China should build an international standards system for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) while playing an important role in promoting development of international medicine, according to Wang Xiaopin, an expert and leading official of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SATCM).
In an exclusive interview with China.org.cn on the sidelines of the BRICS Health Ministers Meeting held in Tianjin July 6-7, Wang, who is director of the Department of Medical Administration, answered questions on TCM's going global and strengthening international cooperation and exchanges.
She said traditional Chinese medicine had so far spread to 183 countries and regions. Last December, the Development Plan of the Belt and Road for Traditional Chinese Medicine (2016-2020) was jointly issued by the SATCM and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
According to the Plan, China will facilitate TCM cooperation and development in countries covered by the Belt and Road Initiative. "China will build 30 TCM centers along the route and work with international experts and scholars to formulate and promulgate a series of international standards for TCM," Wang said.
"At the same time, the Chinese government strongly supports Chinese enterprises to go global and register Chinese medicine products in the international market," she added.
According to the communique adopted at the BRICS Health Ministers Meeting, the five originating members – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – will share experiences and jointly promote research and development of health care products.
"The communique is of great significance," Wang said, stressing that the ministers had agreed to follow the consensus reached in the communique, establishing a government cooperation mechanism and promoting TCM to be included in the healthcare policy systems of other countries.
Speaking of the influence and unique function of traditional medicine, Wang said it was closely related to the history, culture and tradition of their respective nations and regions. "From human health and reproduction to cultural heritage, traditional medicine is indispensable and its value is enormous.
"However, the mainstream medical system nowadays is based on the modern medical system, so the value of traditional medicine has been somewhat underestimated."
Wang said traditional medicine contains a great deal of wisdom and know-how to solve contemporary people's health problems. She cited some examples – traditional medicine can solve such problems as dealing with newly-emerging infectious diseases, aged-related diseases and rising medical costs because of its exact curative effect, convenient use and low price.
She said the current international market scale of the TCM industry was around US$50 billion, but "this figure only involves Chinese medicine clinics, acupuncture clinics, and the doctors who offer related services, and does not involve TCM products themselves.
"Internationally, those items similar to Chinese medicine products are herbal supplements and health food products, and the related figure is very high according to different calculations. So, there is a big potential for our TCM products to go global, but we will face some barriers and difficulties."
Wang suggested Chinese medical technicians cooperate with their international peers and explore new development methods so as to fully display the distinctive characteristics of TCM products.
"At the same time, we should bring in talents from overseas to promote the development of our products through all kinds of services," she said.