(CNN)In 1911, a deadly epidemic spread through China and threatened to become a pandemic. Its origins appeared to be related to the trade in wild animals, but at the time no one was sure.
In 1911, another epidemic swept through China. That time, the world came together
Lockdowns, quarantine measures, the wearing of masks, travel restrictions, the mass cremation of victims, and border controls were deployed to try to lower the infection rate. Yet more than 60,000 people died in modern-day northeast China, making it one of the world's largest epidemics at the time.
When the disease was eventually brought under control, the Chinese government convened the International Plague Conference in the northern city of Shenyang -- close to the epicenter of the outbreak.
In attendance were virologists, bacteriologists, epidemiologists and disease experts from many of the world's major powers -- the United States, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and France.
The purpose of the conference was to find the cause of the outbreak, learn which suppression techniques were most effective, discover why the disease had spread so far so fast, and assess what could be done to prevent a second wave. While the conference was not without some finger pointing, it was mostly a genuine attempt to learn.
As the world now faces a pandemic characterized by a lack of a globally co-ordinated response and multilateral effort on the part of political leaders, the collaborative aspects of the 1911 conference in north-eastern China are worth reconsidering.
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) appears compromised, the virus has been racialized, major nations are angry with each other and competing for resources and control of the narrative, while poorer countries are left to fend largely for themselves.