China's Medical Boom

Western-style private hospitals are competing with state facilities--and with one another

CHIEN-MIN CHUNG FOR TIME

A patient rests after surgery at Beijing United Family Hospital

Tourist Jack Golden remembers a recent trip to China for all the wrong reasons. Golden, of Lenox, Mass., had a prostate condition that required medical treatment during a Yangtze River cruise. He had to endure an invasive procedure without anesthesia at a small, gritty hospital in Fengdu, an ancient city on the river's north bank. And that was the easy part. "The Chinese accept it because this is what they have," he says.

Acquiescence to substandard health care is changing in China, especially where rapid economic progress has improved the financial well-being of the country's growing zhong chan jie ji, or...