The article evaluates submerged discontent among Chinese public hospital doctors (Note1) regarding their pay and patterns of accommodation, including doctors' responses through formal and informal actions in the context of health service marketization. On the basis of a case study of two public hospitals, the article illustrates the dynamical impact of marketization on Chinese doctors' pay-related dissatisfaction and health service employment relationship. Because of the authoritarian management and compliant trade unions, the conflict between doctors and hospitals is unable to be accommodated through collective methods. Instead, doctors' discontent is often channelled through informal, individual and subtle activities. Meanwhile, doctors' professional society is gradually influential, showing its potential of developing doctors' group identity and protecting members' interests in future. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.