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China and Pandemics: Send Questions for a Video Talk with a UBC Expert

Salt Spring Forum will record a discussion with historian Timothy Brook to be shared on The Tyee.

Tyee Staff 25 Mar 2020 |

For years, the Salt Spring Forum has brought fascinating speakers and audiences together on the island off the coast of B.C.

Now, along with the rest of us, the group has had to reconfigure their programs since gathering in person is considered a public health hazard.

Rather than cancelling altogether, Forum organizers are filming the discussions and distributing them online. In lieu of having a live audience, they are asking for your smart questions beforehand to pose to their next speaker (that’s where you come in).

And the Forum is doing so in partnership with The Tyee, which makes the video and a summary available on its site.

Here’s a conversation with physician and author Kevin Patterson that calmly and thoroughly prepared us in a one-hour video recorded conversation for the crisis we are sliding into now.

Next the Salt Spring Forum presents professor and author Timothy Brook, moderated by Louise Doucet.

What are the political, social, cultural and economic factors that may have contributed to the rise of COVID-19 in China?

What is the history of pandemics in China?

Could China’s apparent recovery from the worst of the pandemic result in an increase to its power and influence relative to other countries?

Timothy Brook is a professor of history at the University of British Columbia and one of the West’s foremost scholars of the social and cultural history of China, with a particular focus on the Ming dynasty and Japan’s occupation of China from 1937-1945. He is also an award-winning author, including of the critically acclaimed Vermeer’s Hat.

Prof. Brook’s latest book has just been published by HarperCollins. Great State: China and the World traces China’s relationship with the outside world from the beginning of the Yuan dynasty in 1279 to the present. It recounts the stories of ordinary and extraordinary people who inhabited the spaces where China rubbed shoulders with the rest of the world, and those who continue to do so.

The New Statesman describes the book as “A dizzying and exhilarating journey.” Kirkus Reviews calls it “An ingenious look at an often misunderstood country.”

China has a long history of pandemics, and of being blamed for them — even if the virus (such as H1N1) originated elsewhere. One of the largest such pandemics was the Third Plague, which was a major bubonic plague pandemic originating in Yunnan in 1855. It resulted in 2 million deaths in China and a further 10 million deaths in India. The Third Plague spread around the globe for more than a century.

China’s history related to pandemics supports Prof. Brook’s contention that China has always been closely linked to the rest of the world, despite an image of being inward-looking and highly protective of its independence and culture. Indeed, China was ruled by outsiders for the majority of the eight centuries covered in his book.

China has also benefited from its ability to assimilate qualities and practices from its conquerors. Most recently, it has used a hard-edged but "Peaceful Rise" to grow into a global economic powerhouse. China’s apparent recovery from the worst of COVID-19, just as Europe and the United States begin to seriously suffer, raises the possibility that China’s global power and influence will now grow even further.

As with all Salt Spring Forum events, a large part of the discussion will be driven by questions put forward by Forum members and the public. You are warmly invited to send a question related to the description of "Great State" above, to: When doing so, please mention if they can mention your name if your question is posed.

The video will be available on the Salt Spring Forum website from Saturday, March 28, 2020, and will be posted on The Tyee website.

Please note: The Forum receives no revenue from these video-events, but does incur costs.

If you would like to assist Salt Spring Forum with a tax-deductible donation, please visit here.  [Tyee]

Read more: Health, Politics, Coronavirus

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