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A. Principles and orientation
B. Problems and difficulties
C. Efforts and achievements

A. Principles and orientation

Environment and development is a major issue of general concern in the international community to which the Chinese government has always attached great importance. As a developing country, China has to give top priority unswervingly to the development of the national economy so as to raise social productivity, enhance the comprehensive national strength and raise continually the living standard of the people; all other activities shall be carried out centring around economic development. Economic development is not only a must for the survival and progress of the mankind per se, but also a physical guarantee for protection and improvement of the global environment. The Chinese government stresses that development must be in harmony with environmental protection.

Along with socio-economic development and continuous improvement of people's living conditions in China, functions of the forest have become particularly important and critical in such aspects of environmental protection as wind breaking and sand fixation, water and soil conservation, headwater conservation, air purification, biodiversity and habitat conservation, absorption of carbon dioxide and eco-tourism.

China is a large country, the major social and economic foundations of which include agriculture. During its modernization drive, prominence has to be given to the decisive issues related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers as they have direct impacts on the general situation of reform, development and stability. The key to the nation's prosperity lies in the rural areas. The priority for an affluent countryside is in the mountainous areas. Mountains and forests have the potential to promote development in the mountainous areas. In order to build up a new starting point for the 21 Century and a promising future, China intends to make greater efforts to speed up national forestry development, afforest the territory, increase the forest cover, secure a high and stable crop yield, vitalize the rural economy and help farmers shake off poverty and march towards prosperity. In this connection, the strategic importance of forestry in environmental protection and economic development has never been greater from both the historical and practical perspectives. As a matter of fact, the Chinese government has attached great importance to afforestation and rendered "planting trees for a green motherland and improvement of ecosystems and the environment" as a fundamental State policy, and reiterated "that planting trees for a green motherland" is a great undertaking which embodies contributions of the present generation and benefits for future generations.

As a large developing country, China is fully aware of its obligations and potential roles in protection of global ecosystems and environment and the Chinese government has given top priority to the global issue of environment and development. Premier Li Peng headed a delegation to participate in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio Janeiro, Brazil in 1992 and communicated China's commitment to fulfil all the documents adopted at the conference. Soon after the UNCED, the Chinese government put forward Ten Major Policy Measures to promote environmental protection and development in China. With support and assistance from UNDP, China's Agenda 21 and the Priority Programmes of China's Agenda 21 were formulated. In addition, the Ministry of Forestry has worked out in succession such important documents as the Implementation Plan for the Forest Principles, the Forestry Action Plan for China's Agenda 21, Outline of China's Programme for Environmental Development, China Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan, China Wetland Conservation Action Plan, and China National Action Plan to Implement the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The Forestry Action Plan for China's Agenda 21 is a major document highlighting the spirit of China's Agenda 21 and promoting China's forestry to be in line with the international practice; it is a comprehensive, operational and directive document formulated in the light of China's specific conditions and its forestry status, and by absorbing and highlighting the experiences gained by the relevant action plans being or to be implemented by the Chinese government. It will play an important role in China's formulation of its mid- and long-term forestry development plans and its goals and components will be incorporated as major elements of the proposed Ninth Five-Year Forestry Plan and the Plan to the Year 2010.

B. Problems and difficulties

Due to historical and social reasons, the development of China's forestry has been relatively slow, which is far from satisfying the needs of national economic and social development. The present major problems facing forestry are as follows:

· the total amount of forest resources is insufficient, resources available for harvesting are almost exhausted, the structure is unbalanced and the capability for supplying forest products is rather low;

· management is too extensive, technology is backward, forest land productivity and integrated utilization rate of resources are not high with low efficiency;

· the secondary and tertiary industries of forestry are seriously stagnant, with low level of industrialization;

· the structure, scale, pattern of industries are not very rational, the integrated power of forestry is weak;

· forestry infrastructure development is weak which can not meet the needs of modern forestry development;

· the management system of state forest areas is not rationalized, enterprises shoulder heavy social burdens, with staff living in poverty, the survival and development of enterprises faces great difficulties;

· the awareness of science and technology is not strong enough, the utilization rate of scientific and technological achievements is low; and

· too much emphasis is laid on expansion of quantity and pursuit after speed, without giving enough attention to the improvement of quality and structural readjustment.

With the establishment of China's socialist market economy system and further opening up to the outside world, forestry is facing some sharp contradictions at a deeper level, seriously restricting forestry development and the realization of development goals. The major problems are:

· The tasks of eco-environment construction are heavy. Forestry shoulders heavy tasks of treating soil and water erosion, water source conservation, combating desertification, conservation of wild fauna and flora, prevention and alleviation of disasters, etc.. With the gradual change of China's economic system and limited financial resources of the state, the new investment system is not yet formed while the old investment system is changing. If a new and stable investment system cannot be established, the development process of forestry ecological system will be seriously restricted.

· The competitiveness of forestry, especially forestry industries is rather weak under economic conditions of socialist market economy. The running mechanism of market economy demands optimization of all productive factors including forest resources. Forestry shoulders dual responsibilities of environmental and industrial development, with low comparative benefits, and is thus not very attractive for commercial investment; besides, forestry development in the past has been weak, with low level of self development and accumulation, which is very disadvantageous in the development of a market economy. So forestry is a weak industry in China's national economy. It is necessary to decide the appropriate positions and corresponding economic running mechanisms of the two major systems of forestry in national economy under conditions of market economy.

· The management of forestry is still rather extensive, with low overall quality. To realize the high yield, high quality and high efficiency of forestry, it is necessary to aggressively pursue greater economic production with a focus on quality and efficiency. Yet the production cycle of forestry is long, locations of forestry activities are usually remote, with insufficient access to information. The progress of forestry science and technology is slow, with low quality of employees, extensive management and weak awareness of reform, opening up and market economy. Thus, there is still a big gap between the present situation and requirements of changing the mode of economic growth.

· Forest resources cultivation is out of line with the utilization of forest resources. On one hand, the cultivation of commercial forest resources is still not oriented by market demands; the goal of non-commercial forest resources cultivation is too simple without much economic value; on the other hand, the layout and structure of forest product industry cannot adapt to the change of forest resources structure, the utilization of forest resources is out of line with cultivation. Insufficient overall quantity of resources coexists with their unbalanced structure, which has prevented the limited resources from providing the most integrated benefits.

C. Efforts and achievements

Resource development

In recent years, under the guidance of appropriate policies, forestry in China has witnessed an unprecedented trend of development. About 5 million hectares are planted on an average each year, of which over 1 million hectares are established by aerial seeding. By the end of 1994, the total area of mountain closure had reached 31 million hectares. The Fast Growing, High Yielding Plantation Base Development Programme has accomplished afforestation of 3.45 million hectares and the total accumulative established area of plantations has reached 34.3 million hectares so placing China first in the world. The total forest area in China amounts to 134 million hectares with a standing stock volume of 11.785 billion1 cubic meters and the forest cover rising up to 13.92%. The prolonged adverse situation in which forest stocking volume kept dropping has been reversed and consumption of forest resources been brought under control with forest growth having exceeded total consumption. Forestry development in China is entering a new era which sees the dual increases in both the forest area and the stocking volume.

1 1 billion = one thousand million.

Development of the eco-environment

While speeding up the pace of forest resources cultivation, the Chinese government gives priority to ecosystems development with remarkable achievements scored in the implementation of ecological forestry programmes. By 1994, over 13 million hectares of land had been afforested under the Three-North Shelterbelt Development Programme, 5.46 million hectares under the Shelterbelt Development Programme along the Upper and Middle reaches of the Yangtze River, 15,000 kilometres of framework shelterbelts under the Coastal Shelterbelt Development Programme, 0.58 million hectares of pilot afforestation area under the Taihang Mountains Afforestation Programme; 612 counties has reached the plain afforestation criteria under the Plain Farmland Shelterbelt Development Programme and 82% of the plain farmland suitable for Shelterbelt networking has been protected by such networks; the total accumulative area established to combat desertification through afforestation has reached 1 million hectares which brings 10% of the desertified land under control, 44 million hectares of degraded grassland has been rehabilitated and protected, 11 million hectares of sand and/or wind prone low yield farmland are under protection, and over 1.33 million hectares of desert have been reclaimed into new farmland.

Protection of forest resources

Enhancing forest resource protection is one of the means to achieve sustainable forestry development in China. The Chinese government sets quotas for forest logging operations so as to bring resource consumption under strict control. In the light of the practical situation of the forest resource sector in China, the Government has formulated and promulgated relevant laws, regulations and policies which strictly enforce logging quotas as the central element of forest management and also set quotas for forest resource consumption. In line with the principle that consumption of the timber forest should not be higher than its growth, the State works out logging quotas once every five years and ensures that harvests are within the permitted quota for logging. In major forest regions, the State appoints forest resource supervisory commissioners and supervisory organizations and stations them in major forestry provinces and key forest industrial enterprises to strengthen supervision and control of the total volume of logging, total amount of timber transport and total quantity of timber sales and to ensure wise consumption of the forest resources. Implementation of this policy has effectively controlled forest consumption and protected the existing resources. The present goal of total forest growth exceeding total consumption has been preliminarily reached nationally and dual increases in both the forest area and the stocking volume is well underway.

Control of forest disasters

The "three preventions" are major components of forest protection: prevention of forest fires, prevention of forest diseases and pests, and prevention of indiscriminate logging and illegal poaching. The State has promulgated the Regulations on Forest Fire Prevention and local governments have formulated corresponding bye-laws to focus on such preventive activities as fire origin management. They have adopted the forest fire management target responsibility system and follow the guideline of prevention first followed by active elimination. The State has promulgated the Regulations on the Prevention and Control of Forest Diseases and Pests which seeks prevention first supplemented by integrated treatments, establishes and improves the networks for projection and forecasting, forest plant quarantine and preventive service, adopts the integrated artificial, chemical and biological approaches to prevent large scale occurrence of major forest diseases and pests. The State has promulgated the Forest Law, the Wildlife Protection Law, and Regulations on Management of Forest and Wildlife Nature Reserves, which provide a legal framework for the "three preventions" of the forest resources and for firmly cracking down on indiscriminate logging and illegal poaching.

In recent years, occurrence of forest fires has been reduced substantially with the damage rate dropping from 0.8% before the "May 6" tremendous forest fire down to 0.2% in 1994, which was the best record in history, lower than the world average. The prevention and control rate of forest pests and diseases has been rising remarkably. The area of forests over the whole country which suffered from pests and diseases in 1994 was 7 million hectares, and the controlled area reached about 5 million hectares, which means that the control rate reached 70%. New progress has been made in the curbing of indiscriminate logging and illegal poaching, large scale illegal cutting has been stopped and forest-related legal cases have been reduced.

Development of the forest products industry

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the forest products industry has experienced rapid development which may be highlighted in two ways:

· Formation of a complete modern industrial system. As far as variety of products is concerned, in addition to sawntimber, plywood and ordinary paper products, production is also underway for fibreboard (MDF included), particleboard (OSB, cement-bonded particleboard and gypsum particleboard included), decorative materials for secondary processing and all kinds of special paper and paperboard products2.

· Quantity and quality of products have been raised substantially: for instance, China's sawntimber production has increased from 3.437 million cubic meters in 1950 to 12.94 million cubic meters in 1994, plywood production from 16,900 cubic metes in 1951 to 2.606 million cubic meters in 1994, paper and paperboard production from 0.11 million tons in 1949 to 21.38 million tons in 1994, fibreboard and particleboard production from nil to 1.93 million and 1.682 million cubic meters in 1994 respectively. Furthermore, extensive substitution of synthetic resin for protein glue and application of adjustment and control automation in all wood-based panel and pulp and paper production lines have improved quality of related products to a great extent.

2 Development of wood-based processing has been accompanied by machinery manufacture. The machinery and equipment manufacturing system has been established preliminarily for the forest products industry which can produce not only different kinds of saws, planing machines, milling machines and sanding machines, but also complete production lines for making plywood, fibreboard (including MDF), particleboard, OSB, decorative materials for wood-based panels and pulp and paper making.

Trade in forest products

Before the mid-1970s, China basically followed the routine of a self-sufficient economy and, as in other economic sectors, value of forest products trade was very low. Ever since 1980s, along with implementation of the reform and open-door policy, economic development has entered a high growth period. Simultaneously, population growth and decline of domestic forest resources further worsened the existing conflicts between wood demand and supply. Shortage of timber and other forest products became a major restraining factor hindering development of the national economy. Subsequently, under the guidance of the Government's trade policy, China's import and export trade in forest products has developed very rapidly.

The forest products China imports fall under 6 major categories, i.e. roundwood, plywood, pulp (including waste paper), paper and paperboard, sawntimber and veneer. Between 1981 and 1992, roundwood dominated the forest products China imported with its accumulative value of import for the 12 years reaching US$ 7.04 billion accounting for 32% of China's total import value of forest products, seconded by paper and paperboard: US $ 6.45 billion or 29%, followed by pulp and waste paper: US$ 4.1 billion or 19%, and finally plywood: US$ 3.97 billion or 18%.

During the same period, China's export of forest products was slow in development. The serious imbalance of trade in forest products and enormous trade deficit not are only a heavy economic burden for a developing country but also grievously hinder the overall economic development. In order to reverse the adverse situation and replace the one-way deficiency-supply trade by a two-way complementary trade, the Chinese government has formulated policies to encourage expansion of forest products exports.

Development of forestry legislation

The Chinese government gives top priority to forestry legislation. In February 1979, the Sixth Session of the Standing Committee of the Fifth National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China adopted the Forest Law of the People's Republic of China (for Trial Implementation). In September 1984, the Seventh Session of the Standing Committee of the Sixth National People's Congress of the people's Republic of China adopted the Forest Law of the People's Republic of China which came into force as in January, 1985. In November 1988, the Fourth Session of the Standing Committee of the Seventh National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China adopted the Wildlife Protection Law of the People's Republic of China. After the promulgation of the Forest Law and the Wildlife Protection Law, the State Council issued a series of supporting administrative regulations such as Regulations on Forest Fire Prevention, Regulations on Prevention and Control of Forest Pests and Diseases, and Regulations of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Terrestrial Wildlife. By September 1994, China has promulgated 4 laws and 4 administrative regulations on forestry, more than 60 sectoral rules and regulations, and over 200 local by-laws on forestry and local governmental regulations which has constituted a basic legal framework to guarantee sustainable forestry development.

International forestry cooperation

Strengthening international forestry cooperation is a major component of China's open-door policy in the forestry sector and also a key policy measure to promote forestry development in China. Exchange of official visits, academic exchanges, scientific an technical collaboration, advanced studies and training allow China to further comprehend the outside world and the world to know better about China. Through international cooperation, the Chinese foresters have widened their field of vision, learnt foreign experiences to improve their work, introduced foreign advanced and practical technologies, management experiences and biological materials, and attracted foreign investment to promote forestry development and environmental protection and improvement in China. By now, China's international cooperation has scored remarkable achievements highlighted by the technical exchange and economic cooperation partnership relations established with 1/3 of the countries and regions of the world including many Asia-Pacific countries, and with dozens of non-governmental organizations. China's international forestry cooperation has developed into over 10 professional fields such as afforestation and silviculture, resource management, forest fire management, prevention and control of forest diseases and pests, wildlife and nature reserve management, forest industry, forest economics, policy and legislation, and science and technology.

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