Community, the common good, and public healthcare-confucianism and its relevance to contemporary china

Ellen Ying ZHANG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Traditional Chinese culture, Confucianism, in particular, has a non-individualist conception of what it is to be human. It conceives of people fundamentally as members of social groups-specifically, the family, the clan, the political community and the state-not as atomic individuals as perceived in modern society. The communist ideology since the middle of the last century also emphasizes the significance of 'the common good' of the state which describes a specific 'good' that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community. Nevertheless, marketization and decentralization in China today have significantly challenged the notion of a state-oriented community that directly impacts China's healthcare system, beginning with the dismantling of the rural collectives and state-owned enterprises as part of the reform and opening process. This article will address healthcare challenges in China today, examining the conceptual/ethical issues raised by public healthcare, and contending that public health concerns should go beyond the dichotomy between individualism and collectivism. The article will argue that the family-oriented model of Confucianism offers an alternative way to look at what constitute a community and common goods. The Confucian approach to ethics is relevant to healthcare today. For example, it will be much easier to find a shared idea of common good in terms of complicated issues like healthcare; it would make sense to give a larger role to families via family savings accounts, and not have everything determined by the government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-266
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Community, the common good, and public healthcare-confucianism and its relevance to contemporary china'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this