Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 December 2021
A boutique medical center in Shenzhen with a futuristic aesthetic—like The Jets ons, minus the robots—supported Jiankui He's attempt to engineer resistance to HIV in human embryos. The building was white, fading to gray, and topped with a series of pagoda roofs. A fountain was out front along with a plastic red carpet. Automatic glass doors opened into the main lobby where dramatic piano music played, fading into more subtle flute, guitar, and a stringed symphony. The hospital was promoting ideals about beauty, race, consumer choice, and profit-driven medicine that were mixing uneasily with older Chinese values and sensibilities about identity.
The HarMoniCare Hospital in Shenzhen specializes in “American medicine and only for you,” according to their website—offering treatments for infertility as well as obstetrics and cosmetic surgery. The facility has $5.8 million in assets, according to their public disclosures. HarMoniCare is part of the $1.7 billion Hemei Medical network—the largest high-end hospital chain in China that caters specifically to women and children.
A young woman standing at a long curving desk labeled “International Member Center” greeted me with a smile. I asked if I could have a tour of the fertility treatment center. “Of course,” she said. “Wait just a moment and our guide will be with you.” I joined a handful of people who were seated nearby in high-backed leather chairs, brown cushions framed by slick white angular sides. Offthe lobby to the left, there was a long hallway flanked by a glowing case with stuffed animals: a teddy bear, SpongeBob SquarePants, and two Chinese cartoon characters, Yoyo and Cici. A toddler in an oxygen mask and her mother were quietly playing in a waiting room down the hall. At the coffee bar, back in the main lobby, a barista offered Americanos and cappuccinos.
The guide arrived and escorted me toward the elevator. She swiped her pass and we headed up. The hospital had only five floors: traditional Chinese medicine on the ground level, fertility treatments and a maternity ward on the middle floors, and administration at the top. Images of light pink water droplets were on the ceiling of the elevator. Advertisements in Chinese with English headings—HarMoniCare Mom Camp and Dr. Wang's plastic surgery clinic—were on the walls.