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Long way ahead for traditional Chinese medicine

Liu Zhihua
Updated: May 13,2015 8:50 AM     China Daily

The quality of medicinal herbs is one of the major concerns in the development of traditional Chinese medicine.[Photo/provided to China Daily]

New report on traditional Chinese medicine sheds light on challenges to its growth in China.

Last week, the State Council, China’s cabinet, released a five-year plan to promote traditional Chinese medicine, with the aim to boost the presence of traditional Chinese medicine in the country’s healthcare system and also enhance its competence abroad.

But, according to a recent survey report published by the Social Science Academic Press (China), it could take longer than the next few years before TCM finds greater acceptance even among Chinese people.

The State Council’s road map for TCM was out on May 7.

In the survey, only 29 percent of the respondents in Beijing said that they sought medical help from TCM practitioners often, and 67.8 percent said that they seldom resorted to TCM healthcare services, while 3.2 percent never used such treatments, according to Blue Book of TCM Culture: Report on TCM Culture Communication Development of Beijing 2015.

The report comprehensively accounts for the development and propagation of TCM culture in Beijing and is also the first full paper in China that discusses strategies to promote TCM culture in the country and the challenges the task faces.

Acupuncture, a significant part of traditional Chinese medicine, has been widely used to treat a range of conditions in the country’s TCM hospitals.[Photo/provided to China Daily]

It is the brainchild of experts and economists at the Cultural Research and Propagation Center of Traditional Chinese Medicine under Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

With statistics and analyses on the development and promotion of TCM in current Chinese society, as well as data based on a series of surveys among Beijing residents about their knowledge of TCM and their willingness to use it, the big report is a compilation of 14 smaller reports on nearly all aspects of TCM in Chinese society, such as TCM’s popularity within different age groups, TCM industry supervision, private TCM healthcare, the lack of well-trained TCM practitioners and the heritage of TCM culture.

Mao Jialing, director with the center and chief editor of the report, says he hopes it will be able to help Chinese health authorities better understand the current situation of TCM, before they enact further policies to support its development.

“TCM is an essential part of Chinese culture, and TCM products and services have gained in prominence within our healthcare system in recent years. But there are still a lot of problems to deal with to foster the healthy development of TCM,” Mao says, pointing to herbal medicines which do not meet industry standards as an example of a problem in that sector.

A recent report by the China Food and Drug Administration showed that even in Anguo, Hubei province, one of the top four Chinese herbal-medicine markets, only 20 percent of herbal medicines were fully qualified to be sold, Mao adds.

Pollution and people’s greed are among the top reasons behind the large number of low-quality medicinal herbs, Mao says, adding that the report is straightforward when discussing such issues.

However, the book doesn’t cover the development of TCM abroad.

There are about 400,000 overseas TCM practitioners, but it is hard for the public to understand and accept TCM in a foreign land, due to cultural differences, according to Hou Shengtian, associate professor, School of Management, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

Hou, however, is confident that TCM will make a stronger presence overseas, getting more believers, due to the Chinese government’s initiatives to promote TCM abroad.

Mao Jialing, the book’s chief editor, told China Daily that the 2015 “blue book” is the first of an annual series of reports, and in the future, the survey will expand to other parts of the country.

A new book suggests TCM faces challenges.[Photo/provided to China Daily]

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