Mao zedong

How Mao’s medicine made modern China

History repeats itself, said Marx, first as tragedy and then as farce. And when it comes to the world’s latest pandemic, China and the coronavirus are no historical exception. ‘Mao’s Flu Strikes’, The Observer declared in November 1968. ‘200,000 people are ill with Mao’s Flu in Rome’, the paper reported, ‘and the epidemic is expected to grow in the next few weeks.’ While sixties’ Brits may have sidestepped today’s loo roll stockpiling, the ‘Mao Flu Panic’ was soon high on people’s minds. By its conclusion in 1969, Mao flu – now known historically as ‘Hong Kong flu’ – had killed around one million people worldwide, including 100,000 in the US