Nestled in the rice-terraced mountains of Southern Yunnan, there are dozens of small towns of about 300 people. The villagers are physically and emotionally drained and perpetually exhausted. The men smoke over a pack of cigarettes every day and drink five or six small glasses of baijiu, their home-made rice wine. Some have been coughing up blood, others can’t breathe deeply enough to walk, let alone work in the fields anymore, leaving their wives to do all of the farm work.
By bus theses villages are just a few hours away from Mojiang, yet life here feels decades away from the city.
Over the past thirty years, millions of people in both the city and countryside have benefited from gaigekaifang, China’s Reform and Open Door Policy. An elderly farmer will tell you without hesitation that his life today bears no comparison to the tongku, the suffering and agony of his childhood.
The 2010 Shanghai Expo presented China’s newest advancements in technology, business, architecture, and wealth for all the world to admire; but behind the slogan of “better city, better life” are countryside villages where clean water, sanitation and the most basic health care is still out of reach.
The advancement in health care and access to health services has not coincided with the improvement in China’s economy. In terms of health, gains from the era of economic expansion have benefited urbanites far more than countryside farmers.
The difference between urban and rural health is now a stark contrast; in 2006 China was ranked by WHO as the lowest in the world in terms of health equity: urban residents who make up only about 20% of China’s total population enjoy roughly 80% of the national health resources.
Newman, Haley, "Living in Pain, Throwing Out Agony: A Health Study of the Rural Residents of Three Hani Zu Ethnic Minority Villages in Hong He Prefecture, Yunnan Province" (2010). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. 869.