Yanzhong Huang

Senior Fellow for Global Health


Global health governance; health diplomacy; public health in China/East Asia.


Yanzhong Huang is a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he directs the Global Health Governance Roundtable. He is also professor and director of global health studies at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, where he developed the first academic concentration among U.S. professional schools of international affairs that explicitly addresses the security and foreign policy aspects of health issues. He is the founding editor of Global Health Governance: The Scholarly Journal for the New Health Security Paradigm.

Huang has written extensively on global health governance, health diplomacy and health security, and public health in China and East Asia. He has published numerous reports, journal articles, and book chapters, including articles in Survival, Foreign Affairs, Public Health, Bioterrorism and Biosecurity, and Journal of Contemporary China, as well as op-ed pieces in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, YaleGlobal, and South China Morning Post, among others. In 2006, he coauthored the first scholarly article that systematically examined China's soft power. His book Governing Health in Contemporary China (Routledge, 2013) looks at health care reform, government ability to address disease outbreaks, and food and drug safety in China.

He is often consulted by major media outlets, the private sector, and governmental and non-governmental organizations on global health issues and China. He has also been frequently invited to speak at leading academic institutions and think tanks. In 2012, he was listed by InsideJersey as one of the "20 Brainiest People in New Jersey." He was a research associate of the National Asia Research Program, a public intellectuals fellow of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, an associate fellow of Asia Society, a visiting senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore, and a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He has taught at Barnard College and Columbia University. He obtained his BA and MA degrees from Fudan University and his PhD degree from the University of Chicago.



Emerging Powers and the Future of Global Health Governance

The past three decades have seen the rise of various global health challenges, including dangerous pathogens and non-communicable diseases. Efforts to address these challenges have led to the proliferation of new global health players, processes, and institutions. Meanwhile, the vast rebalancing of wealth across the globe has led to the growing expectation that emerging powers, represented by the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), can and should play a greater role in global health governance. However, these countries themselves face mounting challenges in bringing adequate and accessible healthcare to their own populations. Building on my study on China's public health and healthcare, I explore the emerging powers' health system capacities, including their abilities to handle communicable and non-communicable disease challenges and their efforts to reform the health sector. I also examine the emerging powers' participation in global health, including in global health institutions such as the World Health Organization, the provision of health-related development assistance, and the potential to become a game changer in global access to medicine.

This project is made possible through the support of the Robina Foundation.

China's Environmental Health Crisis

China is on the cusp of becoming the world's largest economy. Yet China's unfettered economic growth has imposed tremendous social costs. Topping this list is extensive air pollution, water pollution, and soil contamination. Outdoor air pollution, for example, has been linked to 1.2 million premature deaths in China. The result has been an environmental health crisis that is threatening social stability and challenging the leadership's political legitimacy. What is the response of the Chinese state to its environmental health crisis and is this response sufficient to the challenges at hand? A study of the politics of China's environmental health crisis would provide critical insights into the issue of political development in China. Meanwhile, the manner in which China handles its environmental health crisis, and the success or failure of its methods, could have important implications for U.S. domestic and foreign policy. My work on these issues assesses China's policy response to the crisis, its domestic and foreign policy implications, as well as the potential for international cooperation over environmental health.

This project is made possible through the support of the Smith Richardson Foundation.

Addressing the Last Mile Issues of Universal Health Coverage

The United Nations (UN) is currently creating a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals that is to expire at the end of 2015. Among the seventeen SDGs, Goal Three focuses on health: “Ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” While advocates are jockeying for the inclusion of a number of specific health targets in SDG Goal Three, achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) leads the list of potential sub-goals. Indeed, because progress toward UHC seeks to ensure affordable and quality healthcare for everyone, it is considered central to reaching the SDG goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. In order for the negotiations to move forward in a constructive and efficient manner, it is imperative that the involved parties gain a clear understanding of the critical issues surrounding the UHC concept. Co-directed by me and my colleague Laurie Garrett, the Project on Addressing the Last Mile Issues of Universal Health Coverage will hold three roundtable meetings and produce several briefing papers to address pertinent issues related to UHC as they are brought up in UN meetings. Two roundtable meetings have been held in New York, with the first focusing on the cost of providing UHC and the second on the role of human resources in implementing UHC.

This project is made possible through the support of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Featured Publications

Foreign Affairs Article

The Sick Man of Asia

Author: Yanzhong Huang

Yanzhong Huang argues that in their single-minded pursuit of economic growth, China's leaders have long overlooked public health--which, by some measures, is now worse than under Mao. Despite recent reforms, China's citizens keep getting sicker, threatening the country's health-care system, the economy at large, and even the stability of the regime.

See more in China; Economic Development; Health Policy and Initiatives

All Publications


China’s Healthcare Sector and U.S.- China Health Cooperation

Author: Yanzhong Huang

In testimony before the United States-China Economic and Security Commission on April 27, 2016, Yanzhong Huang discussed China’s 13th Five Year Plan in the context of China’s healthcare system landscape, attempts at reform, and potential opportunities and challenges for collaboration between the United States and China in the healthcare sector.

See more in United States; China; Health Policy and Initiatives


International Institutions and China's Health Policy

Author: Yanzhong Huang
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law

This article, published in Duke University’s Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, examines the role of international institutional actors in China’s health policy process. Particular attention is paid to three major international institutional actors: the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Global Fund to Fight AID, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

See more in China; Health Policy and Initiatives


Combating Ebola: What Can Africa Learn From China?

Author: Yanzhong Huang
China-US Focus

Yanzhong Huang notes the limited public health infrastructure in certain West African countries that are currently battling the spread of Ebola, which is a similar phenomenon to that which occurred in China during the 2003 SARS outbreak. Dr. Huang stresses the importance of foreign aid, particularly Chinese funds, to slow the spread of Ebola but points out that dependence on foreign aid is ultimately an unsustainable public health strategy.

See more in Africa (sub-Saharan); Public Health Threats and Pandemics


Health-care Provision and Health-care Reform in Post-Mao China

Author: Yanzhong Huang

An effective strategy to engage China's health-care sector requires the U.S. government to continue promoting business opportunities for U.S. biopharmaceutical firms, hospital groups, and insurance companies, CFR Senior Fellow for Global Health Yanzhong Huang tells the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. In the meantime, it is also important for the U.S. government and companies to demonstrate the willingness to work with China in addressing health issues of their immediate concern.

See more in China; Health


Health Technology Assessment in Universal Health Coverage

Authors: Yanzhong Huang, Kalipso Chalkidou, Robert Marten, Derek Cutler, Tony Culyer, Richard Smith, Yot Teerawattananon, Francoise Cluzeau, Ryan Li, Richard Sullivan, Victoria Fan, Amanda Glassman, Yu Dezhi, Sam McPherson, Thiagarajan Sundararaman, Neil Squires, Nils Daulaire, Rajeev Sadanandan, and Alexandre Lemgruber
The Lancet

Yanzhong Huang and colleagues examine universal health coverage and the role of technology.

See more in Global; Health Policy and Initiatives

Recent Activity from Asia Unbound


Radio Interview


Yanzhong Huang speaks to Voice of America about why Beijing's air pollution red alert may not mean that the air quality is polluted now more than in the past. 


Radio Interview

MERS Fight in China

China Radio International interviews Yanzhong Huang on the topic of MERS in China.


Video Interview

Health of Nations: In Between the Lines

Channel News Asia interviews Yanzhong Huang about the ways in which the WHO has pledged to change after the Ebola outbreak and the close of the sixty-eighth World Health Assembly in Geneva last week. 



Think Tanks in China

Yanzhong Huang was interviewed by Voice of America, Chinese, on the topic of building think tanks in China. 

Video Interview

Xi Jinping and China's New Era of Reform

CFR Senior Fellows Elizabeth C. Economy and Yanzhong Huang, and the Lowy Institute's Leon Berkelmans and Merriden Varrall, join the New York Times' Joseph Kahn to discuss China's future, with a focus on Chinese President Xi Jinping's leadership.



Decade-Long Health Initiative Closes up Shop

Yanzhong Huang offers insight to China Daily USA about the mixed legacy of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuburculosis, and Malaria as it closes its profile in China. 


Chinese Health Care Draws Investors

Yanzhong Huang comments in the New York Times on the rise of international and domestic investment in the Chinese health care sector. 


Failing Health

Yanzhong Huang shares important knowledge with Time regarding the state of healthcare in China both in terms of access and affordability.


China Beats Bad Image With Big Aid to Africa

Yanzhong Huang offers insight to the Straits Times on the current Chinese humanitarian aid extended to West Africa aimed at assisting with the management of the Ebola outbreak.


Giving it Away in China

Yanzhong Huang offers insight to China Daily about the culture of philanthropy in China.


Anything Goes in China's Food System

Yanzhong Huang contributes to the New York Times' editorial board's important comments on some of the dangers in the Chinese food system.


When Pigs Float

Yanzhong Huang was quoted by China Economic Review about food safety regulations in China.

Video Interview

China's Cancer Villages

Yanzhong Huang was interviewed by Huffington Post Live about health and pollution concerns in China.


DIY Dialysis

Yanzhong Huang was quoted in Newsweek about access to medical devices like lung ventilators and dialysis machines in China.

Video Interview

Greasing the Wheels

Yanzhong Huang was quoted in China Economic Review about food safety in China.


Video Interview

China's chaotic health care drives patient attacks

Yanzhong Huang was quoted by the Associated Press about public discontent with China's health care system and specifically a upturn in violent attacks by patients. This article was reprinted by the Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek, Straits Times, ABC News, and many other news outlets.



China's Corrupt Food Chain

According to Yanzhong Huang, food-safety scandals highlight both the collapse of business ethics and Beijing's failure to keep pace with an expanding market economy.


Health Agency Overshadowed but Vital

Yanzhong Huang explains why the World Health Organizations plays a vital role in global health, but needs to undergo specific reform to retain its position.

Video Interview

Emerging Practices in Global Health Cooperation: Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa

CSIS Global Health Policy Center hosted this half-day conference in which Yanzhong Huang discusses the involvement of the BRICS in global health activities. He suggested that some of the BRICS, such as China, engage in global health policy and programmatic efforts to demonstrate that they are responsible international stakeholders, able and willing to respect international rules and adopt a normative multilateral approach to global health governance.


Video Interview

China Prepares for Big Entry into Vaccine Market

Yanzhong Huang was quoted in this Associated Press piece about the challenges in increasing regulatory capacity in China. This article has been reprinted in more than 121 media outlets worldwide.