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The Chinese government plans to increase funding of research into traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to improve the health of its rural population. As part of this plan, the country will increase international cooperation in TCM research.

Fourteen billion yuan (US$1.7 billion) has so far been channelled into TCM's development in the past two years. Commission Deputy Director Qi Chengyuan, in charge of high-tech industry planning, said TCM was already a priority for development in the government's five-year plan for 2006 to 2010.

China's rural areas — with 70 per cent of the country's population — have access to just 20 per cent of its medical resources. Vice-minister of science and technology Li Xueyong said the low cost of TCM made it ideal for use in poor regions, and the Ministry of Health has encouraged the opening of private TCM hospitals in these areas.

Protection of the intellectual property rights relating to TCM is still a concern, however, and the government has been advised to find ways of addressing this before the production of TCM is scaled up.

Link to full China Daily news story