As elaborated in chapter 3, although a handful of Chinese health laws reflect elements of the right to health care, such as non-discrimination and equality, most laws remain ambiguous as to what kind of essential health care the Chinese government must deliver in order to ensure equal access for all right-holders. The existing legal framework is ill-equipped to regulate China's health care system, which is experiencing a fast pace of reform.
In contrast, more precise health policies play a prominent role in the implementation of the right to health care in China, because they generally represent the political health manifesto of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the central government. This is in line with the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (CteeESCR) approach that recommends the adoption of not only legislative measures but also, inter alia, administrative, financial, educational, and social measures. With this in mind, it is important to assess what policies China has formulated to progressively achieve the full realisation of the right to health care.
Since the launch of its new round of health care reform (NHR) in 2006, China has issued a considerable number of national health policies. These health policies explicitly state the government's political commitments, priorities, budgetary decisions and course of action, reflecting the overall goal to establish a basic health care system in which both urban and rural residents would have access to safe, efficient, convenient and affordable health services by 2020. As noted by many Chinese scholars, China's commitment to ensuring access to basic health care highly corresponds with the concept of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as defined by the WHO. After having been included as one of the health targets specified in the United Nations Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), UHC now certainly constitutes one of China's political commitments to be achieved by 2030. Some scholars even conclude that the overall goal of the current health care reform, if accomplished, will enable China to achieve UHC by 2020.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has labelled UHC as ‘a practical expression of the concern for health equity and the right to health’. It is evident that UHC to some extent overlaps with the obligations arising from the right to health (care).