Yanzhong Huang

Senior Fellow for Global Health


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


Asia Program , Global Health Program


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 an associate professor and director for 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, heath 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, 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 roll out universal health coverage (UHC). 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 for cooperation among themselves.

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

The Competitiveness of the U.S. Life Sciences Sector

Competitiveness in the life sciences industry is indicative of a country's ability to innovate and thrive in an increasingly competitive and knowledge-driven global economy. Since World War II, the United States has been the undisputed leader in the life sciences. But its competitive edge has seemingly been eroding in the past decade. On the domestic front, U.S. biomedical research and development (R&D) investments have declined. On the international front, competing nations have not only increased their share in worldwide R&D expenditures, but also developed strategies and mechanisms to improve incentives for innovation and support entrepreneurs and strengthen commercialization. My work on this issue – articles, workshop discussions, and Asia Unbound blog posts – addresses the following questions: To what extent is the United States losing its competitive advantages? Does the model that led to the rise of U.S. leadership still work? How do its political, economic, and educational systems impact its ability to innovate? If the dominance enjoyed by the U.S. life sciences industry does not come with a long-term guarantee, what should the United States do to retain and bolster its leadership in this sector?

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


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

Ask CFR Experts

Should we be worried about China's genetic manipulation of food?

Asked by Matthias Tindemans

In 2012, China imported nearly 60 million tons of soybeans, most of which were genetically modified. In that sense, even if GM foods are found to have any long-term hazards, one probably should not worry too much about only China's GM foods, but about those from all countries, including the United States, the largest producer and consumer of GM foods.

Read full answer

See more in China; Agricultural Policy

Recent Activity from Asia Unbound


Unfinished Universal Health Coverage Agenda Roundtable Series

Director: Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow for Global Health
February 4, 2014—Present

Global momentum is quickly building for universal health care (UHC), defined by the World
Health Organization as "ensuring that all people have access to needed promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that people do not suffer financial hardship when paying for these services." In January 2012, health ministers from around the world gathered in Bangkok and committed themselves to "rais[ing] universal health coverage on the national, regional and global agendas." Four months later, the World Health Assembly formally adopted a resolution calling for worldwide UHC. In her address to the assembly, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan described UHC as "the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer." In December, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution on UHC, encouraging national governments worldwide to "plan or pursue the transition towards universal access to affordable and quality health-care services." The unprecedented support that the UHC agenda has received from
national governments, civil society, and international organizations significantly boosted its chances of being included in the post-2015 Millennium Development Framework as a unifying and central health goal that crosses political and economic lines.

Achieving sustainable UHC requires health systems to deliver progress on access to coverage with financial risk protection and access to coverage for needed health services. While the global rebalancing of wealth and the growing political commitment to the health sector have enabled many more countries to make significant domestic investments in their health systems, countries aspiring to expanding coverage continue to face challenges on how to remove financial barriers to access and reduce financial risks of illness. Their efforts to address these challenges are further complicated by the ongoing economic and financial crisis and the shifting demographic and epidemiological landscape (e.g., population movement and aging, the rise of noncommunicable diseases). These issues are critical for successful implementation of UHC, yet thus far, have not been addressed adequately.

The project on Unfinished Universal Health Coverage Agenda will be under the direction of Senior Fellow for Global Health Yanzhong Huang. This project has been made possible by the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Global Health Governance Roundtable Series

Director: Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow for Global Health
October 2010—Present

The goal of the series is to examine the changing landscape of global health governance in the context of emerging powers, empowered non-governmental actors, and shifting health priorities. A number of questions will be discussed, including: What effect will the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases have on the economic growth of India and China? Can the WHO maintain a central role in global health governance, with competition from other actors (e.g., World Bank, WTO, MNCs, Gates Foundation) and the proliferation of new initiatives not housed by WHO (e.g., Global Fund)? How will the emerging powers (e.g., China, India, Brazil) and the rising nonstate actors affect the international community's ability to set priorities and define the upper limits of acceptable action? How does the entrance of health into the realm of "high politics" affect our way of handling transnational health threats?

Four roundtables will take place throughout the winter and spring in New York and Washington, DC.

This roundtable series is sponsored by the International Institutions and Global Governance program and made possible by the generous support of the Robina Foundation.

CFR Events

Roundtable Meeting

Universal Health Coverage: The Future of Healthcare Reform?


Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations, Daniel Altman, Director, Thought Leadership, Dalberg Global Advisors, Alexander S. Preker, Head, Health Industry and Investment Policy Analysis, World Bank Group


Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations
April 24, 2012

This meeting is on the record.


Roundtable Meeting

The Global Fund at Ten Years: Reflecting on Its Impact and Looking Forward to Challenges Ahead


Debrework Zewdie, Deputy General Manager, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria


Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations
April 24, 2012

This meeting is on the record.


Conference Panel Session

China 2025: Panel One: Challenges from Within: Emerging Domestic Trends


John Pomfret, Columnist, Washington Post


Kelley Currie, Non-resident Fellow, Project 2049 Institute, Yanzhong Huang, Associate Professor and Director, Center for Global Health Studies, Seton Hall University, Minxin Pei, Director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies, Claremont McKenna College, Ole Schell, Director, Win in China
October 19, 2009

This meeting is on the record.


Conference Panel Session

Pandemic Influenza: Science, Economics, and Foreign Policy: The Economics


Robert E. Rubin, Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury; Co-Chair, Council on Foreign Relations


Yanzhong Huang, Director, Center for Global Health Studies, Seton Hall University, Andrew Jack, Pharmaceutical Correspondent, Financial Times, Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota
October 16, 2009

This meeting is not for attribution.




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.