In 2002, the Chinese leadership announced a change in national welfare policy: Voluntary medical schemes at county level, called the “New Rural Co-operative Medical System” should cover all counties by 2010. This article addresses the main characteristics of this system, analyses the introduction of local schemes based on our own field studies in one Kazak county of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region since 2006, and argues that the fast progressing of the local scheme and the flexibility shown by local administrators in considering structural and procedural adjustments are not the result of central directives but of local initiatives. Recentralization from the township governments to functional departments in the provincial and the central state administration is only one aspect of current rural governance. Complementary forms of locally embedded responsiveness to the needs of health care recipients are crucial in restructuring the administration and discharge of health care. These new modes of governance are different from the hierarchical control and institutionalized representation of interests of the local population.
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