For all the outrage over the slaughter of 34,000 dogs in Hanzhong in Shaanxi, rabies has been on the increase in China for some years, to the point where China has the second highest incidence of rabies in the world after India.
The disease was relatively under control until 1996 thanks to a nationwide vaccination program, according to research by Jia-Hai Lu, from the School of Public Health at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, when 159 cases of rabies were reported. That figure rose to more than 3,000 cases by 2006, with incidents concentrated in southwestern and southern China (more background on the study.) A rise in pet ownership and low levels of anti-rabies vaccinations are blamed. Mao might have considered owning a dog as bourgeois, but that was then.
In 2006, there were dog culls in Mouding, a county in Yunnan province, and in Jining, the provincial capital of Shandong, much as millions of ducks and chickens have been slaughtered for fear of bird flu. Not much of a public health policy.