China launched its new health system reform plan in 2009 to advance its universal coverage of healthcare, after more than 4 years' consultations and discussions with various stakeholders including the public. This paper aims to introduce and discuss the context and process of China's current health system reform and analyse how political will in China has been translated into policy practice over the past decade. The paper also shares the insights of World Health Organization's contribution to China's health system reform, as the authors advised the Chinese government on the reform options and process. Furthermore, the paper describes and discusses key challenges in the implementation of the reform plan over the past 3 years and draws lessons for other countries. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.