In this section we present the work of EAEPE scholars. We periodically publish abstracts of recent publications or work in progress on hot topics or issues with strong policy relevance. This section is meant to direct media to our members and their publications and to show the plurality and richness of the scholarly work within EAEPE. Journalists can contact authors directly or via Andrea Bernardi, abernardi @


June 2019

China as a heterodox model in Healthcare: The New Rural Co-operative Medical Scheme

Andrea Bernardi (Oxford Brookes University) and Donni Wang (Shanghai University)

The analysis and discussions on Chinese economic growth are overwhelming, and it is equally so for Beijing’s directives and policies which directly impact western countries. However, the effectiveness of Chinese healthcare policies has been less extensively discussed. In fact, the topic was often dismissed by the assumption that economic growth came at a huge human cost and rested on very poor living conditions of the Chinese people. This is a gross inaccuracy because the healthcare improvements, since the 80s, matched the economic achievements. Building on a previous publication by Bernardi and Greenwood (2014), in this conference paper we describe the origin and the present situation of China’s health insurance together with its rural healthcare system. Considered to be unique and successful, they represent a heterodox model operating within the Chinese variety of capitalism. We describe how the political ideology of the Cultural Revolution under Mao greatly influenced health policy. Today’s system is shaped by a political economy mission and an identity rationale associated with the Traditional Chinese Medicine provision. We argue that an interplay between policy formation and the construction of national identity is present in both China and western democracies. Examples of this are the debates about the Obama Care reform in the USA and the NHS as a part of the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK. Yet in those cases, we argue that the mobilization of national identity can negatively affect the design of the best possible healthcare policies. On the other hand, given that the Chinese model appears efficient and effective, its current form and its predecessor, that of the barefoot doctors, should be taken as examples of a non-market based, socially optimal alternative for other nations. 

Figure 1. Evolution of life expectancy in selected countries, from 1960 to 2015

Source: Authors based on WHO data