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Abstract

The reluctance of the Chinese government to enforce restrictions on trade in wildlife products prior to the SARS-CoV-2 spillover is surprising considering the risk factors incurred for public health and political stability. The spillover of SARS-COV-2 into the human sector and subsequent COVID-19 pandemic is ultimately the result of the same factors that gave rise to the SARS-COV-1 epidemic which began in 2002. As a response to the SARS-COV-1 epidemic, trade in wildlife products were banned with strict enforcement. However, this ban was lifted just three months later. Similarly, the Chinese government instituted a strict ban on wildlife trade in February of 2020 in response to the SARS-COV-2 outbreak. Notably though, this ban excluded animals that were used in Traditional Chinese Medicinal practices, including the farming of taxa of high zoonotic concern - including bats and pangolins. This thesis will explore the cultural political economy of wildlife products for medicinal purposes in Chinese markets as an explanatory factor for the Chinese government’s political reluctance to enforce bans that would ultimately offer large gains to public health and be hugely cost-saving by preventing disastrous spillover events.

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