Author: Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner
In China ideology has played an important role in the research and teaching of the biological sciences since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). After the 1978 reforms, it was recognized that the discontinuation of political interference with the sciences was essential for their survival and development. However, not much later, when the fields of genetics and molecular biology became redefined as life sciences, internationally, bioethical regulation became an essential element of research regulation. The evolution of medical textbooks in the PRC reflects this. Using the cases of human cloning and human embryonic stem cell research, this article shows how science regulation incorporates cultural and political ideologies. These, on the one hand, form a continuation of modes of state propaganda and, on the other hand, embody newly formulated notions of Chinese society. This article provides a historical background of the role of ideology during the first decades of the PRC, after which it discusses the evolution of bioethical discussion of human cloning and human embryonic stem cell research in 17 medical textbooks over nine years (1996–2005). It concludes with a discussion on the changing role of ideology in bioethical policy-making for the life sciences.