Responsible Futures Matter
Edited by Moazzem Hossain, Tapan Sarker and Malcolm McIntosh
Chapter 6: China’s changing public health paradox and the new generation of health NGOs
Non-government organizations (NGOs) that become involved in dissent in China run the serious risk of political suppression; however, many NGOs, as new ‘social organizations’ (shehui tuanti) have, in cooperating with the government, contributed to the successful achievement of practical policy goals within China’s nascent civil society. Some have even been able to pursue ‘comprehensive community intervention’ that ‘cuts across political, social and administrative boundaries’ to further developing human rights. This analysis specifically considers the role of China’s health NGOs that have become active since the beginning of this century. The new generation of health NGOs have provided additional resources and expertise to compensate for the inequalities in health service provision that have accompanied accelerated economic reform through the transition to the ‘socialist market’. In terms of healthcare modernization China’s market dynamic has spurred technological progress but the retreat of the state from public healthcare has become politically unacceptable especially in light of marked unevenness in the access to healthcare and new policy focus on social development that militates against GDP ism as the exclusive focus on economic growth. Chinese public healthcare policy has been and still is paradoxical in its strategy and outcomes. Under Mao’s revolutionary leadership there was a strong emphasis on equal access to services and preventive medicine. In the transition to the socialist market, beginning in 1978 and especially since 1992, policy has focused on a market-oriented healthcare system, with the state playing a diminishing role in financing growing medical costs.
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