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Research & Impact

Prof. SHARMA Shalendra
Associate Vice-President (Academic Quality Assurance and Internationalisation) and Lee Shau Kee Foundation Chair Professor of Political Science

Comparing India and China’s healthcare systems


Professor SHARMA Shalendra

Professor SHARMA Shalendra

The numbers are huge, and the circumstances have often been dire. Until 2018, 80 percent of India’s 1.35 billion population had no health insurance coverage, and each year roughly 50-60 million of them were financially ruined by their medical expenses. But as the nation has become wealthier, and under pressure from voters, the government last year launched a groundbreaking scheme that offers health insurance to 500 million Indians. Nothing on this scale has been attempted anywhere else in the world before.


In his latest research project Professor Shalendra Sharma, Lingnan’s Lee Shau Kee Foundation Chair Professor of Political Science, plans to examine the origins, nature and effectiveness of the implementation of this scheme, and compare India’s nascent healthcare system with the far more developed setup in a country of a similar scale, namely China.


Though he has also written about the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, and the Euro crisis, Professor Sharma’s primary research interests have always been Asia’s political economies. Trained as a political economist at the University of Toronto, he was initially a student of India’s political-economy, but as his career has progressed he has taken a much more comparative approach.




He is among a select group of scholars who has published three single-authored books with the world’s premier academic publisher: Cambridge University Press. These include, China and India in the Age of Globalization (1999), Global Financial Contagion: Building a Resilient World Economy after the Subprime Crisis (2014), and his most recent: A Political Economy of the United States, China, and India: Prosperity With Inequality. He is most proud of his 2003 book, The Asian Financial Crisis: Crisis, Reform and Recovery published by Manchester University Press.


Professor Sharma’s new project will examine the different approaches taken, and the differing degrees of progress made, by the world’s two most populous countries as they aim to achieve what is essentially the same monumental goal: the provision of universal healthcare for their people.


China has an aging population, and while its healthcare system has already been able to deal with a range of preventable diseases, it is now facing increasing levels of conditions such as obesity and heart disease. Although the Indian government has tackled TB, malaria and leprosy, diseases that used to kill millions, and has now raised the proportion of GDP devoted to healthcare to two from 0.5 percent, overall progress has been slower than seen in China.


Under the terms of India’s new private-public health scheme, each registered family has access to US$7000 per year to spend on their medical expenses. The long-term goal is to provide them with affordable insurance, similar to Obamacare - except in India the scheme will be government run.


There is already a large body of published research on China’s healthcare system, and Professor Sharma will be able to compare Chinese government and World Bank data. Whereas, in India, because the system is so new, there are hardly any reliable figures available. He will therefore aim to gather his data from field research in a mix of urban and rural locations, from national and local government statistics, and also from relevant NGOs.


Given that the vast bulk of the 500 million Indians covered by the scheme live in the countryside, one of the key questions he’ll be seeking to answer is: are there enough hospital and doctors available to cope with demand?


To know more about Professor Shalendra Sharmas research projects, please click Lingnan Scholars