China is a large country with a huge population. It is estimated that 1.8 million patients suffer initially from cancer and 1.4 million patients die from it each year in Mainland China. Cancer ranks as the primary reason for death among the common diseases in cities and the second in rural areas. The management of pain is still a critical issue in the care of patients both with cancer and non-cancer pain. A national survey suggested that the fear of addicting patients was still a major barrier for medical professionals in prescribing opioid analgesics. The major reasons for poor management or negative factors of pain relief came from patients' own reasons including their over-concern about addiction to opioid analgesics, their reluctance to report pain and their resistance to use opioid analgesics. Oral long-acting opioids are the most commonly used drugs for third ladder pain management. With policy support from the government, the consumption of morphine for medical purposes has increased significantly for the first time in recent Chinese history as this new cancer pain relief policy has been developed in the country. As a result, the three-step analgesic ladder of the World Health Organization (WHO) has been gradually accepted by medical personnel and patients. Although pain management has been improved since the WHO's strategy of the three-step approach was implemented in China, variations still exist in different regions of the Mainland. Currently the three main aspects of work on pain measurement are going to be undertaken including (1) continuous support from government policy; (2) consistent education and training; and (3) better availability of drugs for medical use throughout the whole country. Copyright 2001 European Federation of Chapters of the International Association for the Study of Pain.