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Podcast: China’s Environmental Health Crisis – Challenges and Politics

by Yanzhong Huang
Women wear face masks on the Bund in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai January 26, 2015. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters) Women wear face masks on the Bund in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai January 26, 2015. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

After more than three decades of rapid industrialization and modernization, China is on the cusp of potentially becoming the world’s largest economy. Yet China’s economic miracle has imposed tremendous costs on the environment and public health. Topping this list is extensive air pollution, water pollution, and soil contamination—outdoor air pollution, for example, has been linked to 1.2 million premature deaths in China. The result, as shown in the recent viral documentary “Under the Dome,” has been an environmental health crisis that has profound economic, social, and political ramifications. The ascending popularity of the documentary, followed by its quick disappearance from all major websites in China, beget a series of questions on China’s environmental health crisis: What is the nature and magnitude of the crisis? What are its causes and consequences?  What is the response of the Chinese government to the crisis and is this response sufficient to the challenges at hand? Read more »

Rotenberg and Di: Ali Health Offers a Revolutionary Moment for China’s Healthcare Industry

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma gestures during a talk by Our Hong Kong Foundation in Hong Kong, February 2, 2015. The head of China's commerce regulator met with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma last Friday to discuss combating fake products, the official Xinhua news agency reported, with the two adopting a conciliatory tone after a row over illegal business on the Internet company's platforms. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma gestures during a talk by Our Hong Kong Foundation in Hong Kong, February 2, 2015. The head of China's commerce regulator met with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma last Friday to discuss combating fake products, the official Xinhua news agency reported, with the two adopting a conciliatory tone after a row over illegal business on the Internet company's platforms. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

Ariella Rotenberg is a research associate for U.S. Foreign Policy, and Peng Di is an intern for Global Health Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Private sector actors in China, first and foremost Alibaba, are taking significant steps to do what they believe will earn a handsome profit in the growing Chinese healthcare industry. With a market estimated to reach one trillion dollars by 2020, companies are working fast to secure their slice of the expanding Chinese healthcare pie. Read more »

Artemisinin’s Rocky Road to Globalization: Part III

by Yanzhong Huang
A Ministry of Public Health official holds blood test slides taken from children, who live in the Thai-Myanmar border, at a malaria clinic in the Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province October 26, 2012. Globally, 3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria infection. While Africa has the highest malaria burden, most the 46,000 deaths outside Africa occurred in Asia Pacific. There are also concerns over a growing parasite resistance. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy: Reuters) A Ministry of Public Health official holds blood test slides taken from children, who live in the Thai-Myanmar border, at a malaria clinic in the Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province October 26, 2012. Globally, 3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria infection. While Africa has the highest malaria burden, most the 46,000 deaths outside Africa occurred in Asia Pacific. There are also concerns over a growing parasite resistance. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the previous blog post, I discussed how China’s efforts to promote its artemisinin-based drugs in the global market have ended up placing their pharmaceutical firms at the lower end of the supply chain. Not all Chinese pharmaceutical companies were content with this arrangement. In 1994, Beijing Holley-Cotec became the first Chinese manufacturer to export dihydroartemisinin (“Cotecxin”), one of the artemisinin derivatives that the company developed with an original Chinese brand. Read more »

Artemisinin’s Rocky Road to Globalization: Part II

by Yanzhong Huang
A health worker checks a blood sample for malaria in the only hospital in Pailin in western Cambodia January 28, 2010. Bordering with Thailand, this former Khmer Rouge stronghold and dusty gem mining town is now better known for a malarial parasite that is worrying health experts in the region. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Damir Sagolj/ Courtesy: Reuters) A health worker checks a blood sample for malaria in the only hospital in Pailin in western Cambodia January 28, 2010. Bordering with Thailand, this former Khmer Rouge stronghold and dusty gem mining town is now better known for a malarial parasite that is worrying health experts in the region. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Damir Sagolj/ Courtesy: Reuters)

In my previous blog post, I described how artemisinin-based drugs were discovered in China in the 1970s and 1980s. Given their potency for the treatment of malaria, one would expect that Chinese made artemisinin-based drugs quickly became the first choice medicine in the global fight against malaria. Much to the chagrin of Chinese scientists and pharmaceutical companies, the World Health Organization (WHO) did not list a single one of China’s antimalarial drugs on its procurement list until 2007.

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Artemisinin’s Rocky Road to Globalization: Part I

by Yanzhong Huang
A Thai Public Heath Ministry official places a thermometer into a child's mouth at a malaria clinic in Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province October 26,2012. The child, who lives on the Thai-Myanmar border, came to the clinic to get tested for malaria. Globally, 3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria infection. While Africa has the highest malaria burden, most the 46,000 deaths outside Africa occurred in Asia Pacific. There are also concerns over a growing parasite resistance. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH) A Thai Public Heath Ministry official places a thermometer into a child's mouth at a malaria clinic in Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province, on October 26, 2012 (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy of Reuters).

Artemisinin, or Qinghaosu, is isolated from Artemisia annua L., a plant native to China but now naturalized in many other countries. Today, the artemisinin group of drugs is considered the most efficacious and fast-acting antimalarial known to the humankind. In 2011, Dr. Tu Youyou, a Chinese medical scientist, won the Lasker Award in Clinical Medicine—one of the most respected science prizes in the world—for discovering the antimalarial treatment that has saved millions of lives worldwide, especially in the developing countries. Read more »

Ariella Rotenberg: National Anti-Smoking Regulation in China—Can it Succeed?

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
An employee with a cigarette at hand exhales smoke outside a cafe in Beijing, November 25, 2014. China, the world's biggest tobacco market, is considering a draft regulation that would ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising, the state-run Xinhua news agency has reported. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) An employee with a cigarette at hand exhales smoke outside a cafe in Beijing, November 25, 2014. China, the world's biggest tobacco market, is considering a draft regulation that would ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising, the state-run Xinhua news agency has reported. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Ariella Rotenberg is a research associate for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In mid-December, Chinese state media reported that the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council (China’s cabinet) was weighing a new anti-smoking regulation that would curb tobacco use and advertising nationally. A draft of the regulation appeared on the website of the People’s Daily  in order to solicit public feedback on the ordinance. Read more »

Maxine Builder: Antibiotics in China’s Rivers – An Emerging Health Threat

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province, April 8, 2013. Picture taken April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ANIMALS SOCIETY) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province, on April 8, 2013 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

On December 25, state-run China Central Television (CCTV) reported excessive amounts of antibiotics—up to four times the legal limit in the United States—in the Yangtze, Yellow, Huangpu, Liao, and Pearl Rivers, as well as in tap water from cities in Jiangsu and Anhui provinces. Two culprits were named: run-off from poultry farms along the waterways and waste from Shandong Lukang Pharmaceutical, one of China’s four largest producers of antibiotics. Read more »

2014: The Top Ten Stories in China’s Health Sector

by Yanzhong Huang
Beijing, China. A resident walks along street on a polluted day. (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters) Beijing, China. A resident walks along street on a polluted day. (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters)

1. China formally enters post-Global Fund era

By the end of 2013, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria officially closed its portfolio in China. Having approved $1.81 billion to support China’s fight against the three diseases, the Global Fund was the largest international health cooperation program in China. One decade of the Global Fund’s presence in China has left behind a mixed legacy. With the departure of the Global Fund, sustaining the existing level of achievement becomes a daunting challenge. Already, the government has eliminated one trademark of the Global Fund: the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM). Read more »

Maxine Builder: South Korea’s Response to Ebola—From Panic to Pledges

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
South Korea's Second Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Tae-yul (1st L) presides over a meeting regarding sending medics to Africa in response to Ebola, at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul October 20, 2014. (Kim Hong-JI/Courtesy Reuters) South Korea's Second Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Tae-yul (1st L) presides over a meeting regarding sending medics to Africa in response to Ebola, at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul October 20, 2014. (Kim Hong-JI/Courtesy Reuters)

Maxine Builder is a research associate for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

When the Ebola outbreak in West Africa began receiving international attention in August, South Korea panicked.

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Are Americans Overreacting to the Ebola Virus?

by Yanzhong Huang
Protestor Jeff Hulbert of Annapolis, Maryland holds a sign reading "Stop the Flights" as he demonstrates in favor of a travel ban to stop the spread of the Ebola virus, in front of the White House in Washington October 16, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) A protestor holds a sign reading "Stop the Flights" as he demonstrates in favor of a travel ban to stop the spread of the Ebola virus, in front of the White House in Washington on October 16, 2014. (Jim Bourg/Courtesy Reuters)

Compared with the havoc wreaked by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the virus thus far has only led to three confirmed cases in the United States. The fear and anxiety however has spread much faster. Earlier this month, seventy-five airplane-cabin cleaners at LaGuardia Airport walked off their jobs partly due to concerns about the risk of exposure to the virus. Last week, a woman who vomitted in the Pentagon parking lot triggered a health scare that forced the temporary shutdown of the building entrance and the setup of a quarantine and decontamination tent in front of the hospital where she was admitted—and later found not to have Ebola. Read more »