"In medical and health work, put the emphasis on the countryside", said Chairman Mao in his celebrated declaration on health policy in June 1965. This statement threw the health system of China right into the middle of a major political controversy which has not yet been resolved. However, long before the Cultural Revolution was launched in 1965, major changes had taken place in the Chinese health system. Mao's statement heralded even more radical changes and called for an acceleration of the reform movement which he had initiated in the 1950s.