Chinese newspaper reports on the trade of illegally sourced wood products into China
On May 8, 2006 the International Herald Leader, directly under China's state Xinhua News Agency, included a special report on the connection between illegal logging, China and the rest of the world. The report covered 3 pages and included separate stories, many of which included quotes from Greenpeace, Forest Trends, the China State Forest Administration (SFA), the FEDRC (the research arm of the SFA), and Beijing Forest University.
Summaries of news stories included in the news special (translations by Weng Qian, Forest Trends):
Overview Article: In the overview of the Int'l Herald Leader reports, the journalists mentioned BBC's quotation of Forest Trends report 'China and the Global Market for Forest Products: and the Financial Times' coverage on the recent Greenpeace report, both of which seemed to blame China as the original source for forest resources destruction. After reading both reports, however, the journalists felt what the NGOs really addressed was not only China's huge forest product imports that resulted in the global forest crisis, but also and more importantly the end of the commodity chain – demand of customers in EU, US and Japan which drive the imports. Sze Pang Cheung (Greenpeace) and Ms. Sun Xiufang (Forest Trends) were interviewed. Sze said their report was misread by some media and China only played the part as the world's workshop. It was the end customers in developed countries who should share a larger part of the responsibilities. Ms. Sun also stressed that our report tried to convey objective information and it shouldn't be only China that should be responsible for this problem. The overview concluded that the end customer countries were the real source of forest resources destruction.
Blog of Log: This article describes how profit is allocated along the commodity chain or how value is added in different parts of the chain from the natural forest in PNG to log yard, to port, to wholesale market in Jiangsu China, to processing mills in Shandong China, to final destination in Belgium. It's like the description of Text Box 3 in the Forest Trends Report, but from the perspective of a log during its 'world trip'.
Beneficiaries of Chinese Furniture in Europe and the US: This article demonstrates that the price advantage of Chinese furniture led to their mass export to Europe and US. The sales manager of MEGA, a medium-sized furniture shop in Brussels, expressed that the importers, retailers and customers are the beneficiaries of Chinese furniture, except the European furniture manufacturers. He introduced there were usually two ways of Chinese furniture's entry to Europe markets – imported directly from Chinese manufacturers, mainly of low or middle level quality, and made in China but printed a brand name of European manufacturer. It is reported that the share of Chinese furniture import in total EU furniture import has risen from 6% in 1999 to 48% in 2004. This paper also claims that according to China Customs, US imports the most of Chinese furniture, made up over 50% of Chinese wood furniture export value. Some 60% of this exported furniture to the US is actually made by US manufacturers who invest in China and make furniture in China. They do so b/c after the transportation cost is included, the sales price is still 20-30% lower than that of furniture made in the US, according to a study by the University of North Carolina.
'Indonesia is Jeopardized by the 'Vicious Commodity Chain'' This article emphasizes the ponderance of illegal logging in Indonesia. The Indonesian Minister Forestry said that Indonesian forests could only last more 15 years if the destruction was not effectively cracked down. Currently 29.5 million m3 illegally logged timber was circulating in the Indonesian market, with a revenue loss approximately US$3.4-4.6 billion. Illegal logging is happening in almost every forest area in Indonesia, even spreading to defensive forests, national parks and other protected forests where logging is banned. He also mentioned that the huge profit in the international market explained why illegal logging could not be eradicated in Indonesia. Despite government efforts to combat forest related crimes, the adjudication is not stern enough. Some local courts even judged the log-stealers innocent. According to Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, the US is the largest market in global illegal log trade, and the US most probably has large stock of Indonesian illegal logs. Indonesia and China has already had agreement on forbidding illegal log trade, but it is not fully implemented due to some technical factors.
'Siberia Pattern' got away from the Vicious Chain: This article expresses some viewpoints of SFA officials and of scholars in forest related research institutions, focusing on China's exploration of solution to illegal forest product trade. Self-sufficiency and intervention into custody of int'l forest product trade are two among others.
- The spokesman Cao Qingyao from SFA pointed out it was not correct to say that China was protecting its own forests but logging others. In response to the saying that China's huge timber imports threatened the natural forests in Myanmar, Southeast Asia and Russia Far East, he claimed Chinese government stood on its own foot to meet wood demand. He said they planned to plant 2 billion Mu fast-growing plantation in China by 2015, which was expected to provide 2 billion m3 timber. This could satisfy China's timber demand.
- Sze Pang Cheung thought it was too optimistic to say China could be self sufficient on timber supply.
- Prof. Jin Yanping from Beijing Forestry University found it 'hard to say' whether China could be self-sufficient.
- Wang Huanliang, vice director of FEDRC, claimed that concerning the total amount of timber supply, it was possible for China to be self sufficient, but in light of structure, it was impossible in the foreseeable future as some imported wood species could not be substituted.
More active intervention into custody of int'l forest product trade is another solution to getting rid of illegal logging commodity chain and global censure.
- A director of Int'l Cooperation Department SFA, showed his satisfaction to China's performance on global custody and cooperation in protecting world forest resources. China had an active attitude and participated in a lot of projects for combating illegal logging, such as ENA FLEG conference. But he also pointed out the legal predicament confronted Chinese Int'l cooperation as nobody could tell exactly how many logs through China's Customs were illegally harvested and there was no strict definition of law.
- Sze Pang Cheung (Greenpeace) thought China's attitude had always been positive, but it should be more active in action to maintain its rights as a timber consumer country in combating global illegal forest trade. He believed China could have many ways to control illegal forest harvest in other countries, such as barcode tracking system in Customs, to prevent illegally logged timber from coming into China.
- Sun Xiufang (Forest Trends) believed that to act as a responsible country, we could actively discuss relevant policies to prevent procuring illegally sourced timber. Since a lot of Chinese enterprises invested in overseas forest resources exploitation, China might learn the Green Procurement Policy in EU countries and Japan to regulate their operation abroad.
The collaboration between China and Russia in forestry serves as a good example for China's future involvement in int'l cooperation. There also exists the problem that illegally logged timber from Russia is being exported to China. The head of Forestry Bureau in Russia Federation recently claimed that Russia had formally informed China that in order to combat illegal logging, some 0.1 billion hectare forest was intended to be surveiled from aviation and space this year. Such surveillance will be expanded to all Russian state forest resources in 2007. In the meeting held by a Russia – China forestry collaboration task force in Beijing on April 17-21, 2006, Russia informed China of the likely passage of its Forest Law before autumn, which would fundamentally change Russian forest resource use. Russia encouraged more Chinese enterprises to invest in Russia and produce and process timber there, not only to import logs from Russian into China.
Farewell to Solid Wood Era. This article calls on Chinese to change their traditional conception and reduce wood consumption. Although most end consumers of tropical forest products are developed countries, it is no doubt that China's consumption is rising. GreenPeace's report pointed out the world's forest could not survive if Chinese average forest consumption reached the level of developed countries. Sze Pang Cheung (GP)) stated that flooring, especially solid wood flooring, were usually made of tropical wood, which bore a great chance of coming from illegal source. As a symbol of social status, many Chinese had a special preference to red wood furniture made of Myanmar tropical teak, which was an ideology harmful to world forest resources. Thus he raised the issue of 'saving resources for the world' in the era of globalization. Sun Xiufang (FT)_stated that we could borrow experience from Europe and US in terms of promoting a conversion of the wood consumption pattern. Jin Yanping from Beijing Forestry University explained the necessity of saving wood from another angel: China itself lacks wood resources; with the degradation of global ecological environment, the availability of wood is not stable and over-consumption will aggravate this problem.
Link to news special in Mandarin