Comparison of Media Objectivity in the Chinese  Healthcare System

As Kaiser Kuo states in his article, “anglophone media coverage of China is quite realistic: they’re generally quite good in terms of the factual accuracy of stories;” However, Kuo believes that “factual accuracy does not get you all the way to ‘realistic’”(Kuo). In other words, Kuo argues that even though the anglophone media coverage of China can be factually accurate, the stories are not realistic. In the case of Chinese healthcare system, nevertheless, the anglophone journalism take a more objective and realistic stance as opposed to the Chinese one that intentionally evade discussions on the efficiency of the healthcare system itself through an excessive focus on doctors’ kickbacks.

February 2014 was the darkest month for Chinese doctors, as patients “paralyzed a nurse in Nanjing, cut the throat of doctor in Hebei, and beat a Heilongjiang doctor to death with a led pipe” (Beam). Similar reports of dissatisfied patients attacking their doctors have become increasingly common in China, and the doctor-patient relationship has deteriorated. One significant cause of this inharmonious relationship is China’s lack of a unified medical negligence legal system. China announced the Regulation on Handling Medical Accidents in 1987, yet the medical negligence laws has been separately written and enforced by both the government and health administrative agencies, often leading to contradictions. Another cause is the low coverage of Chinese healthcare insurance. Most people have to pay out of their own pockets, many of whom experience difficulties to afford their medical bills. It is worth noting that as the costs of hospital care increase, many naturally expect correspondingly higher quality care. Unfortunately, the expectation is rarely met owing to a limited number of doctors. Oftentimes, doctors have to face hundreds of patients every day, confined in their devotion to each patient. To make matters worse, compared to the well-paid American counterparts, Chinese doctors are considered lowly paid civil servants whose salary may even be lower than the salary of those working in the private sector(). As a result, many patients believe that doctors are exploiting them and prioritizing their personal interests over the patients’ well-being, exacerbating the relationship.

A disproportional focus on doctor’s kickbacks and hospital corruption in the majority of Chinese journalism reflects the government’s preferred and narrow approach to the aforementioned causes. That is to say, well-informed, the government purposefully attributes the problems to doctors’ kickbacks and corruption, neglecting other causes; correspondingly, the journalism shifts their attitudes based on that of the government by bolstering the government’s anti-corruption healthcare reform policies. An early article published on the People’s Daily in 2015 by Huang Jin and Gao Yinan indicates that “doctors and patients are sometimes mutually suspicious of one another following problematic procedures, while the doctor-patient relationship should be based on trust and careChina Calls for Peaceful Settlement of Medical Disputes, Huang & Gao). On the inefficiency of the healthcare system, this article ascribes the cause of a doctor-patient conflict to patients’ misunderstanding of the doctors. However, two years later, the China Daily posted another article “Real Steps Needed to Reduce Medical Costs.” Unlike the 2015 one, this article reports that “The enormous profits made from the price gaps are shared by pharmaceutical companies, intermediary medicine dealers, and hospital staff, including kickbacks for doctors. Worse, the inflated medication costs are paid from public funds (through medical cost reimbursement) and by patients”(Real Steps Needed to Reduce Medical Costs, Xin). Similarly, another article from People’s Daily also claims that “it is the corruption that is eroding priceless human resource in the healthcare industry.” (). Chinese journalism blames the doctors for receiving kickbacks and thus inflating the medical costs, while evading the reason behind these kickbacks including the insufficient fund directed towards the health industry and the low coverage of the health insurance. These news articles were closely followed by reforms on kickbacks and anti-corruption campaign among the doctors. Vehicle of the government, these articles serve as an tool to gain support from the public regarding the reforms. While these articles cover accurate facts, they do not reflect the realistic story.

Western journalism, on the other hand, presents a more realistic story about the Chinese healthcare system, as they do not cater to the agenda of the Chinese government. Unlike the Chinese journalism, the anglophone journalism show more sympathy toward Chinese doctors receiving kickbacks in that the anglophone journalism take into account their income and workload. In “Chinese Doctors to Disgruntled Patients: Please Stop Stabbing Us” by Emily Rauhala, the author points out that “while American physicians are generally well-compensated, Chinese doctors are considered civil servants and often paid a pittance compared to private sector wages”(Rauhala). Take Meng Hua, a doctor working in Shanghai, as an example, Meng has to face hundreds of patients every day from 8 A.M. to 6 P.M. and wants “to drive a car, have a house. ()” Meng, nonetheless, only makes about sixteen hundred dollars a month, and thus confesses that he might not refuse if someone offers him an red envelope (Beam). The anglophone journalism explain the motivation behind these kickbacks, therefore presenting a more realistic picture.

More significantly, the anglophone journalism recognize other factors that contribute to the inefficiency of the healthcare system, the decrease in insurance in particular. In the article “Inside the Doctor-Patient Relationship of China,” Sophia Yin mentions that during the early 1980s and 1990s the population with insurance coverage rapidly decreased. Even though the government tries to tackle this problem by “[giving] social health insurance to more people,” yet they are very basic (Yin). Yet, this is not enough. According to Time magazine, the healthcare is so expensive that a man called Zheng had to saw his right leg off with a saw, when he could not afford the expensive medical fees to amputate his right leg(Emiy Rauhala& Dongzang). Fortune reportes that medical loans in China has tripled to nearly 21 trillion yuan since 2010 in eight years(Reuters). Additionally, according to Yin,  “since the State Council announced the Regulations on Handling Medical Accidents in 1987medical negligence laws been separately written and enforced by both the government and health administrative agencies, which often leading contradictions”(Yin). Despite of the major reform in 2002, there is still a large-scale reform needed for China’s medical negligence legal system. Many patients unable to feel being protected under the law, often take into their own actions to ask for fairness.

In the case reporting China’s healthcare system, it is in fact the anglophone journalism that is on a more objective and realistic ground, by introducing multiple factors on the issue. In contrast, the Chinese journalism narrows itself on doctor’s corruption, in corresponding to the government’s attitude. However, I contend that the Chinese journalism should have taken a more objective stance to introduce the realistic story toward the Chinese people.


Reuters. “China Healthcare Costs Forcing Patients into Crippling Debt.” Fortune, Fortune,

Kuo, Kaiser. “China in the Western Media: Examining the Lens.” Think In China., 16 June 2015.

Rauhala, Emily. “Chinese Doctors to Disgruntled Patients: Please Stop Stabbing Us.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 July 2015,

Beam, Christopher. “Under the Knife.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 19 June 2017,

Rauhala, Emiy. “China’s Health Crisis: Care Still Unaffordable to Many Chinese.” Time, Time, 12 Sept. 2014,

Xin, Zhiming. “Real Steps Needed to Reduce Medical Costs.” Pressure Leaves Millions of Youth Exposed to Suicide Risk – China –,

China Calls for Peaceful Settlement of Medical Disputes. Edited by Jin Huang and Yinan Gao, 26 May 2015,

吴 帅. 医院坍塌式腐败,怎么治?. 9 Feb. 2015,