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December 4, 1996

China Is Eager to Export Its Traditional Medicine, but Some Chinese Scientists Urge More Skepticism

JAMA. 1996;276(21):1707-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540210015007

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Shanghai, China

WHILE THE CHINESE government is stepping up efforts to export traditional Chinese medicine to the West, skeptical scientists in China are asking their western colleagues for help in examining the more remarkable claims of the country's traditional healers.

In August, the China Science and Technology Information Institute announced plans to speed up the exportation of traditional Chinese medicines, which many in the East and West are promoting as more effective and less harmful than Western medicines. According to a report in the August 5 issue of China's official newspaper, China Daily, the institute expects foreign sales of traditional Chinese medicines to double to more than $2 billion by the year 2000.

Business for marketers of traditional and other scientifically untested remedies is booming within China. Throughout Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities, women in white smocks sit at tables in front of pharmacies where they offer passersby free examinations