A successful movie release based on a true story called “Dying to Survive” became a box office hit in China. The story touched the general public but the Department of Publicity had to face some backfire. This realism film told the story of a Chinese leukemia patient who couldn’t afford imported cancer treatment drugs and was forced to turn to India to buy cheap generic drugs. He was then arrested and punished. The Douban film review website rated the movie 9.0. The movie made over 1.3 billion yuan (USD$200 million) in box office revenue in just four days after its release on July 5. According to RFA, the official’s initial intent was to set the timing of the movie so it was released right around the start of the trade war hoping to incite resentment among the Chinese public towards foreign governments and pharmaceutical companies for the high cost of imported drugs. Little did they anticipate the level of unhappiness among the general public in China about the high cost of medical care. They also did not anticipate that the Chinese people would understand that it was the Chinese officials and the medical system that caused the real problem of the high cost of drugs and medical treatment in China.
RFA reported that the Ministry of Publicity issued a verbal notice on Sunday July 8. The notice required that all media must follow the guidelines of “not interviewing, not reporting, not commenting, and not referring to the movie.” It also asked the official media to strengthen public opinion guidance, pointing to the criticism of foreign pharmaceutical companies, emphasizing that the Chinese government has imposed zero tariffs on imported anti-cancer drugs, and that the government is working hard to require foreign drug companies to cut their prices. The RFA article stated that it is the Chinese government that sets the price of drugs, especially of imported generic brand drugs. Even though it announced that, starting on May 1 of this year, it would not impose tariffs on imported drugs, the price of drugs still remains high.
Source: Radio Free Asia, July 9, 2018