Grew up in the southwest of China, in the past 30 years, I have lived, studied and lectured in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, Chicago and London.
I am now one of Europe’s most productive historians working at the boundaries of health, medicine, science, religion and everyday life in modern China. I also has a track record in trans-cultural/global studies and have built up a profile in the history of global health. My research interests range from medicine, health intervention and delivery in modern China to nutrition, food and narcotics, and more broadly the political history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as well as questions of race and ethnicity. My most recent book The People’s Health: Health Intervention and Delivery in Mao’s China, 1949-1983 (McGill-Queen University Press, 2020) is the first systematic study on health care and medicine in Mao’s China. This study was funded by the European Commission Research Executive Agency. Capitalising on previously unseen archival sources from across China AND extensive oral interviews with the participants at the expert and grassroots level, it sets out to develop a nuanced understanding of the Chinese approach to health. It explores the processes through which the PRC's health system was conceived and the political context in which they were, and could be evaluated. This book contributes to global health policy debates concerning the importance of political commitment to health, sustained investment, access to health, the pursuit of community engagement, and action on the wider determinants of health. In 2015, I also co-edited Disease, Religion and Healing in Asia: Convergence and Collisions (2015), a pioneering study that explores the diverse models of healing and their interplay with culture and religion in Asia.
I am among a growing number of historians who are pioneering the history of the People's Republic of China through the use of new oral and archival evidence. Based on thousands of archival documents and hundreds of interviews I have collected, my recent works The Great Famine in China, 1958-1962: A Documentary History (2012) and Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine, 1958-1961: An Oral History (2014) are powerful accounts which have helped to reshape our understanding of modern Chinese history.
In addition to my academic work, I have also a long track record in media activities. Some of my interviews with famine survivors have appeared in the award winning French Documentary film Mao's Great Famine (2012). In 2012 and 2013, I wrote a regular Op-Ed column on contemporary issues in China for the South China Morning Post, the most important English newspaper in Hong Kong. From the onset of the Covid-19 crisis in January 2020, I been regularly interviewed by major media outlets from the BBC to the Financial Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, and Aljazeera, to name a few, to comment on the outbreak in Wuhan and the Chinese health system as well as to speak on historical correlates of the global pandemic. In October 2020, I also keynoted at the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM)’s Pathology Council’s ‘SARS CoV 2: Emergence to impact’ webinar conference.
University of Essex
History Department Lead for International Partnerships,
University of Essex (1/7/2018 - present)
History Department Study Abroad Officer,
University of Essex (3/8/2020 - 30/7/2021)