Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore recent healthcare reform in China. Reflecting on the current literature, the viewpoint argues that greater attention should be paid to healthcare reform in China as a public policy process, particularly one that is built on policy experimentation. Design/methodology/approach – The viewpoint argues that while recent efforts to understand the impact of reform have brought significant understanding of key issues and processes, such interest tends to focus on pragmatic concerns rather than pose wider theoretical and methodological questions about the nature and pace of reform. Findings – The authors suggest that the lens of public policy is particular relevant and insightful given what has been documented elsewhere regarding China’s unique policy process characterised by “policy experimentation”. The authors discuss how a policy experiment perspective can provide a useful heuristic for understanding healthcare reform in China. Originality/value – The viewpoint concludes by outlining possible applications of this approach and looks forward at the emerging research agenda in this area.