Pursuing Health as Foreign Policy: The Case of China
Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 17(1), December 2010
Yanzhong Huang, Ph.D.
School of Diplomacy and International Relations
Despite the growing political and academic interest in health as a foreign policy issue, much of the emerging scholarship has focused on the conceptual overview of the field or particular aspects of the health-foreign policy linkage (e.g., humanitarian action). Little in-depth analysis has been conducted on how major powers engage health as a foreign policy issue. This article attempts to fill that void by examining the dynamics of the health-foreign policy nexus in China. After an overview of the Maoist health diplomacy, it discusses the elevation of health issues in the hierarchy of foreign policy objectives in China's reform era. Next, the article analyzes China's SARS diplomacy, which further demonstrates the changing landscape of health and foreign policy in China. Then I analyze the defining features and dilemmas of China's health-foreign policy interaction. While the emergence of health as an important foreign policy issue in China facilitates the fulfillment of its foreign policy goals and makes important contributions to international health cooperation, I conclude that the tensions and dilemmas inherent in the health-foreign policy mix in China pose risks and challenges to global health governance.