The COVID-19 Pandemic in East and Southeast Asia: Comparative Perspectives

Title: 1412 | The COVID-19 Pandemic in East and Southeast Asia: Comparative Perspectives
Area: Southeast Asia
Stream: Sociology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Mary Augusta Brazelton, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (presenter)
Hy V. Luong, University of Toronto, Canada (chair, presenter)
Alexis Dudden, University of Connecticut, United States (presenter)
Katsuma Yasushi, Waseda University, Japan (discussant)


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.

Panel Abstracts:
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.

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.

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.

This panel is on Monday - Session Morning - Main Room

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