Doing Business in China

The Biotech and Medical Sectors in China (Part 1 of 2)

Written by Bobby Jan for Gaebler Ventures

Thinking about doing business in China? Some of the greatest opportunities for entrepreneurs are in the biotech and medical sector. This article discusses the general pharmaceutical market.

As a socialist nation, in the past, the Chinese biotech and medical sectors have been run inefficiently and some of the poor management practices are carried over today.

The Biotech and Medical Sectors in China Part 1 of 2

In the past, Chinese patients did not have the freedom to vote with their feet and their money; the government simply dictated where patients could go to receive treatment and what kind of treatment they will receive.

Today, things have changed greatly and people are now able to choose where to spend their money on health care.

Chinese Medical Industry Statistics

  • Pharmaceutical sales in China by the top 10 multinational pharmaceutical companies have been growing more than 15% a year since 1999.
  • The Chinese pharmaceutical market is expected to pass the $25 billion a year mark by 2010.
  • There is plenty of room for growth: while China accounts for 20% of the world's population, it only accounts for 1.5% of the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Healthcare spending in China has been increasing at a rate of more than 13% a year since 1990, growing much faster than China's GDP.
  • In 2005, China imported $12 billion dollars worth of medical products, up about 19% from 2004.

As you can see from the statistics, the Chinese pharmaceutical sector is truly full of opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Generally speaking, healthcare spending is elastic. This means that as people get wealthier, for every 1% increase in real income, people tend to increase their healthcare spending by more than 1%. China is no different from other nations in this respect. China's growing real per capita GDP combined with an aging population offers immense opportunities for entrepreneurs.

There are many elite hospitals in China catered to wealthy and powerful individuals as well as to wealthy expats. These hospitals are equipped with top-of-the-line imported medical equipment. Current demand for high-end modern equipment and supplies are supported by these elite hospitals. However, there is a general trend towards modernization of hospitals all across China, pushing demand for imported medical equipment even higher.

Although China is not currently known for medical tourism, like everything else in China, this is quickly changing as more and more people go to China to receive affordable treatments (both Western and Chinese treatments).

Entrepreneurs could seize this opportunity, for example, by setting up intermediary companies that specialize in connecting the dots in Chinese medical tourism as it inevitably booms.

If you are a talented entrepreneur, there are many opportunities for you to participate in the biotech/medical sectors in China. Use your imagination and ingenuity!

Cheng Ming (Bobby) Jan is an Economics major at the University of Chicago who has a strong interest in entrepreneurship and investing.

Share this article

Additional Resources for Entrepreneurs

Lists of Venture Capital and Private Equity Firms

Franchise Opportunities


Business Glossary


Conversation Board

What's your take on medicine and biotech in China? We welcome your questions, comments and any tips you care to share.

Leave a Reply

Questions, Comments, Tips, and Advice

Email will not be posted or shared
Code Image - Please contact webmaster if you have problems seeing this image code

Problem Viewing Image? Load New Code