Chinese authorities have issued a joint proposal created by 14 government authorities to boost the development of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), an assistant minister from the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) announced Thursday.
The 14 departments include the Ministry of Commerce, State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health, said Qiu Hong, assistant minister of the MOC, at a press conference.
Qiu said TCM is an important component of China's service trade, adding that the proposal is the result of three years of efforts and research aimed at the global market.
According to the proposal, China will spend five years establishing a TCM trade and management system, as well as create a marketing strategy that is in line with the direction of the international market.
China will also encourage qualified TCM institutions and enterprises to set up overseas branches by establishing joint ventures with foreign companies, with 10 TCM institutions expected to establish such branches by 2015 in southeast Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East.
TCM is practiced in over 160 countries and regions and has become a health care alternative with increasingly local needs, according to Qiu.
Also at the conference, Wang Guoqiang, vice health minister and director of the State Administration of TCM, said that early in 2009, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution handed to it by the Chinese government to develop TCM.
To further grow the field, China has drawn up plans to promote the development of trade in TCM services, which has provided those involved with a precious opportunity, Wang said.
According to the vice health minister, "The Outline of the 12th Five-Year Plan for the Development of Trade in Services has identified TCM trade services as a prioritized area with great potential."
Wang also noted a growing number of countries and regions have asked for China's help in the field of TCM.
A total of 96 bilateral governmental agreements concerning TCM cooperation have linked China and foreign countries or international organizations, and another 49 agreements have been made exclusively on TCM cooperation, he said.
"TCM services have been handed legal status in countries such as Australia, Austria, Canada, Singapore and Vietnam," according to the vice health minister. "Some countries and regions have also set up industry groups to conduct self-discipline management on TCM services and brought TCM therapies into medical insurance schemes."
China currently has more than 36,000 TCM medical, educational and research institutions, 803,000 licensed or assistant TCM practitioners and 15,000 TCM researchers.
However, TCM is faced with many challenges as well as opportunities because the TCM trade in services in China is still at a primary stage.
Qiu said the cultural difference between the East and the West has impeded TCM scientific connotations from wide recognition and acceptance by the international community.
Moreover, domestic institutions carrying out TCM trade in services need to build up their capacity and better understand the international rules in order to form world-renowned brands, Qiu said.
The MOC official also suggested that a supporting system for the promotion of TCM trade in services should be set up, and aspects including legislation, regulations, industry, guiding capital and talent recruitment should also be further improved.
Wang said China has been conducting research and investing in finding alternatives to drugs made from rare and endangered species.
But valuable medicinal herbs are composed of compound prescriptions, a fact that has led to difficulty in the research, and more time is needed to find alternatives, Wang emphasized.
"Before we find out the alternatives, we should protect animals and meet people's needs for health care on one hand; on the other hand, we should accelerate steps to find better alternatives as early as possible," he said.