The past century witnessed a rapid development of respiratory medicine in China. The major burden of respiratory disease has shifted from infectious diseases to chronic noninfectious diseases. Great achievements have been made in improving the national standard of clinical management of various respiratory diseases and in smoking control. The specialty of respiratory medicine is expanding into pulmonary and critical care medicine. Nevertheless, respiratory diseases remain a major public health problem, with new challenges such as air pollution and nosocomial infections. This review describes the history, accomplishments, new challenges, and opportunities in respiratory medicine in China.