China and the Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries have announced their commitment to strengthening forestry initiatives, in a bid to boost forest bioeconomic growth. The announcement was made at the annual Conference on Forestry Cooperation, held on 1st June.
The countries – which number 16 including China, Slovenia, Slovakia and Greece – will reportedly seek to expand and promote forest-related trade and investment, and increase mutual joint research efforts into potential future initiatives to further serve this goal. Schemes to improve education, skills and training around forestry will also receive a new focus.
According to Cui Zhimin, counselor of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since the China-CEE bloc was launched in 2012, trade volume between the two parties has increased by nearly 85%, while forest product trade has seen an annual growth rate of 20.5% – rising from $1.37bn in 2016 to $2.4bn in 2019.
Reforestry has been on China’s development agenda for well over a decade now. Between 2000 and 2010, the nation reportedly increased its forest cover by 11,500 square miles every year, and now boasts a forest area of 220m hectares. The country has also this month issued its first series of forest carbon credit stamps in Samning City – further showcasing the efforts made to achieve the aim of carbon neutrality by 2060.
The success of China’s reforestation plans is, however, somewhat debated. While the country’s forestry expansion has been nothing short of impressive, critiques have previously been raised over the fact that often these sites provide a monoculture of trees – lacking the biodiversity needed for a healthy ecosystem and often causing a shortened lifespan of the trees themselves.
Nevertheless – the nation has been taking steps to improve resource and ecosystem conditions, a goal that the China-CCE announcement serves to highlight. Sustainable forest management is a key component of the country’s drive for growth, and according to Guan Zhiou, head of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, China will accelerate the development of bioeconomy and biotech industries in the future, and strive for modernization in which ‘man and nature coexist harmoniously’.