Cold War history is a topic that many have associated with political and military perspectives. Liping Bu, Chair of the History Department at Alma College, highlights the importance of how the Cold War affected medical and health systems of different countries in her new book, “Public Health and Cold War Politics in Asia,” (Routledge, 2023).
Released on Sept. 1, the book focuses on the influence of different political ideologies in Asian countries and how the health sector was changed due to the political discourse. In looking at examples from countries like China and Japan, Bu and her contributors were able to call attention to how public health in the Cold War era was an important sociopolitical matter.
“The main purpose of the book is to illustrate how the political ideas of different systems on both sides of the Cold War informed and shaped the different health systems, and how each society promoted their health system with a distinct Cold War discourse,” said Bu.
The process of writing about history and politics is no new concept to Bu.
“It is quite natural for me to write about history with political analysis about politics and policies. I was trained in history and political studies, with a PhD in History and Policy,” said Bu.
Originally, the concept of the book began as a topic for a journal article. However, peer reviews led Bu to turn the topic into a book project.
“A journal article usually has a limit of 8,000-10,000 words. When the peer review of my article came back that commented on the importance of the research and the need to flesh out more of the public health programs in different countries, it appeared that an article would not do the job,” said Bu.
The process of writing the book took Bu many years to complete. As a full-time professor at Alma College, the summer months were the only time that Bu could focus on her project.
“Doing a historical research project always takes time. From the collection of primary sources and reading secondary literature to writing revisions it took five to six years for me to complete the chapters I wrote,” said Bu.
Once audiences read the book, Bu hopes that people can see how the Cold War shaped health programs in different countries through the gaps of the political discourse and health program delivery.
“The book is a historical study, I hope people will gain historical insights to understand current health issues and think about how we may improve the health system,” said Bu.
“I think the concept of the book is truly interesting. In school, we only focused on the political and military implications the Cold War had on the war. Providing the insight of how the medical system is interlinked with political systems and ideologies is very important to understand,” said Sofia Floros (‘26).
The release of Bu’s new book has traveled throughout the history department and many students are excited to read it.
“I am always excited to see my professors releasing new books. It makes me feel more connected to what they are truly interested in. It also gives us as students a more human perspective on our professors,” said Tyler Hoag (‘25). Bu’s book, “Public Health and Cold War Politics in Asia,” is available to students to check out at the Hatcher Leaner Commons. It is also available for purchase on the Routledge website as an eBook and hardback.