AustCham Macau Power Hour 30 – Traditional Chinese Medicine: The Gem hidden in the land Down Under!

Dr Gabriel Li
Dr Li and AustCham Macau Chairman Billy Chan at the 30th Power Hour

Over the past decade, the Macau government has gone to great lengths to diversify the local economy by developing various industries in the city, including the local healthcare industry’s traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) sector.

Although considered emerging, the TCM sector has thrived in Macau for many years – long before the city turned into an international gaming hub.

The practice of Chinese medicine began in ancient China over 2,500 years ago, combining various aspects including herbal remedies, specific diet guidelines, folk beliefs and Confucian philosophy. Reportedly, the practice has been in Macau since the 19th century.

In Australia, TCM started in the 1980s but some have argued that the art of Chinese medicine made its way to the country as early as the 1850s, brought by the Chinese gold miners during the Australian gold rush.

We were delighted to have Dr Gabriel Li, assistant professor at the Traditional Chinese Medicine Faculty at the Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST), as our speaker at the 30th edition of our monthly Power Hour series. Around two dozen attendees, including guests from overseas and different chambers of commerce, had the opportunity to learn more about the TCM sector in Macau and Australia from Dr. Li’s unique background.

Titled “Traditional Chinese Medicine: The Gem hidden in the land Down Under!”, the event took place at the Astor Ballroom of The St. Regis Macao on 28 June.

A third-generation TCM practitioner through his father and his grandfather, Dr. Li was born in the Chinese city of Xi’an in 1989 and, at the age of 13, he migrated to Australia with his family, where he completed his biomedical degree at the Australian National University followed by a degree in health science in TCM at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Dr Gabriel Li
Dr Li is an assistant professor at the Traditional Chinese Medicine Faculty at the Macau University of Science and Technology

After gaining clinical experience in Sydney, he pursued further education at the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, where he completed his PhD degree in 2019. He practiced TCM in Guangzhou and Shenzhen between 2019 and 2021 before relocating to Macau, where he started teaching at MUST in September 2021.

In his presentation, the professor shared how many people in Australia who had never encountered TCM considered it unscientific.  

“TCM is still undervalued and that is why I shifted to teaching, which is something that was always a part of me. I would like to pass the knowledge,” he said. “TCM is a hidden gem that needs to be dug up and shown to the world.”

He added, “I think Macau is in a unique position between the Western world and mainland China, which means that it can do so much by spreading TCM throughout the world,” including the Portuguese-speaking countries and Australia.

For this, Macau needs to step up its TCM sector. For a start, local students need to be more proactive and that is exactly what Dr Li is training his students to be. “Here [in Macao], the students tend to be more timid. They are trying to be safe by not asking a lot of questions because they are worried about having [asking] ‘stupid’ questions.” 

He insisted, “There is no stupid question,” encouraging students to explore their curiosity and question more to expand their knowledge.

AustCham Macau Chairman Billy Chan said, “Dr Gabriel Li provided valuable insights into the economic impact of TCM, highlighting the potential for billions of dollars in the Australian herbs industry. This revelation emphasised the growing significance of TCM not only as an alternative form of healthcare but also a potential economic driver for Australia.”

Dr Gabriel Li
Dr Li and a very special guest, his mother Jing, who flew all the way from Australia for the event

We would like to express our gratitude to Dr Li for an insightful look at the current and future potential of TCM. A special thanks goes to The St. Regis Macao for providing us with a great venue, food and drinks, as always.

We were also very pleased to welcome special guests on the evening including communication strategist Chris Cottrell, Australian Chinese Association of Hong Kong Vice President Kenneth Wan, as well as our speaker’s mother, Jing, who came all the way from Australia to attend our Power Hour!

We would also like to thank the members of Britcham Macao and CanCham Macao who also joined us for the evening. 

In July we are having a special Power Hour Luncheon, we hope to see you there!