Application of Confucian and Western ethical theories in developing HIV/AIDS policies in China--an essay in cross-cultural bioethics

  • Yonghui Ma

Student thesis: Phd


This study is a contribution to Chinese-Western dialogue of bioethics but perhaps the first one of its kind. From a Chinese-Western comparative ethical perspective, this work brings Chinese ethical theories, especially Confucian ethics, into a contemporary context of the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, and to see how the deeply-rooted thoughts of Confucius interact, compete, or integrate with concepts from Western ethical traditions. An underlying belief is that some ideas in Confucian ethics are important and insightful beyond their cultural and historical origins in China and other Confucianism influenced societies.Methodologically, this thesis employs two approaches, conceptual normative analysis combined with critical interpretation. The 'interpretive' approach I employ, as an important methodology supplementing my normative analysis, not only deals with Chinese ancient texts, but also explains specific beliefs and practices in China.With a critical eye, this thesis carefully examines a number of key topics in the ethics of AIDS in China from a cross-cultural perspective. Topics including: views on personhood and the vulnerability of People Living with HIV/AIDS; prioritising and balancing the role of 'harm reduction' and the role of 'eradication of deviant behaviour' in AIDS policy in China; rights-based opt-out approach and duty-based family-centred approach in HIV testing and Biobanking; blood donation; moral responsibility and personal responsibility for health; and the popular rhetoric of 'innocent infection' versus 'guilty infection' in AIDS. My overall aim in this work is to present a cross-cultural bioethics study through the investigation of some ethical issues in AIDS in China from a Chinese-Western comparative perspective and also attempt to suggest a humane and effective policy for HIV/AIDS which I believe is appropriate to both traditions. I believe this work has contributed to our knowledge in three related but independent areas: the control of the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in China; medical ethics in China; and to both the methods and the utility of cross-cultural study of bioethics between China and the West.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJohn Harris (Supervisor) & Catherine Rhodes (Supervisor)


  • Confucian ethics, HIV/AIDS, bioethics, comparative analysis, cross-cultural ethics, moral philosophy

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