The Politics of Blood Safety Regulation in China: The Blood Plasma Economy and the Making of China's Blood Safety Regulatory Regime
29 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2018
Date Written: December 11, 2018
In the 1980s, Chinese regulators were quick to impose tough restrictions on the import of blood products into China when HIV/AIDS first came to light in industrialized countries. In spite of such precautions, China still ended up with a massive blood-related HIV/AIDS crisis, particularly among blood sellers in Henan Province.
This study examines the evolution of China’s blood safety regulatory regime in the age of market-oriented reforms and HIV/AIDS. I first describe how the push by local authorities in Henan to develop a blood plasma economy turned into a blood plasma fever that spread HIV/AIDS with deadly efficiency in spite of central government efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through the use of imported blood products. I next examine the responses or nonresponses to the ensuing tragedy. Warning signals were ignored and suppressed, whistleblowers were pushed out, and for years the HIV/AIDS carriers were left on their own. It was not until the 2003 SARS crisis that China’s new leaders took public health issues seriously and adopted decisive measures to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis in Henan. Meanwhile the (then) Ministry of Health responded with greater alacrity to adopt vigorous reforms of the blood collection and supply system.
By dissecting the politics of China’s efforts to remake its blood safety regulatory regime, this study offers a unique lens for better understanding China’s struggles to reform the economy and build a regulatory state.
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