China is going through a blood shortage, and people are forced to consider the black market for necessary supply. Patients in need may require visiting blood heads, or the black market agents, who sell certificates that allow access to state blood banks.

The scenarios is not new for China as it faced such crisis in 1980s and 90s, when local officials motivated farmers to sell their blood and plasma to blood heads, who sold these to blood banks and hospitals. However, unhygienic processing techniques resulted in tens of thousands of blood contracting HIV.


The blood shortage, dubbed as “blood famine,” questions the nation’s ability to safeguard its population against scandal-stained blood supply. The government is pushing policies and campaigns to encourage people for voluntary donation, highlighted by the 1998 blood donation law to ban the commercial sale of blood. The law also limits whole blood donations to twice a year per donor.

As per the provisions of this law, patients are required to present a certificate at the hospital or blood bank showing they someone in their family or friend circle have donated blood. The certificate is essential to tap the national supply and some hospitals don’t provide blood without such certificate.

However, such a law severely affects patients who require large or regular transfusions, as well as to those who can’t count on their family or friends.

The Chinese government also acknowledges the existence of “blood heads,” and also undertakes crackdown operations from time to time. However, the blood heads are sometimes protected by the same officials. One blood head from Jilin province said that they know all of the cops and there is no need to worry about police.

The government badly needs regular blood supply and is trying to counter the unintended blood famine by taping on the military and students and sometimes resorting to public campaigns to recruit new donors.

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