Inequalities and health in China, India and Nepal

Are you interested in inequalities and health research in China, India, or Nepal? On the 7th-8th of June 2018, we will be hosting four experts in this field for an international research workshop. The workshop will include a research seminar and panel discussion, the opportunity to network with our invited guests on a 1:1 and/or group dinner basis, a meeting of the LAARG reading group, and a sandpit-style open discussion to foster research collaborations and future grant applications. Staff and postgraduate students welcome at all events.

Speaker bios and full details of our schedule of events are provided below. Please note that, as space is limited, registration is required for some events. Registration links are given in the schedule of events.


​Dr. Sumit Mazumdar, Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Economics, University of York, United Kingdom, formerly at Institute of Public Health Kalyani

  • Dr. Mazumdar is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Economics, in the Global Health Economics Group. He joined the Centre in April, 2018. Until recently he worked as Assistant Professor (Health Economics and Policy) at the Institute of Public Health Kalyani (IPHK), West Bengal, India. He holds a PhD in Health Economics and a Masters in Population Studies from the International Institute of Population Sciences, Mumbai, along with a university degree in Economics. His research primarily focuses on health care financing in low-and-middle-income countries and economic analysis of health interventions. He has worked on inequality in health behaviours and outcomes, particularly those related to non-communicable diseases.

Dr. Mahesh Puri, Associate Director, Center for Research on Environment Health & Population Activities, Nepal

  • Dr. Mahesh Puri (PhD in Demography, from Southampton University, UK and MSc. in Reproductive & Sexual Health Research, from Centre for Population Studies, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, University of London, UK) is a Nepali national and has been actively involved in the areas of reproductive and sexual health and rights including gender-based violence related research studies and programme for more than 15 years in Nepal. Currently, Dr. Puri is Associate Director of Centre for Research on Environment Health and Population Activities (CREHPA). His areas of expertise are on mixing of qualitative and quantitative research methods in researching sensitive topics of reproductive and sexual health and rights. His current research focuses on maternal health, gender-based violence, sexual behavior, unintended pregnancy and abortion.

Dr. Jiong Tu, Lecturer, Sun Yat-Sen University, China

  • Dr. Jiong Tu is a medical sociologist at Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Cambridge in the UK, and has published in a number of leading journals, including the Lancet Global Health and Journal of Asian Public Policy. In addition, has a forthcoming book with Springer entitled Health Care Transformation in Contemporary China: Moral Experience in a Socialist Neoliberal Polity. Her research interests include illness experience of Chinese cancer patients, eHealth and mHealth, health policies, and end-of-life care.

Dr. Sukumar Vellakkal, Assistant Professor, BITS Pilani Goa, India

  • Dr. Sukumar Vellakkal is currently an Assistant Professor of Health Economics at BITS Pilani Goa, India. He holds a PhD in Economics from the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) in Bangalore, and has over a decade of research experience working as a postdoctoral research fellow at Oxford University, a research fellow at Public Health Foundation of India, and an assistant professor. His work focuses primarily on health systems in India, including health care management and health promotion, social protection and health outcomes, economic drivers of child health and undernutrition. His work has appeared in a range of high-profile journals, including Social Science & Medicine, Journal of Nutrition, BMC Public Health, PLoS Med, BMJ, the Lancet, International Journal of Epidemiology, and Health Policy and Planning.


Schedule of Events

Day 1 (7th June) 

10:00-12:30 Research seminar and panel discussions, Bowland North SR23


14:00-15:40 short 1:1 meetings with Lancaster faculty and students

  • Registration is required. Please register your meeting time at the relevant Doodle pages below. (Please be sure to enter your e-mail address along with your name so that we can confirm your appointment and send room details.)

o   To meet with Dr. Sumit Mazumdar:

o   To meet with Dr. Mahesh Puri:

o   To meet with Dr. Jiong Tu:

o   To meet with Dr. Sukumar Vellakkal:


16:00-17:30 LAARG reading group, featuring a discussion of papers/chapters shared by our visiting guests, Bowland North SR07

You can download the readings below (you don’t have to read all full papers–read the abstracts and join in the discussion)


18:00-18:30 Small drinks reception, Lancaster House Hotel bar area

  • No registration needed for this.
  • Please note, drinks are at your own expense.


18:30 Group dinner, Foodworks Restaurant

  • Please register for dinner here.
  • Please note, dinner and drinks are at your own expense. Regrettably, we are unable to provide meals/drinks for participants.


Day 2 (8th June)

14:00-17:00 Grant discussion, Data Science Institute

  • A sandpit-style event focusing on identifying research ideas, funding sources, and grant application opportunities.
  • Registration required. Please enter your name and e-mail address on the Doodle here:

International Research Collaborative Events – Child Health, Nutrition, and Inequalities in China, India, and Nepal.

Are you currently working on or interested in developing a stream of research in South and East Asia? On the 7-8th of June, 2018, Drs. Jasmine Fledderjohann and Yang Hu of Lancaster University will be hosting a two-day event to foster a cross-national research collaboration on child health, nutrition, and inequalities in China, India, and Nepal.

On the morning of Day 1, we will host research presentations and a panel discussion with our invited visiting academics:

  • Dr. Mahesh Puri, Associate Director, Center for Research on Environment Health & Population Activities, Nepal
  • Dr. Jiong Tu, Sun Yat-Sen University, China
  • Dr. Sukumar Vellakkal, Assistant Professor, BITS Pilani Goa, India

In the afternoon of Day 1, there will also be a reading group meeting of the Lancaster Asia Area Research Group (, and opportunities to schedule one-on-one or small group meetings with our international visitors. Registered guests may also wish to join us for dinner and drinks in the evening (cost not included in registration).

On Day 2, members of Lancaster University who are interested in developing a grant proposal may join us for grant discussions in the afternoon.

Review of Populist Authoritarianism: Chinese Political Culture and Regime Sustainability

Book Review: Populist Authoritarianism: Chinese Political Culture and Regime Sustainability

Wen-Fang Tang (New York: Oxford University Press)

Review by Leigh Martindale, Lancaster University / Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry

Wielding an impressive data set covering twenty years of national and cross-national surveys Tang in his book attempts to explain the paradox of Chinese political culture: the continued strong public support for the Chinese Communist Party whilst at the same time, an increase in mass public demonstrations and protests. Central to Tang’s argument of ‘populist authoritarianism’ is the concept of ‘Mass Line’ (qunzhong luxian) in which scattered ideas are taken from the masses, concentrated in a systematic form via the state apparatus and then propagated back to the masses.  Key here is the assumption that there is “a close and direct relationship between the party the Party and the masses, or between political power and society” (6). Between the concept of ‘Mass Line’ and his survey data Tang concludes that China, despite the view of many, is in fact highly politicised, and in order to maintain political power and stability, the Chinese government is forced to be actively responsive to it citizens.

Giving the book a particular critical-weight is the way in which Tang, in each chapter, gives a succinct and yet thorough literature review for each argument he makes. Always citing the wide range of differing opinions, and the evidence for them, before making his Chinese-centred claim gives the book a distinct authority on the subject.  While the sole basis for the book’s many claims is derived from quantitative survey data – a problematic source when used in isolation, especially in China – Tang takes pains repeatedly, to convince the reader that Chinese respondents are outspoken and critical on politically-sensitive survey questions. Indeed, the author devotes his penultimate chapter to this issue with an experimental study designed to gauge the levels of participant openness during surveys.

The best moments of the book come when Tang’s interpretation of the data reveals some insightful ironies about Chinese political culture. For example in Chapter 3 ‘Nationalism and Regime Sustainability’ Tang points out that when the West pushes a human rights agenda, China’s often nationalistic response serves to divert public demand for democratisation. Chapter 7 ‘Individual Dispute Resolution’ also intriguingly highlights how, despite mainstream predictions, rule of law is not becoming more institutionalised as marketization grows in China. Tang also, through his extensive statistical analysis, is able to challenge accepted orthodoxies in political science literature, most notably perhaps  when he suggest that strong levels of interpersonal trust and high social capital are not necessarily elements reflective of democratic countries.

Tang’s book, without specifically aiming to do so, is also especially useful for any researcher keen to understand how ‘politics’ actually works in China – a country without strong civic/political institutions.  For example, Chapter 7 contains a good overview of the non-institutional channels available to Chinese citizens in overcoming the disputes and issues they face. In Chapter 5 ‘Political Trust in China and Taiwan’, Tang too gives good examples of Chinese government political-responsiveness in comparison to the relatively inert Taiwanese government example.

However, some problems do come with Tang’s reliance on quantitative survey data that goes beyond the issue of survey scales and questions meaning different things for different people. Chapter 4 ‘Interpesonal Trust and Regime Sustainability’ for example is based on one report – made in 2002 based on early 1990’s data (59) – that indicates China is unusual for having high levels of interpersonal trust without having democratic freedom. Based on my own fieldwork experiences, I find this assumption remarkable considering the level of cynicism my contacts, friends and participants had in China. Whilst recognising that my own fieldwork has a particular urban bias, for such a framing assumption to be made requires a larger evidence base. Another issue is how Tang sometimes made equivalences between categories without a rationale. In one case, he equates high internal efficacy to high levels of interpersonal trust without a detailed explanation (88).

In sum, Tang has proposed a preliminary theoretical framework – populist authoritarianism – to explain why autocratically administrated countries may also display characteristics normally associated with democratic countries. It not only provides scholars and useful political framework to approach China with, and challenges some of the orthodoxies of political science, but also invites scholars to build and advance his notion of ‘populist authoritarianism’.


Reading Group 25 May 2017

This session will feature a focus on the measurement of poverty in India. Building on Amartya Sen’s groundbreaking work on how poverty must be reconceptualized to move beyond a focus on income in order to be meaningful in low- and middle-income country settings, the past two decades have seen a growing focus on measuring poverty as a multidimensional construct. This paper uses data from India to argue that focusing on individual multidimensional poverty rather than a household index provides an even more nuanced picture of poverty in India.

  • The short reading will be:

Vijaya, R., Lahoti, R., and Swaminathan, H. (2014). From the household to the individual: multidimentional poverty analysis. World Development Vol. 59, pp. 70–81.

  • If you would like to read more about multidimensional poverty, please see:


Inaugural reading group

Our inaugural reading group will take place at BN (Bowland North) SR15 from 16:00 to 17:15, Thursday, 11 May 2017. This session will feature a focus on the dormant and active ‘social volcanoes’ in China.

  • The short reading will be:

Whyte, M.K. (2016). China’s Dormant and Active Social Volcanoes. The China Journal, 75 :9-37.

  • If you would like to read more about the topic, please check out:

Whyte, M. K. (2010). Myth of the Social Volcano: Perceptions of Inequality and Distributive Injustice in Contemporary China. Stanford University Press.