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TCM Seeks Image Boost

At a national conference on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that opened on Thursday in Beijing, State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine Director She Jing vowed to promote the use of TCM around the world.

Cao Hongxin, president of the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said agreements with other countries on the use of these medicines were necessary and would play an active role in getting it accepted abroad.

The TCM administration and the Ministry of Health have so far signed agreements with 67 countries, he said.

The agreements differ widely from country to country. For example, China and Italy are cooperating in research and development for difficult-to-treat diseases.

China's TCM exports have risen nearly 5.5 percent per year for the past five years. Exports were worth US$720 million in 2003.

A TCM administration report, quoting a World Bank forecast, said that by 2008 the global natural herbs industry would be worth US$200 billion. In 2000 it was about US$80 billion.

Director Shen Zhixiang of the administration's Department of International Cooperation said that looking to China's future, the theories and experiences of old TCM practitioners would continue to be collected while treatments would be extended into other areas.

For example, the number of provinces using TCM on a trial basis to treat HIV/AIDS will be expanded from the current five to eleven next year, she said.

Shen also said that the administration and government bodies are working to submit a bid to UNESCO to have TCM included on list of intangible world cultural heritage. Recognition by the UN body would help to promote the image of TCM worldwide.

However, Cao said that medical sciences should not necessarily be treated as a heritage.

"The term 'heritage' just gives people an impression of being outdated," Cao said, adding that TCM is still developing and open to innovations.

(China Daily January 7, 2005)

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