Red Star over Medicine: Redefining Doctor-Patient Relationship in Early CPC History (1930s–1960s)

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How did the Communist Party of China (CPC) redefine the social and political roles of medicine and doctors as it developed from an illegitimate or minority party to the ruling political power? From the 1930s to the 1960s, decades replete with ideological shifts, political upheavals and wars, the formula CPC developed for its anti-imperial movements and state-building enterprise changed not only the political and economic fundaments of China’s statehood, but also people’s perception of physician-state-patient relationship. The article will start with a medical dispute that signifies a nostalgic idealization of doctors’ social roles in the 21st century. Following an overview of the major shifts in medical regulations that define doctors’ roles in the early ROC and the CPC regimes, the discussion then highlights three interrelated elements in CPC’s wartime medical experiences: an extremely high standard of morality for medical practitioners; de-commodification of medical services; and mobilization of medical practitioners to support the CPC’s political agenda. The CPC’s wartime medical experiences at the regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive levels are essential to our understanding of the institutionalization of medicine in the early PRC and the changing physician-state-patient relationship in contemporary China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-200
Number of pages31
JournalEast Asian Science, Technology and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Medicine-society relations
  • Red Doctors
  • border regions
  • doctor-patient relationship
  • institutionalization of medicine
  • medical ethics
  • medical law
  • physician-state-patient relationship
  • revolutionary humanitarianism
  • the Communist Party of China
  • wartime medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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