China and the Global Market for Forest Products: Transforming Trade to Benefit Forests and Livelihoods
China has become a leading nation in terms of its demand for forest products. In many supplier countries, particularly those with weak governance records, the increasing trade flows into China are associated with unsustainable harvesting, illegal logging and the abuse of forest communities’ rights. However, China’s growing demand also creates the possibility that millions of low-income forest producers can benefit from this new market. Trees and forests are the primary asset of millions of the world’s poorest people and when governments enable the poor to use them wisely, they can be an important instrument of rural development. China is now in the world’s spotlight, with governments, industry and development agencies eager to learn more about the global impact the country is having on forests and forest industries. This paper and the body of research it represents aims to help fill the knowledge gap. It is an overview of the key findings of many research studies conducted by Forest Trends, the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and their many partners in China and the Asia-Pacific region. The synthesis of this research presents a wake-up call for the global forestry community. One key finding is that domestic and export demand for Chinese manufactured wood products will continue to grow dramatically, so, in turn, will the demand for both home-grown and imported timber. The authors hope this paper will help governments, industry and civil society gain a clearer understanding of their respective roles in the global timber market, and that it will help them to take an important leadership role in helping to transform the forest products market to one that not only ensures sustainable forestry and conservation, but to one that provides satisfactory livelihood opportunities for forest dependent communities, and promotes sustainable economic development for all nations.