China is working hard to become a major exporter of reproductive health technology and products in five to 10 years, Zhang Weiqing, minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said yesterday in an interview with China Daily.
Zhang called on China's reproductive health industry to play a greater role in the world and help meet the need, especially from developing countries, for such technology and products.
The minister is here at the four-day Second National Fair of New Products and Technology for Family Planning and Reproductive Health which will close tomorrow.
According to Zhang, China is presently on an equal footing with foreign countries in the development of its reproductive health industry.
Central government policies over the past three decades promoting the "contraception first" concept of birth control have rapidly developed these industries, Zhang pointed out.
The minister said China has attained international standards in the research and development of intra-uterine devices and injectable contraceptives and is taking a leading position in the research of restorable male sterilization.
China has become one of the world's major manufacturers and consumers of condoms, together with the UK, US and Japan, according to Tao Ran, an expert with the China Rubber Industry Association.
In 2002, some 15 billion-16 billion condoms were produced worldwide while the output in China was 3.2 billion, making up about 20 per cent of the world total, Tao said.
In China, about 2.2 billion condoms were consumed domestically, half of which were distributed free of charge to households through the nationwide family planning network, the remaining 1 billion condoms were exported to other countries.
Each year, the country also imports 150 million to 200 million condoms from other countries to meet consumers' varied needs.
By last year, there were 13 enterprises in China producing condoms, seven of which are State-owned, two are joint ventures and four are privately run.
Customs data showed that made-in-China condoms were exported to 68 countries and regions in 2002.
He called on government scientific policy-makers and related departments and sectors to pay more attention to reproductive health science and technology development which he described as a "virgin land" awaiting exploitation.
Zhang Shikun, an official in charge of science and technology development under the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said it is currently working on 11 key research items with a total investment of over 58 million yuan (US$7 million), nine of the projects are on contraceptives and two are studies on basic science of reproductive health and birth defects. Most of the projects are due to be completed by the end of this year.