Chao (Alec) Wang is a lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen. He is a historian of modern China with a specialization in disability studies, health, and human rights. He received his BA in World History from Nankai University, MPhil in American Studies from the University of Hong Kong and Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago. Before joining CUHK-SZ in 2023, he worked as a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the Schwarzman Scholars Program at Tsinghua University and held teaching positions at the Department of History and the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights, University of Chicago. He is currently completing a book on the history of blindness and disability in modern China. 


Dr. Chao Wang's current book manuscript, entitled Disabled But Useful: The Blind in China, 1900-1945, examines different social welfare responses to the livelihood problem of blind people in a formative period of commercial and industrial expansion in modern China. Taking a journey through the urban experiences of blind singers, musicians, fortunetellers and beggars as they intersected with entertainment culture, philanthropic activism, municipal reform and welfare legislation, the manuscript explores questions such as how blindness enabled community inclusion and caused social marginalization, and how the institutionalization of disability (canfei) as a social welfare category created new demarcations of social citizenship.

Awards and honors
  • 2020
  • 2018
  • 01


    Vol Holst Teaching Excellence Award, Department of History, The University of Chicago

  • 02


    National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Residential Fellowship, “Global Histories of Disability” Summer Institute for College and University Teachers, Gallaudet University, Washington D.C.


Peer-Reviewed Academic Articles:

2023. “Trachoma Infection, Vision Economics and the Invention of Blindness in Republican China,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine (SSCI), accepted with minor revision.

2023. "Educating the Blind: Disability and Gender in Chinese Social Education during the First Half of the Twentieth Century," Journal of Chinese Women's Studies (CSSCI), no.2, 2023: 91-103.

2023. "Inventing Blindness: Medical Treatment and Prevention of Trachoma and the Everyday Practice of Vision Measurement in Early-Twentieth Century China," Kaiwu: Science and Culturevol. 1, no.1: 14-21.

2021. "From Difference to Integration: The Evolution of Medical and Social Models of Disability in Modern China." Zhuangshi (CSSCI) no. 4: 26-31.

2020.  “Disability and Social Inclusion: The Blind Songstress in Early Twentieth-Century Guangzhou,” Frontiers of History in China (E&HCI)15, 4 (2020): 611–641. 

Conference Papers:

1. 03/2022 “Trachoma Infection, Vision Economics and Biological Citizenship in Republican China,” paper presented at panel entitled “Life-Giving Objects: Sensing the Social in Precarious Ecologies of East Asia,” Association for Asian Studies (AAS) 2022 Annual Conference, Honolulu.

2. 03/2021 Organizer of panel enitled “Reading From Below: Alternative Literacies, Citizenship, and Community in Modern China,” Association for Asian Studies (AAS) 2021 Annual Conference, Seattle.

3. 01/2020 “Reproducing Dependency: Blinded Veterans and Family Life in a Rehabilitation Camp during Wartime China, 1942-1945.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA), New York City.

4. 06/2019 “The Social Life of the Blind Songstress in Early Twentieth-century Guangzhou.” Paper presented at “Asia as Action: Scaling Ethnography of the Everyday,” Graduate Student Conference, The University of Chicago Center in Beijing.

5. 03/2019 Organizer of panel entitled “Veterans Disabled: Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Military Casualties of the Two World Wars,” Association for Asian Studies (AAS) 2019 Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado.

6. 05/2017 “Inventing Blindness: The Use of Medical Statistics in the Anti-Trachoma Campaign in Republican China (1920-1940),” Annual Conference of the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM), Nashville.

7. 09/2016 Organizer of panel entitled “Scientific Management of Public Health in Republican China (1920s­40s).” The Eighth Meeting of the Asian Society for the History of Medicine (ASHM), Academia Sinica, Taipei.

8. 04/2016 “Watchful Hands: The Tacit Dimension of Surgical Needling in Late Imperial Chinese Ophthalmology,” Annual Conference of the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM), Minneapolis.