Despite becoming the favourite hunting-ground of global corporations greedy for cheap labour stripped of rights, China still claims to be “communist” or “socialist”.
So it has a good health service? Better, surely, than shamelessly neo-liberal Britain?
The Chinese people don’t think so. So great is their frustration that in 2010 (the latest year with official figures) there were 17,000 protests or attacks directed against doctors or hospitals in China.
In a recent case, Wang Hao, a trainee doctor at a hospital in northern China, was stabbed and killed by a 17-year-old whom he had never even treated: Dr Wang was just unlucky to be in the way when the exasperated patient lashed out.
Yet so exasperated are many more Chinese that a poll by the official People’s Daily found two-thirds of the people it asked saying that they were “delighted” to hear of the attack.
There is practically no primary health care — GP surgeries, clinics — in China. If you want medical help, you have to go to a crowded hospital. There, you have to pay, and on top of the official payment you usually have to pay a bribe to get a doctor’s attention.
The doctors are so low-paid that they take bribes and are widely suspected of prescribing additional, useless but expensive, treatments to those patients whom they do see.