• Volunteer blood donors at a mobile laboratory in Chengdu, China.

Volunteer blood donors at a mobile laboratory in Chengdu, China. (Photo : Reuters)

Those who are partial to the predictions of Chinese astrologers will know that bacterial infections form part of the forecast for the Year of the Sheep that the world has recently entered into.

In fairness to those who are mocked for their supposedly superstitious attitudes, the basis of the readings delivered by feng shui practitioners is ancient and derived from natural elements.

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Unfortunately for China, where the population consists of those committed to the ways of the Chinese zodiac, its healthcare system is not in the robust shape that it should be during such a period.

In addition to the organ-transplant waiting lists that have led to the farming of prisoners' body parts, as well as the emergence of an illicit market, a "blood famine" is now affecting the people of the world's most populous nation.

Desperation has led those in need to seek out agents known as "blood heads," who provide access certificates for state blood banks at a price, thereby creating another black market that serves as an alternative to the struggling healthcare system.

One retired Shanghai civil servant even exclaimed to a local reporter: "If there were no blood heads, what would I do?"

While the debate over the veracity of astrological predictions is likely to remain unresolved for many years to come, one thing we can be certain of is that astrology cannot change the history books, which are relevant in this case.

In a country where blood stores are a third of the levels considered safe in one major city, the illegitimate sale of blood during the 1980s and 1990s eventually led to the transmission of HIV among thousands of nationals. An incurable disease was widely spread due to the seemingly incurable thirst for money.

Chinese patients must now be in possession of a certificate, which proves that they, their friends or relatives have donated blood, to obtain treatment with clinical blood supplies. Of course, chronically ill patients who cannot count on loved ones for support are the losers in this system.

President Xi Jinping compared the environment to the human body in January, but now he needs to think about the actual human bodies of his citizens. China's admirable Ebola effort in western Africa shows that it is not only capable of successfully fending off fearsome infections, but that the nation has a compassionate heart.

The wellbeing of the Chinese people is equally important as the environment, and it is time for the compassion that Beijing has shown to the rest of the world to be directed inward, on a domestic level.