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.