MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Guest post by Frank van der Kooy

TCM and the importance of having a Minister of Health with knowledge of health!

An analogy

You’re sitting on a beach when suddenly not far from you, you notice a commotion. Your fear is confirmed when you see lifeguards dashing into the ocean and moments later they drag a lifeless body of a young child from the waves. Because the lifeguards are well trained, they manage to revive the child, resulting in a collective sigh of relief from the gathered crowd. Happy endings like this make people feel good – it is good news. But this is not where it ends. Suddenly you hear screaming and to your shock you witness something truly amazing. The parents of this boy sprints down the beach, bursts through the crowd, all the while shouting that they will save their child. To your amazement they pull the child, still gasping for air, from the arms of the lifeguards back into the ocean where they hold his head under water until he drowns!

I don’t know if anything like this has ever happened but I’m almost convinced that the crowd, after recovering from their shock, will most likely attack the parents and more people might die that day.

Now, one of the hallmarks of a fake healthcare system is the fact that just about everything works. Think of rhino horn, acupuncture, homeopathy etc. but also something such as slapping therapy – everything works. Surely, if you allow a practitioner into your clinic to provide people, including children, slapping therapy then you acknowledge that it works? If not, you are intentionally misleading your patients (interesting catch 22.) But let me explain the analogy. These parents suffer from a level of delusion that most people simply cannot understand and sadly this type of scenario plays out far more often than most people would like. And if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has its way, these tragedies will increase significantly and it might even become quite common. Take for example the tragic slapping death tragedy.

The poor parents were misled into believing that they can cure their 6yo son of diabetes type 1 by attending an expensive ‘slapping therapy’ workshop in Sydney. The child was taken off his medication (out of professional care) and was slapped (allowing the sea to finish the job) in the belief that this will cure him. It did not, and the child died. The slapping therapist and the parents are now facing court, but this should be seen as treating the symptom while the cause, the people responsible for creating this level of delusion, are continuing to relentlessly disseminate their misinformation regarding ‘integrative medicine’.

From the website of ‘Master’ Hongchi Xiao. Left, an 8yo boy who suffers from a serious kidney disease, right, the leg a 13yo suffering from diabetes. The type of injuries caused by the slapping therapy is easily visible (it is unknown if these children survived or how many victims Master Xiao made).

The unseen war that’s being fought

To use war terminology might be a bit far-fetched but I don’t think it’s unreasonable. This war is being fought between an army of pseudoscientists (backed by the CCP and others) and a few scientists (backed by, uhm, no one) and it’s about the ‘integration’ of fake medicine and medical procedures with evidence-based healthcare under the umbrella term – ‘Integrative medicine’. For most people, hitting a young defenceless child to such a degree that he dies of his injuries and/or lack of medication, is surely a heinous crime. But others apparently see this practice to be okay, and these deaths should be considered ‘collateral damage’. After all, many innocent people die in war zones, and although undesirable it is an inadvertent consequence of achieving the greater good – to win the war.

Slapping therapy is part of the pseudoscientific Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) industry, and because of the sheer economic size of this industry, the CCP decided to revive it, protect it and promote it nationally but also internationally. Any critique of TCM within China is met with the long arm of the law. Quite recently a Chinese doctor was jailed for three months after he wrote an opinion piece regarding the dangers of a specific TCM remedy. So, TCM is here to stay and is also one way of how the CCP is exerting its influence overseas.

Their current excursion is to steamroll over science (and the few scientists willing to defend it) via some Australian universities (who in turn derives financial benefit) by creating ‘scientific’ legitimacy for TCM and thereby increase their Australian (and western) market penetration. They use the billions of dollars that Australian universities receive from (Chinese) international students as a silent threat in order to keep these universities in check and dancing to their tune. Via some Australian academics, they have infiltrated and now have the support of Australian regulators and politicians. All in all, it is going quite well with their plans to internationalise TCM.

The main problem is that they have vast resources which most scientists don’t have. Take for example the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM). They’re about 50 people with Western Sydney University (WSU) pumping millions of taxpayer dollars into their coffers every year. Controversial companies such as Blackmores also donates millions and much more money is flowing in from China – all of these resources are being used to integrate dis/unproven complementary and alternative medicine, with a specific focus on TCM. For example; the clinic, Tasly Healthpac, that promoted and hosted the slapping therapy workshop was founded and is managed by Dr Ven Tan whereas Prof Alan Bensoussan, director of the NICM, collaborated with Dr Tan to integrate fake healthcare (slapping, acupuncture, TCM etc.). A MoU was signed between Tasly and the NICM in 2011, which states that the NICM will provide “assistance in the development of an Integrative Care Model: to assist the Tasly Healthpac Centre of Excellence in Integrative medicine so that its structure aims to integrate TCM and western medical diagnostics and treatments in an integrated, patient centred way.”

Clockwise from left. Dr Ven Tan; Master Hongchi Xiao, the slapping therapist; Prof Alan Bensoussan giving a speech in Beijing after receiving a prestigious prize for his work on integrating TCM; the signing of a MoU witnessed by Prof Bensoussan (standing left) and Dr Tan (standing 3rd from the right).

Facing this tsunami of misinformation, and defending the battlefront, you have a few lonely scientists. Nobody is pumping millions into warning people about fake healthcare systems, because there is no money to be made from it, and hence with their meagre resources, they simply do it because their conscience demands it.

I have written about the Australian academics who facilitated the CCPs plans to internationalise TCM, mainly by lobbying for the national registration of TCM practitioners, and also about the Australian politicians (former trade minister Andrew Robb and PM Tony Abbott etc.) who were lobbied to include a free flow of TCM practitioners into Australia under the Free Trade Agreement signed in 2015. TCM producers such as Tong Ren Tang were, of course, elated with this arrangement because “….we will have an increasingly wider road, and open more and more branch stores in Australia.”

In this article, I will focus on the role of the former Minister of Health for New South Wales, Ms Jillian Skinner, and her role in this calamity.Former PM Tony Abbott (red tie) and Dr Ven Tan (to the right of Mr Abbott) here in his capacity as Executive Vice Chairman of the CCP-linked ‘Australia-China Economics, Trade & Culture Association’

The Minister of Health and the tale of two letters

Two letters were sent to Min. Skinner, one warning her about integrating TCM (and other disproven and unproven healthcare systems), the other letter promoting TCM. So which one had an impact?

A word of warning

Any health minister would surely understand the dangers in supporting the principles of TCM which is that disease is caused by disturbances in your (pseudoscientific) life force, or Chi, that flows through ‘meridians’. Inserting needles (acupuncture), taking Chinese herbs or slapping yourself all ‘aim’ to influence and/or restore your life force and cure you of whatever ails you. That some herbs might be beneficial is a given but it is because they contain very specific compounds (and very few do) – this has nothing to do with your life force! Supporting the integration of pseudoscientific healthcare with real healthcare is very dangerous as was illustrated by the slapping therapy death. Hence, one might expect that the minister would be accompanying Dr Tan/Prof Bensoussan to the police station, because something like this should surely not be allowed?

To warn the Minister about the NICMs modus operandi I’ve sent her a letter and attached a 6000-word document detailing my concerns (a shortened version can be found here). It can be summed up as follow:

The NICM supports and promote any form of complementary, alternative or traditional (CAT) medicine and do not advise the public, as claimed, about the dangers of disproven CAT medicines such as homeopathy, TCM etc. because most of their funding depends mainly on misleading the public.

In my email dated 4 February 2016 I stated that; ‘These concerns are of such a nature that I believe the public is in danger of suffering injury or even death as a result. I have shared my concerns with the NICM management as well as the vice-chancellor of WSU (in June 2015). Needless to say, the WSU management do not share my concerns and hence my urgent call on your office to investigate this matter further.’

One example in my letter, to illustrate the problem, was the NICMs response to the well-known NHMRCs report regarding the ineffectiveness and dangers of homeopathy. It is fascinating how they pumped misinformation, via their partner ‘Complementary Medicines Australia’, into the world. Their response, entitled “The Five Fundamental Flaws of the NHMRCs Homeopathy report” is currently being used by homeopaths around the world to ignore the urgent advice that ‘Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness”. The press release ends with the ‘wise’ words “Homeopathy has been around for hundreds of years, and I am sure will be around a lot longer than some of the critics.”

People, including children, die because of this misinformation. But for some reason, the courts only take action when children are involved. Here is another tragic example of a 9-month old baby that died. And just recently the Australian government even ignored the recommendations of a new review and decided that; “Homeopathic products will continue to be sold in Australian pharmacies, despite a long-awaited review warning the government the practice could compromise the health of consumers.” Obviously, their lobbying has been quite successful to date!

But this shows that the NICM and their partners will defend just about any fake ‘medicine’ including TCM because they derive funding from it. This cunning ability to mislead the public, regulators and politicians was at least rewarded with the Bent Spoon award for quackery in 2017 – for what it’s worth.

A letter with impact

The NICMs job regarding TCM is to open the floodgates into Australia (and the world), but to do this they need the support from Australian politicians and hence, Alan and people like Marcus Blackmore (CEO of Blackmores), endlessly lobby politicians (you can read about this here). Here you can find one such letter (May 2014) written by the NICM and send to Min. Skinner. This letter contains the predictable praises of the integrative medicine industry, the ‘importance’ of integrating CAT with conventional healthcare, and the world-class standards of the NICM etc. but there is one sentence that stands out above the rest. And this is what it’s all about;

“….NICM needs this positioning if it is to help consumers and health professionals choose safe and effective complementary medicine (and discard ineffective treatments)…”

If you consider the fact that they were involved with the slapping therapy workshop (people died), their response to the NHMRC Homeopathy report (people died), and even that one of their business partners were send to jail after being caught importing rhino horn into Australia (endangered animals died) – all of the above ineffective remedies or treatments, then this sentence is not misleading, it is a blatant lie.

The slapping therapy death occurred in April 2015, and although I noticed it in the newspaper at the time, I was not aware that the NICM was intricately involved (I was actually quite busy trying to get out of there). What came as a shock a couple of years later was when I accidentally came across a travel itinerary of Min Skinner. It turns out that she invited Dr Tan and Prof Bensoussan to accompany her, not to a police station, but to China in April 2016, barely 2 months after I’ve send my letter to her office. The reason for this trip was to garner support for their plans to integrate TCM with conventional healthcare in Australia. To quote from her travel itinerary “To assist the University of Western Sydney’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) secure investor and donor support for the NICM’s integrative Chinese medicine facility medicine/treatment on the Westmead Campus and related complementary medicine research initiatives.”

Left. Minister Skinner (seated in red) signing a MoU with Vice Governor of Shandong Province, the Hon Wang Suilian. Right. Min Skinner (in red) witnessing the signing a MoU between TCM producer Tong Ran Teng and Ramsay Healthcare.

Their trip to China also caught the attention of the media because she decided that integrating quackery was more important than solving real health problems in Australia. “Ms Skinner defended the trip, taken with NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant, saying it led to an agreement between Westmead Hospital and Shandong’s Qilu Hospital designed to ­ enhance … understanding of traditional Chinese medicine” and “The MOU will establish formal links between Westmead Hospital and Shandong’s Qilu Hospital and is designed to enhance NSW’s understanding of traditional Chinese medicine.”

But here is a fun fact. Close to 100% of clinical trials on TCM conducted in China gives positive results, coupled to the fact that any scientific criticism of TCM can see you get jailed, then surely, the minister must know that they are dealing with a fake healthcare system? Apparently not, or they just ignore the obvious because the potential economic stimulus seemingly overrides the political risks associated with causing a number of preventable deaths. It is a scary thought that former Min Skinner now serves as a director at the Children’s Cancer Institute (I requested her contact details from the institute in order to give her the opportunity to respond but no response was received thus far.)

But did the NICM break the law?

Min. Skinner eventually responded (Nov 2016) but then only by referring me to the Federal Minister of Health, Sussan Ley (who also resigned around this time), but by then the damage was already done. Clearly, the NICM managed to get funding from China because they will be moving into their new TCM hospital pretty soon. This hospital will be co-occupied (and managed) by the CCP linked Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM). In their document ‘some brief notes regarding the BUCM collaboration’ they state; “It represents an unprecedented opportunity for the advancement of Chinese medicine in Australia, including the development of the Chinese medicine market in the West; promoting Chinese heritage and culture; and integrating Chinese medicine with the Australian healthcare system.”

But did they do anything illegal? I am no expert in the law but I believe that providing misleading and/or false information to ministers, who then based on this promote the integration of ineffective healthcare might indeed break the law – especially when this results in the death of members of the public. Did they provide former Trade Minister Andrew Robb (discussed here) and Min Skinner with correct and unbiased info about what TCM is? Well, their letter tells me that they did not. As far as I can tell, neither of these former ministers have a background in science, and as such, can easily be misled when it comes to complex scientific issues. But then again, you need to be receptive to these ideas and propaganda, because at the end of the day they signed off on it.

I sometimes just wonder where all of this will end. If organisations such as the NICM (they are not the only ones) are not reeled in now, how will the Australian (or western) healthcare system look like in 10-20 years’ time? They are masters of deceit with a clear intention to mislead the public for the sake of making money. For example; their new TCM ‘hospital’ in Westmead will not be called exactly that, they have chosen a much more mundane and misleading name; ‘Western Sydney Integrative Health Centre’ – it will fool many, because it is right next to the southern hemispheres’ biggest health complex and it is backed by an Australian university to give it even more credibility.

Concluding remarks

I used the phrase ‘China Power and Influence’ in this article as well as in two previous articles that you can find here and here. But this is only one side of the bigger picture because most people are well aware that China, as an upcoming super-power, wants to exert its influence in various ways in various countries. But I do hope that I’ve managed to highlight that TCM is also part of this and as such, a threat, not only to the health of people, but also wildlife. The reasons why China included TCM in their plans are probably complex and likely multifactorial and I will attempt to deal with this question in a next article.

But the main message that I wanted to get across is that although China is the source of TCM, and hence the problem, any country can quite easily recognise it as such and say; ‘no thank you, we will stick with modern evidence-based healthcare, but will gladly collaborate with you in other areas.’ This has not happened in Australia. And this is the message. There are Australian citizens in positions of power who has gone out of their way to legitimise and normalise TCM in Australia and hence aided the CCP in executing their plans for the sake of, mainly money.  Some people are capable of doing strange things for money and some even have the ability to completely switch off their conscience.

All of this is now playing out in Australia (where and how it will end is anyone’s guess), but will this be all that different than what is happening regarding TCM in other western countries?  I fear not.

12 Responses to China Power and Influence

  • The reason why China is seeking to promote TCM in the West is that within it’s country of origin, the old are its main adherents, while the majority of those in the younger generations know it doesn’t work and avoid it. Apart from the value of exporting Chinese herbal products, along with so-called medicinal fungi, to say nothing of acupuncture needles and sundry books, TCM is a means of weakening the West, or at the very least, allowing China to boast at having once again deceived us, just as Mao did his own people when he promoted TCM while using only Western medicine for his personal health. If anything could be readily done to stem the Red Tide of TCM, an outright ban of acupuncture as a fraudulent medical practice would be a good start. Much like homeopathy, there are more than enough Western studies to show that it fails to deliver what it promises, and no scientific basis to support it.

    • ‘TCM is a means of weakening the West…’ Very interesting thought!

      While researching this article I came across a blog post which showed me again how delusional some people can be. It was published in October 2017;

      ‘NEWS ABOUT MASTER XIAO’

      “The news article below described the current predicament faced by alternative healing practitioner Hongchi Xiao as he is falsely accused of a boy’s death in court case in Australia. Hongchi Xiao can face up to 25 years in prison. Contrast this with the fact that according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, conventional medical treatment is the third­ leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer in the United States. Homeopathy and Chinese medicine are two examples of possible alternative approaches to disease that do not treat the illness as an enemy and therefore do not create new diseases.

      The news article describes the conflict of values and beliefs of current modern western medicine and alternative form of healing (in this case PaidaLajin, as taught by Master Hongchi Xiao )

      PLEASE ** SHARE ** WIDELY TO RAISE AWARENESS or write to the Justice Elizabeth Fullerton in Sydney, Australia.”

    • “Much like homeopathy, there are more than enough Western studies to show that it fails to deliver what it promises, and no scientific basis to support it.”

      I know that–and you know that, but yet Medicare and Medicaid in the US both now cover acupuncture for pain and naseau. This is so lucrative, that new (and very upscale-looking) clinics are popping up all over my Midwestern city. It is very difficult to try to reason with people about pseudoscience to begin with, but when you have major government sponsored healthcare agents buying into “evidence” such as it exists for the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain and nausea, the battle becomes that much more difficult. I have even been called an “extremist” for pointing this out to a well known health newsletter that I used to think was science based (The Berkeley Wellness Newsletter). I sent them reliable, well-sourced information refuting the vaunted Vicker’s report and they proceeded to tell me point blank that I was “worse than those you are criticizing”.

      • Indeed, as soon as governments start to openly support quackery then it becomes almost impossible.

        But we all know what the CCP wants in regard to TCM but the question is what does the Australian government get in return? The Free trade agreement, signed in 2015, gives Australian companies the chance to own and operate hospitals and aged care facilities in China, import tariffs on medical devices was scrapped (hearing aids etc) and it opens the door for Aus supplement companies (eg Blackmores, Swisse etc) to sell their supplements/vitamins in China. An almost one-sided very lucrative deal for Aus or an indication as to the importance of the CCPs plans to internationalise TCM.

        So the Aus government will support TCM in Aus., via the Department of Health, and of course aid in internationalising TCM. So they basically use their ‘first-world’ status to give credibility to TCM in order to make it easier to get it accepted in other ‘first-world’ countries.

  • Dim politicians, plus idiot scientist plus money, money, money. Prof Alan Bensoussan is a useful idiot in the plans of Xi Jinping. Or else he’s simply up for the money. Wake up Australia!

    • I have to admit that all of this is mainly about money, lots of it, to be honest. And this includes the Uni hosting the NICM, (western Sydney university – WSU), the regulators (TGA) who happens to be 100% funded by industry, etc.

      As usual I’ve send this information to WSU for comments or corrections or whatever but they just flat out ignore everything – like they’ve done with all the info that I’ve send them over the past 2 years (they had most of this info for about 6 months). But I’ve also send this info to, let me think, about 50 journalists, the ARC, NHMRC, WSU, ICAC, ASIS, TGA etc. So to be honest I don’t think Australia will wake up, money (or fear of losing Chinese trade and hence money) seemingly overrides common sense. Interesting article today regarding this immense fear of losing Chinese trade was the Rockhampton council who painted over the Taiwanese flag on a children’s art project ahead of a beef expo.

      https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/may/09/council-paints-over-taiwanese-flag-on-childrens-art-project-ahead-of-beef-expo

      But having worked with Alan for 3 years I have to admit that he is an extremely likeable person, he is very friendly, highly intelligent, extremely hard working (useful attributes to have in the quack industry) and I never could get my head around why he is doing what he is doing. So, the only explanation has to be money. There was recently an article regarding ‘Fools or Frauds’ on this blog and in my view this makes Allan an out-and-out fraud (a fraud with a nice personality I guess)

  • May be the Dr. med. Dungl family in Vienna together with the private Donau University in Krems and the other M.Sc. TCM programs at European Universities will use such informations to find useful official contacts in China for a better positioning not only for the European TCM market but worldwide ??? :-).

  • Good grief, this is terrifying. Huge respect for such a well-researched post. I have medical contacts in Australia and will get this circulated.

  • One of the things (and there are many others) that strikes me as odd about the embrace of TCM, et al, is that so many people who usually are highly critical of much about China (human rights, trade problems, communism in general), cannot praise them enough for their “ancient health practices”. The word “ancient” is always said in a tone that implies the greatest respect for and validation of of these practices.

  • I have mentioned before here how TCM has its own faculty in the University of Barcelona: said University offers summer courses in TCM now, along with a host of other summer courses – presumably anyone, with no real knowledge to put beside it – can sign up and be taught – what? – that TCM is damgerous to man and beast? I doubt it……..I see there is a “Masters”, too: http://www.ub.edu/web/ub/ca/estudis/oferta_formativa/master_universitari/fitxa/M/M280H/index.html

  • The real name of this is Cultural Marxism and is just the tip of the iceberg of the massive Cultural War raged against western civilization since about one century ago.
    I feel too sorry for the poor child who died in pain and despair on the hands of such an unhearted monster.

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