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3 May, 2015

China national plan targets healthy growth of traditional medicine

(Xinhua) BEIJING, April 28 — A new plan to protect traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) resources will ensure quality and bolster long-term growth of the sector nationwide.

On Monday, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine jointly released a plan for the protection and development of TCM materials between 2015 and 2020, the first national level plan for TCM material protection.

“TCM resources are the material basis for passing down and developing the heritage of TCM, and are strategic resources having a close bearing on national welfare and people’s livelihood,” the plan said.

With a history of more than 2,000 years, TCM is seen as a treasure in China and has unique theories and practices, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage and dietary therapy, independent from Western medicine.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to the sector. In 2009, it issued guidelines for supporting the development of TCM to make TCM and Western medicine complement each other in improving people’s health.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses more than 1,000 kinds of materials, which come mainly from plants, as well as animal parts and minerals.

At present, more than 200 frequently used materials are planted or bred on a large scale, while about 50 endangered materials from wild herbs or animals are planted, bred or substituted with other materials.

However, the protection of TCM is still facing stark challenges, as some wild materials are becoming extinct due to shrinking land resources and deteriorating environment.

The technology used in producing TCM materials is outdated and overuse of fertilizers, pesticides and growth regulating agents is common practice, resulting in lower quality of materials, affecting the medicinal effects and in turn tarnishing the reputation of TCM.

By 2020, the country will set up a well-functioning network for monitoring and protecting TCM resources, relieve the shortage of some endangered materials, ensure the steady production of commonly used materials and raise material quality, according to the plan.

Nie Liuping, head of the medicine bureau of Zhangshu city in east China’s Jiangxi Province, said the plan will have a huge impact on the healthy growth of traditional medicine.

TCM has a large growth potential, but the country must first solve the lingering problems for the sector, including the lack of science and technology, as well as planting and processing standards, Nie said.

With a total TCM output of 30 billion yuan (4.9 billion U.S. dollars) in 2014, Zhangshu city is dubbed the “capital of medicine” by the country’s TCM industry association.

The plan added that China will improve laws and regulations to protect TCM resources, enhance the pricing mechanism and quality supervision, and reinforce fiscal and financial support for the industry.

The country will also cooperate with other countries by establishing widely acknowledged standards on TCM materials, facilitating the trade of materials and encouraging companies to build material bases overseas.

“For the development of the TCM material sector, it is also necessary to foster more experts on traditional medicine,” Nie said.