China

China

More than 20% of China is covered by forests, and the forest area has been increasing at an average annual rate of 1.1% since 1990. 35% of this comprises plantations, and more than 55% are naturally regenerated forests (FAO, 2015). The growth in overall forest area is the result of government afforestation and forest protection policies, implemented in the early 2000s. These were developed in response to the widespread deforestation that had taken place over the last 50 years, with the loss of much of the country’s tropical and subtropical forests (WWF, 2013).

China’s role in the global timber trade has increased markedly since the turn of the century, and it is one of the world’s largest importers, consumers and exporters of wood-based products. The country’s demand for timber doubled over the period 2000-12, to supply both domestic and export markets, and this demand has been met increasingly by imports.

Reflecting the size of its trade, China is a major conduit for illegal timber. In 2013, over 15% of imports of wood-based products were estimated to be illegal. Although this proportion has been declining, (in 2000, over a quarter of such imports were illegal), the volume has increased, in line with the overall growth in the timber trade. China is a particularly important market for high-value hardwoods, in which there is significant illegal trade (Chatham House, 2014).

The Chinese government has taken various steps to curb the trade in illegal timber. These include engagement with both producer and other consumer countries to strengthen action against the illegal timber trade. Memoranda of understanding have been established with Australia, Burma, Indonesia, Japan, the USA as well as the EU. China has also been developing a national timber legality verification system.