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The health care system of the People's Republic of China: Between privatization and public health care


  • The article was sponsored by the Research Project of the Chinese National Research Fund for Health Law and Medical Law.

Addresses for correspondence: Barbara Darimont, Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, Amalienstraße 33, 80799 Munich, Germany; Email:; Dongmei Liu, Zhongnan University, Law School, Changsha, Hunan Province, People's Republic of China; Email:


Chinese health care policy has undergone numerous reforms in recent years that have often led to new challenges, inciting the need for further reform. The most recent reforms attempt to find a middle path between public health care provision and commercial private insurance. In this way, China is following in the footsteps of countries that initially increased the role of privatization in the 1990s and at the beginning of the 21st century, but are now gearing towards public health care. However, this process of constant reform has led to a lack of transparency in the functioning of the health care system, provoking a loss in public trust. There remains an important degree of uncertainty about the future direction of developments in China. Nonetheless, a dual financing approach to health care using tax finance and social insurance might yet crystallize, offering a potential model to inform developments in other countries.