Summary. Chronic hepatitis B infection is a significant health problem throughout the world, and particularly in China. It is estimated that more than half a million Chinese people die annually from end-stage hepatitis B complications, which is associated with huge healthcare costs and a heavy socioeconomic burden. In China, the implementation of a hepatitis B vaccination programme has come into effect, and there has been a one-third decrease of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) carrier population since 1992. This great achievement changes China from a highly endemic area for HBV infection to an intermediate one. The predominant HBV genotypes in China are B and C, which might predispose patients to a poor antiviral response. Patients and physicians from China have been actively involved in the global research into and development of new antiviral agents. Patients have been recruited for global and domestic clinical trials on antiviral agents, including lamivudine, adefovir dipivoxil, entecavir, telbivudine and two pegylated interferon-α. In the future, more important data, focussing on optimization of the efficacy of antiviral agents, will be released from China, based on the newly launched National Eleven Five Plan Project on Hepatitis Research. Both economic development and healthcare system reform, including a new reimbursement policy, will make antiviral agents more accessible to Chinese patients. Ultimately, this will allow physicians greater opportunities to follow international and Chinese treatment recommendations.