Gift Practice in the Chinese Health Sector: Inequality, Power and Governance

  • Jiong Tu


Chinese patients frequently give ‘gifts’ to health professionals. Yet, transformations in the Chinese society over the past decades are reshaping the everyday gifting practice. Under the market reforms, gifts from patients to doctors have changed from mostly symbolic and material forms to increasingly monetary form. Gifts can be sincere expressions of gratitude from patients and are used by patients to cultivate relationships with doctors in a reciprocal manner. They are also actively used by patients to overcome systemic obstacles that prevent them from obtaining quality health care. In the market, gift practice also enables health professionals to transfer their skills, expertise and professional power to economic profits and dominance over patients. Gifts can be regarded as an economic compensation for the low-valued labour of doctors, but when gifts are excessively demanded, they become a channel used by doctors to generate wealth. The theoretically ‘voluntary’ gifting increasingly becomes obligatory in practice.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Sociology and AnthropologySun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina

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