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Quarantine Sovereignty during the Pneumonic Plague in Northeast China (November 1910–April 1911)

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The pneumonic plague, which spread over Northeast China during the winter of 1910 and the spring of 1911, caused a great many deaths and brought about severe social turmoil. After compulsory quarantine and other epidemic preventative measures were enforced by the Russian and Japanese colonial authorities in both north and south Manchuria, the local government of Northeast China, lacking similar quarantine and epidemic prevention procedures, was under the threat of forced intervention. It had to establish modern public health agencies in a short time following the compulsory quarantine and epidemic prevention methods of the Russian and Japanese colonial authorities, although they caused many social conflicts and confrontations. In this respect, the quarantine and epidemic prevention measures that were implemented at that time can never be simply and absolutely labeled as “progressive.” However, a “sympathetic understanding” can be upheld for the sufferings of the common people, for the various unpleasant but necessary measures taken by the Chinese government in order to safeguard sovereignty and prevent Russian and Japanese intervention, and also for the transformation of public health systems later carried out because of lessons learned from this painful experience.


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