Chinese activists shun traditional treatments/back science activism

October 7, 2019

Modern medical science appears better favoured over Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Chinese activists have begun criticising the latter’s use in hospitals. This is in contrast to the West, which has seen mounting challenges to scientific authority and calls for alternative forms of treatment. As such, Chinese researcher Qiaoyan Zhu and Professor Maja Horst of the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark, have collated data on the activists and their protests.

While activists operating in a regime like the Chinese are not given the same leeway as activists in an open democratic society, as there are limits to what the authorities are willing to accept, online organising seems to be the “go-to” method for individual and small-group activism, including social media and blogs.

The activists are better educated and wealthier than the average Chinese population, and so choose to make an impact with their communication at several different levels – many of them protest individually by writing directly to family, friends and colleagues who have been treated with/ taken ill from TCM, or have hung posters in hospitals to draw attention to the dangers of traditional treatments.

Maja Horst adds that larger online groups are also being formed, and are generating a high degree of visibility. “The card game about TCM that a group of activists produced in 37,000 copies and distributed to family, friends and local poker clubs is a good example. Poker is a highly popular pastime in rural China, so it is a creative way of reaching a large audience.”

Over the years, Maja Horst and Qiaoyan Zhu have noted more direct action methods as well; where local activist groups push school authorities to omit TCM from the school syllabi or help patients refuse TCM treatment.

The researchers anticipate more activism in favour of science and evidence-based medicine in the West -“We may well see a counter-reaction towards climate sceptics and anti-vaxxers.”


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