YANTAI, Shandong - China will soon launch its fourth national survey on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) resources to secure the industry's sustainable development, according to a senior health official.
The preparatory work has been completed and a pilot program for the survey will commence soon, covering six provinces and regions, including Anhui, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Xinjiang and Yunnan, said Wang Guoqiang, vice minister of health.
Wang, also director of the State Administration of TCM, made the remarks Sunday at the annual gathering for the country's pharmaceutical professionals.
The last survey on this subject, conducted between 1983 and 1987, indicated that the country had over 12,000 types of TCM resources with the majority in the wild.
Experts predict that it is very likely that has changed after more than two decades.
"A new survey is crucial in drawing major plans for TCM resources' management, protection and utilization," said Prof. Huang Luqi, vice president of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Science.
It may also help to build a dynamic assessment system for those precious resources, Huang added.
TCM generally refers to the comprehensive Chinese medical system based upon the body's balance and harmony.
Among the components of TCM are traditional herbal drugs and inherent therapies, including acupuncture, physical exercise, and remedial massage.
Official figures showed that the TCM industry posted a strong performance in 2010, with the output value up 29.5 percent year-on-year to reach 317.2 billion yuan ($50 billion), which exceeded that of the country's entire pharmaceutical industry.
In addition, experts have forecasted that TCM's annual output value in China will exceed one trillion yuan by 2015.
Overseas markets, however, have only granted limited recognition to TCM, partly due to Chinese pharmaceutical enterprises' failure to obtain accreditations from markets such as the European Union, where TCM is generally categorized as a "food supplement."
Some producers complain that TCM's clinical efficacy and the chemical composition of the drugs can hardly be explained in scientific terms.
To curb these difficulties for market access, Chinese regulators have invested heavily in TCM's R&D projects and called for innovation in building clinical R&D systems, setting up key TCM labs, facilitating technology transfers into the industry and improving R&D management and quality control.
Promoting TCM is not only a solution to help China achieve universal health care at less expense, but also an indicator of the country's soft power and influence abroad, Wang said.