Friday, September 25th, 2020 Global and Diasporic Military Medicine in the Republic of China, 1946 - 1970

Friday, September 25, 20203:00PM - 4:30PMOnline Event, Online Event


This presentation argues that the global connections and medical culture forged by diasporic WWII medical personnel was central to the survival, growth, and centrality of military medicine in postwar China and Taiwan. Established in post-war Shanghai in 1946 from a military medical complex during World War II, the main military medical institution (National Defense Medical Center NDMC) faced existential threat when its primary source of financial and logistical support from the Chinese diaspora and American aid organizations shriveled up. As the only medical center to move from China to Taiwan in 1949, the NDMC faced an uncertain future on the island. In the mid-1950s, the NDMC’s personnel developed an elaborate Cold War vision of NDMC as a center for training anti-Communist Overseas Chinese students. This vision persuaded the U.S. government to financially support the NDMC in the mid-1950s, enabling the center to become one of the three leading medical colleges on the island today. The center’s philosophy of fusing medical therapy, training, and ideology played a unique role in shaping Taiwan’s exemplary universal health care system, and left an important legacy in its fight against SARS and COVID-19.

WAYNE SOON (PhD Princeton) is an Assistant Professor of History at Vassar College. He researches on how international ideas and practices of medicine, institution-building, and diaspora have shaped Chinese East Asia’s interaction with its people and the world in the twentieth century. His forthcoming book, Global Medicine in China: a Diasporic History (Stanford University Press), tells the global health histories of Chinese East Asia through the lens of diasporic medical personnel. The book argues that the Overseas Chinese were central in introducing new practices of military medicine, blood banking, mobile medicine, and mass medical training to China and Taiwan. Universal care, practical medical education, and mobile medicine are all lasting legacies of this effort on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. Dr Soon’s published and forthcoming articles can be found in Twentieth Century China, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, American Journal of Chinese Studies, and East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal.

SHELLY CHAN is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a historian of modern China and the Chinese diaspora and the author of Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration. This recent book was published by Duke University Press in 2018 and shortlisted for the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) Humanities Book Prize. Chan’s new research focuses on the history of “homegoings” involving China, Taiwan, and the diaspora in the Cold War, as well as the historical geography of Nanyang (the South Seas) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Chan received her Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz and taught at the University of Victoria (2009-11) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2011-20) before returning this year to her Ph.D. alma mater as a faculty member.


Wayne Soon
Assistant Professor of History, Vassar College

Shelly Chan
Associate Professor of History, University of California, Santa Cruz

Tong Lam
Interim Director, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at the Asian Institute and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto

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