Healthcare in China, a medical humanities perspective
Thursday, 27 June 2019
On Friday 14th June 2019, the Oxford Brookes Centre for Business, Society, and Global Challenges, in collaboration with Peking University HSBC Business School, hosted a research workshop: Healthcare in China, a medical-humanities perspective.
call for papers aimed to bring together experts from different disciplines to
discuss the Chinese healthcare system and the role of Traditional Chinese
Medicine (TCM) in China as well as abroad. The attempt to locate the workshop
in the field of medical humanities was successful since we were fortunate
enough to welcome colleagues from history, sociology, economics, management,
film studies, international relations, anthropology, political economy, and
also science and medicine. The conveners, Dr Andrea Bernardi (Oxford Brookes
University) and Dr Jenny Wang (Peking University HSBC Business School), managed
to attract scholars from a wide array of institutions across Britain and
overseas for a day of rich presentations and discussions. There were thirteen papers
and a keynote speech by Prof. Elisabeth Hsu, University of Oxford.
field of medical humanities is now well established in Britain, but this is not
yet the case in China; medical humanities contributions to the study of
healthcare in China remain few and far between, even by western scholars, while
potentially rich discussions between Chinese and western scholars are not as
numerous as they could and should be. We wanted to begin the work of remedying
this by disseminating medical humanities contributions by Chinese scholars and
putting them together with western scholars interested in TCM and Healthcare in
China. Besides this academic goal, we also wished to make a wider public aware
of the successes of the Chinese approach to healthcare in the past decades. For
progress in Chinese healthcare is too rarely mentioned in the West, even though
discussion of Chinese economic growth is omnipresent in western media.
workshop focused on both the history and the current-day status of healthcare
in China and its effectiveness. We discussed the origins and the current
use of TCM in both rural and urban China, and its diffusion abroad. We
discussed the strengths and weaknesses of Chinese healthcare policies,
including mental and psychological health and the surprising coexistence of
modernisation, technology, and tradition. We also briefly covered the potential
impact of artificial intelligence and internet medicine. We sought to explore the
ways in which Chinese approaches to healthcare could be a model for other
nations too. We explored how political discourse influences healthcare today
and under Mao. The design of the workshop was based on the belief that while
economics and management can tell us about the efficiency of the healthcare
system and its future challenges, to understand the implications for healthcare
of recent political and cultural trends in China, it is to the humanities that
we should turn.
convener, Andrea Bernardi (Oxford Brookes University) explored the links
between ideology, politics and healthcare. With his coauthor Donni Wang (Shanghai
University) they presented on ‘China as a Heterodox Model in Healthcare: The
New Rural Co-operative Medical Scheme’. Using the political character of the
Maoist barefoot doctors as a springboard and comparator, they reflected on the contemporary
risks of political manipulation of healthcare discourse under Xi, Trump and
Boris Johnson. This is the continuation of previous work already published.
day concluded with a keynote speech by Elisabeth Hsu (University of Oxford).
She described her longstanding anthropological project on the presence of TCM
in Africa. She projected and analysed numerous enlightening images from her
fieldwork and discussed both her methods and her memories of her experiences as
a researcher. After the keynote, participants were invited next door by the
Oxford Brookes Confucius Institute to try a TCM massage taster-session. The
proceedings will be published in an edited collection curated by Andrea
Bernardi and Jenny Wang. Donni Wang, announced a call for papers for a special
issue inspired by the workshop. This will appear in the ‘Journal of Social
History of Medicine and Health’ published by China Social Sciences Press on
behalf of The History Department at Shanghai University.