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China’s Consensus Blog Website: Death of a Young Man

Chinascope recently reported on the death of Wei Zexi, the 21-year-old college student who died from a rare form of cancer after receiving allegedly effective treatment that he found on a Baidu website. Before his death on April 12, Wei wrote a lengthy post on a Chinese website detailing his plight.

Shortly after the news of his death, the Consensus Website, affiliated with a media company based in Beijing, published a blog article about his death. The author raised several sensitive points in the blog, examining the roles played by the parties involved, including Baidu, China’s leading search engine company; the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps; the privately-owned Putian hospital system; and Chen Zhili, a former vice-chairperson of China’s top legislature. According to another blog, which has since been taken down at China’s leading portal, Chen owed her career to Jiang Zemin, former secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). She was responsible for China’s highly controversial drive to commercialize education and its public health systems.

The Consensus Website blog author raised the question of how Baidu got to dominate China’s search engine market. Not only was Google’s China presence short-lived, but even a competing search product backed by the CCP’s leading newspaper, People’s Daily, did not have a chance when challenging Baidu.

The author then pointed out that the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps, where Wei sought treatment, was not content with funding from the government. It resorted to increasing its revenue by partnering with Putian hospitals.

The author gave the reasons behind the rapid expansion of Putian, a privately operated chain of hospitals. The chain invited Chen to serve as its top advisor; it relied on paid promotions on Baidu; it opened and operated clinics in brand name public hospitals; and it sought support from top officials. 

One thing that these players have in common, observed the blog author, is that they are all good at packaging their true [profit-seeking] motives. In hospitals, and in the rhetoric of "connecting people with services" in Baidu, they used high-sounding slogans, such as "saving people’s lives" and "the world’s leading technology and medicine."

The author is optimistic that, with the advent of social media, such outright dishonesty in misleading the public can hardly be sustained. In Wei’s case, two female journalists were able to raise awareness of Wei’s misguided treatment through Weibo (i.e. mini-blog) and WeChat (a popular mobile messaging service), completely bypassing traditional media.

Sources: The Concensus Website
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