Clark Alejandrino, Storm Clouds Over China: Storms, Typhoons, and Society on Coastal Late Imperial and Modern China
My dissertation seeks to reconstruct typhoon events, their societal impacts, and responses in coastal Guangdong, China's richest and most populous province, from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. It shows when, where, how often, with what intensity, and in what patterns typhoons struck Guangdong. It argues that their seasonal regularity made them play a constructive and not just destructive role in the governance, economy, society, and culture of this rich coastal province. Continuities and changes occurred between the Qing empire, Nationalist regime, and People's Republic of China as centuries-old ways of understanding typhoons interacted with new modes of meteorology, disaster relief, and social and political organization.
The Qing, Nationalist, and Communist states all took typhoons into consideration when planning for the province, and even learned to use these storms to advance their own agendas. The people of Guangdong too planned their lives around typhoons and learned to cope with them through the formation of various religious and social organizations that eventually shaped life on the coast. With most of China's long coastline, not just Guangdong, vulnerable to typhoons, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting stronger typhoons in a warmer-world scenario, being able to draw from its own rich history with typhoons is important to China as it heads into the future. As an interdisciplinary climate history that draws on historical climatology, anthropological fieldwork, disaster studies, and environmental history, this project contributes to the growing interest in understanding climate's role in our past, present, and future. It also bolsters the field of Chinese climate history, where very few studies exist that explicitly take climate not only into consideration but also as the focus of examination.
Clark Alejandrino is a PhD student in environmental history at Georgetown University.