Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Health in china: From Mao to market reform

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 24 May 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1543
  1. Therese Hesketha, research fellow,
  2. Xing Zhu Wei, programme manager, East Asiab
  1. a Centre for International Child Health, London WC1 N1EH
  2. b Health Unlimited, London SE1 9NT
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Hesketh


    After the Liberation by Mao Ze Dong's Communist army in 1949, China experienced massive social and economic change. The dramatic reductions in mortality and morbidity of the next two decades were brought about through improvements in socioeconomic conditions, an emphasis on prevention, and almost universal access to basic health care. The economic mismanagement of the Great Leap Forward brought about a temporary reversal in these positive trends. During the Cultural Revolution there was a sustained attack on the privileged position of the medical profession. Most city doctors were sent to work in the countryside, where they trained over a million barefoot doctors. Deng Xiao Ping's radical economic reforms of the late 1970s replaced the socialist system with a market economy. Although average incomes have increased, the gap between rich and poor has widened.

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