Public Health Engagement Aff Notes

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Security Things

Securitization for pandemics can uniquely be good

Wishnick ’10 (Elizabeth Wishnick, Associate Professor of Political Science, Montclair State University, “Dilemmas of securitization and health risk management in the People’s Republic of China: the cases of SARS and avian influenza”, Oxford Journals,, CL)

Securitization of infectious disease in China has involved speech acts by outside actors (such as international and regional organizations) and non-state actors (whistleblowers during both the SARS and avian influenza pandemics). In the case of SARS, securitization by the Chinese leadership followed speech acts by the WHO and a domestic whistleblower. As a journalist for the independent Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily noted, officials throughout the Chinese political system wait for the lead of the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party to define an issue as a political crisis and devote energy to address it. Once such a designation is made, other officials can hope to gain credit for their efforts to resolve the problem in their own areas. This means that resources are not properly allocated to issues such as public health until the leadership highlights an urgent problem (Apple Daily 2006). The avian influenza case has shown that securitization involves more than speech, also including practices such as wide-scale culling of infected poultry. Benefits of securitization include a mobilization of financial and public health resources, ending practices than may spread disease (eating sick poultry etc.), promoting public awareness, improving China’s international image and preventing panic and social instability. Although concern with China’s international image often is seen as the driving force behind China’s more vigorous response to avian influenza, compared with SARS, Chinese scholars tend to emphasize that China’s leaders primarily were motivated by domestic concerns in their efforts to improve governmental responses to epidemics. Many Chinese academics note that the additional restrictions imposed by the authorities on the media during SARS were counterproductive, in that they led to rumours, panic buying and social instability (Li 2004: 38; Li 2008: 23; Ma 2008: 562; Lu 2009: 96). Although some of the Western literature on securitization contends that authoritarian governments securitize (and in the process, tighten controls over information) for the purpose of enhancing regime legitimacy (Vuori 2008: 71), Chinese authors argue that, to the contrary, the greater transparency in reporting avian influenza and other emergencies in evidence after SARS improved the credibility of the government domestically (Li 2008: 24; Lu 2009: 96).

Reactive security spurs action to respond to future crises

Wishnick ’10 (Elizabeth Wishnick, Associate Professor of Political Science, Montclair State University, “Dilemmas of securitization and health risk management in the People’s Republic of China: the cases of SARS and avian influenza”, Oxford Journals,, CL)

Restrictions on local and international dissemination of information and the spread of disease, typically occurring at the onset of an epidemic, can be seen as desecuritization if the purpose is to downplay the existence or severity of the disease. Indeed the two case studies presented here interpreted efforts to restrict information on SARS and avian influenza outbreaks as desecuritization. However, in both cases desecuritization also has taken place subsequently, either to indicate progress in addressing a pandemic or as a result of efforts (which may or may not be warranted) by local officials seeking to resist stigmatization of their areas as a result of a high incidence of disease. Until recently Chinese policies have focused on reactive securitization of infectious diseases, rather than risk management. The latter would include a sustained financial and political commitment to improving public health, greater openness in reporting disease in the media, support for NGOs involved in health, improved surveillance and training in infectious disease protocols, and expanded multilateral cooperation. This would also require a broader spectrum of measures, linked to the degree of local and global public health risk. Although flows of information on diseases and the work of NGOs continue to face major impediments, as discussed earlier, in the past few years the Chinese government has committed to providing significantly more resources to health care and ensuring more equitable access for all citizens. Considerable challenges remain before these pledges are fulfilled, however. Although documents released in April 2009 called for an additional US$125 billion in national health spending over the next 3 years, this amount was not reflected in the budget. Moreover, national authorities were only supposed to cover 40% of the programme, leaving it partially dependent on provincial authorities to match national contributions to the programme when they may have competing financial commitments (The Economist 2009). Reactive securitization also has involved the elaboration of a multi-faceted emergency response framework in the years following SARS (Information Office of the State Council of the PRC 2009). Nonetheless, Chinese experts have been critical of these efforts for the continued ad hoc nature of financing, particularly on the provincial level (Shi 2008: 100; Tao 2009: 39), inadequate inter-ministerial coordination (Gu et al. 2009: 15) and poor risk communication (Ma 2008: 564).

Failure to act right away urges more securitization

Wishnick ’10 (Elizabeth Wishnick, Associate Professor of Political Science, Montclair State University, “Dilemmas of securitization and health risk management in the People’s Republic of China: the cases of SARS and avian influenza”, Oxford Journals,, CL)

Some scholars have sought to identify areas of overlap between security and risk (Aradau et al. 2008: 149–52; Elbe 2008: 189–94). In particular, The Paris School, involving sociologists inspired by Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault, disputes the characterization of securitization as a speech act responding to an emergency. Didier Bigo, who has played a key role in developing the Paris School’s research agenda, views securitization of as a mode of governmentality, structured by ‘habitus’ of security professionals. In contrast to the rule of princes in days past, Foucault saw present-day governmentality as embodying more than sovereignty over territory. In his view, the modern state also embodied a security apparatus as well as an administrative capacity, which sought to ensure the welfare of the population (Foucault 2007: 108). In Bigo’s understanding, securitization is not an exceptional speech act; rather it stems from a range of routinized administrative practices such as population profiling, risk assessment, statistical analysis, secrecy and management of fear (Bigo 2002: 73). Interestingly, Bigo argues that securitization does not just respond to threats; it creates unease and uncertainty itself, for example, in the case of his work on migration, focusing fear on the presence of migrants (Bigo 2002: 78). The effort by the Paris School to reframe securitization goes a long way to address some of the criticisms of the narrowness of the Copenhagen School’s approach, but several contradictory elements remain nonetheless. One problem is that while, in Foucault’s terms, governmentality is necessary to address the challenges of biopower, infectious diseases themselves may undermine state capacity (Price-Smith 2002: 1; Price-Smith 2009: 204–6). Moreover, even when the state has the capacity to address public health risks, a type of security dilemma may be created in that the practices employed to ensure security and reassure the population (such as quarantines or wearing face masks during a pandemic) may also create panic (C.A.S.E. Collective 2006: 461). Finally, using the language of risk rather than security may not eliminate problems of stigmatization, as some groups are identified as ‘at risk’ or presenting ‘risk factors’ (Elbe 2008: 190–3).

The critique of securitization from risk theorists and the Paris School thus provides an opportunity to conceptualize responses to infectious diseases more broadly as practices and modes of governmentality, rather than purely as speech acts (Elbe 2009). This critical approach to securitization also makes it possible to delineate a risk spectrum ranging from an initial outbreak to a pandemic, with each stage requiring a different risk management response. Results This section examines securitizing and desecuritizing moves in Chinese responses to SARS and avian influenza. Each case study concludes with an assessment of the consequences for health risk management in China. Case 1: SARS SARS first appeared in Guangdong province in southern China in November 2002, then spread to 28 countries, infecting 8096 people and resulting in 774 deaths, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). This case study raises interesting questions about securitizing actors. Although SARS originated in China and disproportionately afflicted Chinese citizens (5327 infected and 349 dead), Chinese authorities were not the first to securitize the disease; rather this role fell to WHO and a retired Chinese military doctor who posted his concerns on the web. In fact Chinese leaders initially sought to desecuritize SARS. Despite the tendency of the Copenhagen School to treat desecuritization as a desirable outcome, indicating the end of extreme measures and their resulting negative impacts on social freedoms, in the case of SARS, desecuritization actually led to further restrictions on freedom of expression.

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