China's State Council announced that it would allow the previously banned animal products to be sold under strict controls.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang defended the decision to ease a ban on the trade of rhinoceros horns and tiger parts, effectively lifting regulations put in place in 1993.
Lu said prior regulation did not take into consideration the "reasonable needs of reality." He claimed that rhinoceros horns and tiger bones are useful for medical treatment and scientific research.
Demand for rhinoceros horns and tiger parts has been buoyed by their incorporation into traditional Chinese medicine despite scientific studies that have shown they offer no additional health benefits.
"The Chinese should be encouraged to educate consumers that there is absolutely no proven medical benefit or magical healing powers contained within either rhino horn or tiger bone," Charlie Mayhew, chief executive of the UK-based Tusk conservation charity, said.
In traditional Chinese medicine, tiger bones are believed to help cure conditions like rheumatism and arthritis, along with erectile dysfunction. Rhino horns, which are composed primarily of keratin, a protein found in fingernails and hair, are thought to reduce fever and pains.
Zhang Hong, a professor of culture at Shanghai's Tongji University, told DW the real reason behind the ban's reversal is lobbying by interest groups.
"The traditional medicine industry is a huge market with large profit margins," said the professor. "The fact that it is a state-owned monopoly makes it even more profitable." According to professor Zhang, interest groups managed to convince Chinese authorities to decide on such an unpopular policy using political propaganda. "China is eager to export its culture, and traditional medicine is considered part of China's heritage and pride," said Zhang. "Traditional Chinese medicine promotes a different system from Western medicine and in this system, China can call the shots," adding that revival and export of traditional Chinese medicine fits China's idea of promoting the "China model" of development.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is just one big lie.