China is experiencing increased health care use and expenditures, without sufficient controls to ensure quality and value. Transparent, cost-conscious and patient-centered guidelines based on the best available evidence could help establishing these quality and practice measures.We examined how guidelines could support the Chinese health reform. Specifically, we summarized the current state of the art and related challenges in guideline development and explored possible solutions in the context of the Chinese health reform. China currently lacks capacity for evidence-based guideline development and coordination by a central agency. Most Chinese guideline users rely on recommendations developed by professional groups that lack demonstration of transparency (including conflict of interest management and evidence synthesis) and quality. These deficiencies appear larger than in other regions of the world. In addition, misperceptions about the role of guidelines in assisting practitioners as opposed to providing rules requiring adherence, and a perception that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) cannot be appropriately incorporated in guidelines are present.China's capacity could be strengthened by a central guideline agency to provide or coordinate evidence synthesis for guideline development and to oversee the work of guideline developers. China can build on what is known and work with the international community to develop methods to meet the challenges of evidence-based guideline development.