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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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Rising Violence Against Doctors in China

by Yanzhong Huang
People wait in line at a counter for medical services at the Guanganmen Chinese medicine hospital for treatment in Beijing. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters) People wait in line at a counter for medical services at the Guanganmen Chinese medicine hospital for treatment in Beijing. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters)

Practicing medicine in China has become an even more high-risk business. In ten days in October, China reported at least six attacks on healthcare workers. In the most recent case, a man, unhappy with the results of an operation, fatally stabbed a doctor and wounded two others in a hospital of Zhejiang province. Rising violence against healthcare workers has not only discouraged doctors in China from adopting medically necessary but risky procedures, but also—in conjunction with the problem of doctors’ low base salaries—provided strong disincentives for practicing medicine in China. According to a survey carried out by the Chinese Hospital Association (CHA), 29 percent of the healthcare workers prefer self-protecting medical procedures, 40 percent are considering changing professions, and 78 percent do not want their children to become a healthcare professional in the future. Read more »

Population Aging in China: A Mixed Blessing

by Yanzhong Huang
Chinese cyclists ride past three elderly men from neighborhood watch committees in central Beijing on February 27, 2003. Chinese cyclists ride past three elderly men from neighborhood watch committees in central Beijing on February 27, 2003. (Guang Niu/Reuters)

China is rapidly getting older. Three decades ago, only 5 percent of the population was over 65; today, 123 million people, or 9 percent of the population, are over this age. A report released by a government think tank forecasts that China will become the world’s most aged society in 2030. Further, by 2050 China’s older population will likely swell to 330 million, or a quarter of its total population. Read more »

How Much Should We Worry About Poultry Imported From China?

by Yanzhong Huang
An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

One month ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) quietly lifted the ban on processed poultry imports from China. This raised immediate concerns in the United States. The media responded critically to the decision; a recent Bloomberg article was titled “Don’t Trust a Chicken Nugget That’s Visited China.” U.S. consumers were worried, perhaps even frightened. One person commented to the CBS News report that “[I am] immediately taking anything and everything with processed chicken off my shopping list. It’s been clear for a long time now that products from China are simply not safe and may even be harmful.” Read more »

China’s Diabetes Epidemic

by Yanzhong Huang
A diabetes patient rests his arm on a table for diabetes specialist Doctor Tong Xiao Lin (C) during a medical check-up at the Guanganmen Chinese medicine Hospital in Beijing March 19, 2012. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters) A diabetes patient rests his arm on a table for diabetes specialist Doctor Tong Xiao Lin (C) during a medical check-up at the Guanganmen Chinese medicine Hospital in Beijing March 19, 2012. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters)

These days we’ve been used to China being the land of “the first,” “the largest” and “the highest.”  However, not all of these superlatives are worthy of praise.  China now has the largest diabetic population in the world (114 million), according to a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 9, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A child undergoes a medical check for possible kidney stones at a hospital in Shanghai on September 27, 2008 (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters) A child undergoes a medical check for possible kidney stones at a hospital in Shanghai on September 27, 2008 (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. China fines milk formula companies. The Chinese government has fined six milk formula companies a total of $110 million for anti-competitive behavior and price fixing, the largest fine the Chinese government has ever instituted for violations of antitrust laws. Five of the companies are foreign, hailing from France, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the United States, and one company is based in Hong Kong. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of July 26, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai looks on during a meeting at the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on March 6, 2010. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai looks on during a meeting at the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on March 6, 2010. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Bo Xilai indicted on corruption charges. Former Chinese Politburo member and party boss of Chongqing Bo Xilai was charged with corruption, abuse of power, and accepting bribes on Thursday, according to state media. He was indicted by prosecutors in the eastern city of Jinan, where the trial will be held; a final judgment is expected within the month. One newspaper estimated that Bo was accused of bribery and embezzlement amounting to $4 million, and analysts suggest he might face a prison sentence of fifteen to twenty years. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was given a suspended death sentence last year for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Read more »

Knowing Autumn From a Falling Leaf: The GSK Probe and China’s Business Environment

by Yanzhong Huang
A flag (L) bearing the logo of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) flutters next to a Chinese national flag outside a GlaxoSmithKline office building in Shanghai on July 12, 2013. A flag (L) bearing the logo of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) flutters next to a Chinese national flag outside a GlaxoSmithKline office building in Shanghai on July 12, 2013. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

There is a Chinese saying, Yi Ye Zhi Qiu, which means “Knowing that autumn is coming by seeing a single leaf fall.” This expression is fully applicable to the current business environment for foreign pharmaceutical firms in China.  Indeed, the recent investigation of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline’s involvement in commercial bribery in China should send a chilly signal to all multinational pharmaceuticals aspiring to make big money in the China market: the go-go years are over. Read more »

Fatal Misperception: How Unsafe Is Chinese Food?

by Yanzhong Huang
A farmer sprays pesticide in a wheat field in Zaozhuang, Shandong province on May 14, 2013. A farmer sprays pesticide in a wheat field in Zaozhuang, Shandong province on May 14, 2013. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters)

Being an incorrigible tea drinker and a big fan of Chinese herbal products, I was disheartened by two reports released by Greenpeace. One study from 2012 suggested that twelve of the eighteen tea products the organization bought at random contained at least one pesticide banned for use on tea; the other, just released, found that thirty-two of the thirty-six samples of herbal products imported from China had residues of three or more pesticides considered highly hazardous by the World Health Organization. Read more »

Haze Crisis in Southeast Asia (and China)

by Yanzhong Huang
An aerial view of burning lands in Palalawan district in Riau province June 21, 2013. An aerial view of burning lands in Palalawan district in Riau province June 21, 2013. Indonesia deployed military planes to fight raging forest fires on Friday that blanketed neighbouring Singapore in record levels of hazardous smog for a third straight day in one of Southeast Asia's worst air-pollution crises. (Fikih Nauli//Courtesy Reuters)

Having just arrived in Jakarta for a joint CSIS-CFR workshop on emerging Indonesia and rising regionalism, I was greeted by hot and humid weather conditions and horrible traffic. However, this is nothing compared to the severe haze that has blanketed Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, Malaysia, and Singapore, sending air pollution there to record high levels. Read more »

Responding to Disease Outbreaks: Is China’s Move Toward Greater Transparency Irreversible?

by Yanzhong Huang
Passengers walk past temperature detectors. Passengers walk past temperature detectors. (Stringer Taiwan/Courtesy Reuters)

Yesterday, I testified before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) at the  “Food and Drug Safety, Public Health, and the Environment in China” hearing. My testimony focused on China’s response to public health emergencies. As the H7N9 virus appears to be burning itself out, the consensus among public health scholars and practitioners is that China has been much more transparent and open in handing this outbreak than it was in 2003 during the SARS epidemic. In fact, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan thanked China for their speed in sharing relevant information. Read more »