Human–wildlife conflict (HWC) is a conservation concern that increasingly threatens the continued existence of some of the world's most endangered species. With an increase in human population, urban sprawl and subsequent encroachment on wild land, human and wildlife interaction has become inevitable. In the majority of cases, this interaction results in a negative outcome for humans, wildlife or both. In China, these key elements, along with a decrease in wild prey species, have resulted in the expansion of HWC encounters, and the need for alleviating this conflict has become a conservation priority. Loss of human life, livestock and/or crops is most often the catalysts that fuel HWC. Techniques to alleviate conflict around the world have included preventative measures and mitigation techniques, such as financial compensation and other incentive programs. Both types of measures have had variable success. We review the current status of human–carnivore conflict management in China, and, drawing lessons from around the globe, we make recommendations for improving conservation management in China. For example, an increase in law enforcement in nature reserves is vital to reducing human disturbance in prime carnivore habitat, thereby reducing conflict encounters. Also, modifications to current wildlife compensation programs, so that they are linked with preventative measures, will ensure that moral hazards are avoided. Furthermore, investigating the potential for a community self-financed insurance scheme to fund compensation and increasing efforts to restore wild prey populations will improve the outcome for wildlife conservation. Ultimately, HWC management in China will greatly benefit from an integrative approach.