The UK has a unique health and life sciences ecosystem, and its track record of scientific breakthroughs serves as a driving force for the next generation of life-changing treatments, technologies, and services. Recent developments in China’s healthcare sector, with newly published regulations in central procurement and public hospital reform, have made the international business environment even more competitive for international businesses operating in healthcare and the life sciences. Despite growing competition internationally, the UK maintains a competitive position in China’s healthcare cooperation agenda. 

China has developed at an astonishing rate over the last 30 years however the implementation of effective healthcare delivery across the country has struggled to keep pace with other reforms. As a result, China’s healthcare sector is now facing a wide range of challenges, amongst them: ongoing urban and rural disparity, an ageing population, restricted resources, and out-dated technologies. 


CBBC has established a long-standing relationship with the UK’s healthcare stakeholders, and our partnership has only increased since the state council of China issued the Healthy China 2030 report in 2016. The report set out the goal to provide affordable and equitable basic healthcare for all by 2020 and stressed upgrades in healthcare reform and spending, with a focus on five key areas in order to raise China’s health standards: service delivery; identifying essential medicine; public health; insurance, and public hospital reform. 

The challenges facing the healthcare sector in China provide many potential opportunities for UK organisations: The UK’s capabilities in healthcare-related goods and services provide an ideal match for China’s national healthcare objectives. It is for this reason that, in recent years, UK-China collaboration in healthcare has received unprecedented coverage by both governments. Our Healthcare and Lifesciences team are here to guide businesses in the healthcare and life sciences sector to capitalise on the growing opportunities in market, navigate market access challenges and find suitable partners accelerate their business growth.  

The UK has a strong reputation in China for its 70-year experience of running the National Health Service, as well as a reputation for clinical excellence and strong private sector expertise. Together with our partners at the Department For International Trade (DIT), and Healthcare UK, we are progressively identifying opportunities for British organisations across the country, working with open and forward-thinking regions, provinces, and cities to establish frameworks for collaboration. 


Healthcare, Pharmaceutical, Life Sciences
An Overview of China’s Healthcare & Lifesciences Sector

Medical Technology: Bridging Urban and Rural Disparities 

  • Despite the swift growth and technological advancement of several Chinese companies, China is still widely reliant on foreign countries to supply medical devices, such as X-ray or ultrasound equipment.  

  • Meanwhile, the government has pledged to improve healthcare facilities in rural areas by constructing or upgrading 3,700 community hospitals and 11,000 village clinics. 

  • This emerging market provides opportunities rarely present in the developed world. China’s advanced telecommunications sector has facilitated the spread of mHealth, which utilises mobile phones and tablet computers to provide instant access to health services and information – something particularly useful for remote regions.  

  • PwC reports that 59% of patients in emerging markets use at least one mHealth application or service, compared to 35% in the developed world. 

Opportunities in the Pharmaceutical Sector 

  • In the pharmaceutical sector, obstacles exist for new players. All drugs sold in China must be registered at the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) (previously named the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), its name was changed on 1st September 2018), and it can take years of testing before a foreign company can promote and sell its products in China.  

  • However, there are increasing opportunities for foreign companies to collaborate with Chinese counterparts. The Chinese government is seeking to promote “indigenous innovation”: the encouragement of deals for foreign companies to transfer technology and information to Chinese companies; cooperation in Research and Development; and deals in technology transfer or ‘knowledge exchange’. 

Key Points for UK Businesses 

  • China is the second largest healthcare market in the world, with total expenditure expected to reach £769.2 billion by 2020 (20% year-on-year growth) 

  • Per capita healthcare spending is still only (£355 per annum, compared to £3,493 in the UK. 

  • With an increasing ageing population, the number of people over 60 set to grow further from 241 million to 487 million by 2050. 

  • There still exists regional disparities in terms of access to healthcare, enough doctors and nurses; and medical equipment supplies vary according to region, city tier, income and other demographic factors. 

  • A series of policies have been established to reform and modernise healthcare in China, including Healthy China 2030. Healthcare also a key priority within the Five-Year Plan and key innovation / tech related policies.  

CBBC Healthcare & Life Sciences 2023 Key Events Calendar

For a list of the latest events coming in 2023, please see our Healthcare & Life Sciences 2023 Events Calendar. 

Browse the Calendar here