Chinese political advisors attending their annual full session
in Beijing said that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) should play
an important role in health care in rural areas.
"Chinese have relied on TCM for thousands of years while Western
medicine was introduced into the country several hundred years ago.
TCM should and can play a bigger role in rural areas," said Zhu
Qingsheng, former vice minister of health and now a member of the
National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative
Conference (CPPCC), the top advisory body.
Zhu's remarks won consent of a number of CPPCC members both from
the medical sector and other circles. "I believe TCM is a good tool
in building a system of primary health care services for both urban
and rural residents," said CPPCC member Ha Xiaoxian, who is also an
expert from the Harbin Traditional Chinese Medicine Research
TCM was widely used in the rural health system after the
founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, and helped
double the country's average life expectancy from 35 years in 1949
to 68 years in 1978. However, it is losing out to Western medicine
in the popularity stakes in China, according to an online survey
A nationwide debate erupted over the survival of TCM last year
after an online proposal by Zhang Gongyao, a professor with Central
South University, urged China's health authorities to remove TCM
practices from national health service. It attracted both support
and outrage from thousands of netizens.
Supporters of the proposal labeled TCM as "unscientific and
untrustworthy" and opponents lambasted supporters for ignoring
history and the true values of TCM.
China's Ministry of Health has made its opposition to the
proposal, saying "TCM is an inseparable and important component of
China's health sector" and "Chinese medicine has been acknowledged
in a growing number of foreign countries."
In the government work report delivered on March 5 at the
opening of the National People's Congress (NPC), Chinese Premier
Wen Jiabao said the government would strongly support the
development of traditional Chinese medicine and the folk medicine
of ethnic minorities and give full play to their important role in
preventing and treating illnesses.
However, China is in dire need of experienced TCM doctors as
there are 270,000 practitioners in the country and only 30, 000 of
them practice TCM, most of whom are above 50 years of age,
according to CPPCC member Si Fuchun, an expert from Henan College
of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The political advisors from the health sector have submitted
suggestions, calling on the government to improve the training of
TCM practitioners, alter certification procedure to enable more
practitioners to get licenses, and subsidize those who work in
rural areas and communities.
(Xinhua News Agency March 13, 2007)