vaccination: Citizens' Bodies and State Power in Modern China (Cornell University Press, 2019) examines the history of mass immunization in twentieth-century China. It suggests that the origins of the vaccination policies that eradicated smallpox and controlled other infectious diseases in the 1950s, providing an important basis for the emergence of Chinese health policy as a model for global health, can be traced to research and development in southwest China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. She has also published work on the history of penicillin development and tuberculosis control in China, as well as the history of Peking Union Medical College, and is the 2019 recipient of the Zhu Kezhen Senior Award from the International Society for the History of East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine. Her research interests lie broadly in historical intersections of science, technology, and medicine in China and around the world. At Cambridge, she is an affiliated lecturer in East Asian Studies in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and a member of the World History Subject Group in the Faculty of History, as well as a Research Fellow at the Needham Research Institute. She received her PhD at Yale and has taught at Tufts University.

Alexis Dudden

University of Connecticut, USA

Masks, Science, and Foreigner-Baiting: Japan’s During COVID’s First Wave

While Japanese people’s general willingness to wear masks and Japanese society’s general trust in science have played an enormous role in maintaining a relatively manageable situation during COVID-19’s first wave, notions that an authentic Japanese-ness has stemmed the spread have relied instead on customary patters of “us versus them.” During the first six months of the pandemic, therefore, the administration of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has been able to abjure its responsibility for containing the virus while simultaneously placing the burden onto Japanese citizens themselves. In the coming months as greater economic ramifications are felt, these fissures will likely only heighten.

Alexis Dudden is professor of history at the University of Connecticut, where she teaches modern Japanese, Korean, and international history. Dudden received her BA from Columbia University in 1991 and her PhD in history from the University of Chicago in 1998. She has lived and studied for extended periods of time in Japan and South Korea, with awards from Fulbright, ACLS, NEH, and SSRC as well as fellowships at Princeton and Harvard. She is the 2015 recipient of the Manhae Peace Prize, and her books include Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea, and the United States (Columbia) and Japan’s Colonization of Korea (Hawaii). Currently, Dudden’s research centers on Japan’s territorial contests with regional neighbors, completing a book project tentatively called, The Opening and Closing of Japan, 1850-2020 (with Oxford). She publishes regularly in print and online media, and recent examples include "America's Dirty Secret in East Asia" (NYT) and "Japan's Rising Sun Flag Has a History of Horror" (Guardian).

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