Doctors to the borderlands

Capitalist, communist or somewhere in between - everyone's a winner in today's China

Doctors to the borderlands


You're probably mulling the connection between retired Chinese doctors being sent to the countryside and a re-heating housing market. We've been thinking about that too – a lot. In fact, some of us at CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW have been doing nothing but trying to pinpoint a deep connection with these “sent-down” doctors and the rest of the Chinese economic cosmos. After hours and hours of contemplation in a dark room, we started asking a different question: What isn't ultimately connected to these rusticated doctors?

When Mao sent down university students to the countryside at the onset of the Cultural Revolution, he was trying to uproot China's enemy No. 1: The capitalist roaders who were steering the nation off it's yellow brick road toward communist utopia.

The bad news is, the capitalists are winning (right?). Now, the Communist Party is going to send down another wave of learned individuals – a move with true Maoist flare. The enemy this time is the inequality that is threatening to derail China's high-speed train toward prosperity. Officials hope that sending down the doctors – who have ample footwear unlike China's famed “barefoot” medics – can mitigate some of these imbalances, many of which materialize as ailments on the bodies of Chinese.

Good luck to the doctors; they'll need it. If the recent revelations about “cancer villages” didn't convince you that China's half-baked development is killing the country, perhaps some details on China's tainted food industry would do the trick. Or if you're in Beijing, just look out your window. The signs that China is buckling under pressure are everywhere. Mounting debt concerns have forced provincial governments to lower growth targets. Housing remains unaffordable for middle-class Chinese. The plan for cutting the China development cake into more equitable pieces is still vague. Who's getting the biggest slice these days? The capitalists or the communists? Or both? Can we even tell the difference anymore?

As this Bloomberg writer put it: “If the rich keep getting richer at the expense of the poor, China may actually need to go communist.”

Now, as for home prices and sent-down doctors, the direct connection is simple. Doctors have obviously been responsible for the majority of the speculation in urban housing markets. China is casting them to the borderlands as a new experimental cooling measure. They should really all be sent to Ordos – plenty of empty houses out there. (Maybe we need a few more hours in a dark room to think about this.)