Developing or developed? Assessing Chinese life expectancy
Decades of breakneck economic growth have raised questions regarding China’s level of development. By some measures, China is still developing. In other ways, China compares favorably with developed nations. In terms of public health, however, China’s development is not yet complete.
In order for governments to effectively translate economic growth into improvements in the domestic level of development, political leaders must direct a country’s economic strength toward improving social conditions. While China’s economic transformation has generated considerable public resources, and China’s leaders have in recent decades dramatically improved domestic health conditions, China’s still faces challenges in terms of improving health outcomes.
Examining trends in China’s life expectancy and mortality rates for different age groups provides key insights into the strengths and weaknesses of China’s health care system. In this way, life expectancy trends shed light on one of China’s most important resources for cultivating power – its own people. This question assesses life expectancy in China and compares these trends with both developed and developing countries. As it is inadequate to simply examine China’s mortality trends at a national level, this question also examines the significant regional disparities in life expectancy that exist within the country.
What do the trends in China’s life expectancy say about its level of development?
China has made impressive gains in life expectancy given the scale of its territory and population, as well as its relatively low gross national income (GNI) per capita level. In the second half of the twentieth century, China increased its average life expectancy at birth from around 40 years to over 70 years, a feat that took many advanced economies nearly a century to achieve. The following analysis will first examine the reduction of child and adult mortality through health improvements and then describe the challenges that China still faces.