Historic Transitions in China's Forestry in the New Era
Historic Transitions in China's Forestry in the New Era
The fundamental task of forestry development is to meet the rising demands on forestry by growing economic development. In the new century, the national economy and social development are making greater demands on forestry. To meet this new demand, great changes have to take place in forestry's main tasks, the path to development, the guidelines, the management mechanism, the management system, and the principles of economic gain. China's forestry is undergoing a profound change.
The major issue for people currently working in the forestry field is to understand and decide how to orientate the tasks of forestry development in the new century. To this end, the State Forestry Administration has held prolonged sessions in Beidaihe for four successive years starting from 1999. The members of the CPC committee of the State Forestry Administration and leading officials from departments and organizations have gathered together to discuss these key issues. Matters concerning principles were brought up at the four sessions. Taking Deng Xiaoping's theory as the guideline, a detailed analysis has been made on China's national conditions, as well as circumstances surrounding its industry with a view to determine what characteristics and position China's forestry should take in the new century. Practical problems were also discussed at these sessions. In addition, the main contradictions in China's forestry at present were examined, as well as its experiences and lessons with regard to forestry development over the last fifty years. The sessions were a success.
In 1999, with China's forestry still remaining relatively undeveloped and realizing that it has to go hand-in-hand with the overall development of the national economy, major issues such as the position of forestry in the new era and the general concept of forestry development were put forward and extensively discussed. In 2000, after thorough investigation and research, it was suggested that the key forestry programs should be integrated. This became the ideological and theoretical foundation for the six key forestry programs and rapid forestry development. When instructions were received from the State Council on this decision, there was much excitement in the forestry department. At the beginning of 2001, based on China's Tenth Five-Year Plan, a general plan for forestry development over the next ten years was drawn up, with the “Three Representations” as the main guideline. The development of forestry was further reviewed, and priority was given to solving the problems concerning the relationship between various aspects of forestry production. With better coordination among forestry's productive forces, it would promote rapid forestry development. These meetings led to a better understanding of the major issues in forestry development.
At a large meeting of the State Forestry Administrations held in 2002, the author pointed out that the core of China's forestry development lay in a shift of focus from timber production to ecological development. It was forestry's most important feature during this development phase as it represented a fundamental change in China's forestry orientation. The important changes being made were a shift in focus from felling natural forests to felling plantations, from turning forests into farmland to conversion of farmlands to forest, from the free enjoyment of ecological benefits to paid use of these benefits, and from forestry being managed by the State or department concerned to participation by the whole society. All these changes characterize China's forestry at this development phase. They are the major hallmarks of the fundamental changes in forestry.
These changes shall be called the five major transitions in China's forestry. They serve not only as the summary of the experiences of building China's forestry over the past fifty years, but also marks the turning point from traditional forestry to modern forestry with its new requirements. The five major transitions are an organic whole influencing and interacting with one another as both cause and effect, constituting the main characteristics of China's forestry in the new era. As the change in direction from timber production to ecological development is the foundation of the new approach, without this fundamental change, it will be difficult for China's forestry to identify its main task, to establish its important position in the national economy and social development, and to bring about the other four major changes. The latter support the first change, and without them the first fundamental change will be weak and will not be able to push forward the progress of China's forestry.
The historic change in orientation of China's forestry has brought about the integration of rapid development with its six key programs. These programs gave birth to the five major transitions when the programs were launched. They will be the vehicles of forestry's rapid development and constitute the theoretical platform on which its development will be based. These marked China's forestry entering a new phrase under the guidance of a clear ideology.
New and major historic changes have taken place in the concept of forestry, which conforms with the powerful trend of development in the world and show the cautious option chosen by the Chinese nation for their own development.
History can show the way to the furture. Since the founding of the PRC, forestry has made major contributions to the restoration and building of the national economy and social development. During this time, forestry has undergone a complicated process of development. To sum up, China's forestry development over the past fifty years has completed two phases and is now entering the third.
From the 1950s to the late 1970s, China's forestry focused on timber production and utilization—that is, it was in the phase dominated by the traditional concept of forestry. At that time, the leading task was to produce timber, which together with steel and cement were called “the three major materials.” Plans for timber production had to be fulfilled and over-production was encouraged. Timber production played an important role in breaking the international economic blockade, by satisfying the demands of industrial, military, and architectural needs, thus restoring and helping to develop China's economy. Under the influence of the concept “regard grain as the key link,” forestland became an important source for enlarging cultivated land. In those days, people by and large considered forests as an economic resource, forestry as a basic industry, and the forestry department as an industrial one. Thus, they planned and organized forestry work for timber production. All these economic and social features showed that forestry was a basic industry and its main task was timber production, dependent on the felling of natural forests. Destroying forests in the name of reclamation could be seen everywhere and the forest's ecological value was not taken into consideration. Forestry work was the sole responsibility of the forestry department. Conditions were not right for the five major transitions during that period.
From the end of the 1970s to the late 1990s, China's forestry witnessed a period of fast development. This phase was in keeping with China's reform and opening-up process, and it was a period when profound changes took place in the economy and society, and rapid progress was made in every field. In the face of reform and growing contradictions, relations between various interests underwent continuous readjustments and changes. To coordinate the various relationships, research was done on the economy and ecology, and development and protection in the short and long term, in both theory and practice. Social demand to improve China's ecological environment grew urgent during this period. The following were the main features of forestry development at that time: while carrying out the heavy task of timber production, conservation of forest resources was also gradually improved. When it was decided that forestry is both an important basic industry and public-welfare undertaking for the society, ecological programs such as those to build shelter forests in North, Northeast, and Northwest China were launched, with the objective of establishing a complete system for forestry production and the development of forest industries.
At the same time, the demands of socio-economic development on forestry did not change fundamentally, nor did timber production as the main purpose of China's forestry. However, the demands for timber began to grow increasingly and remained strong as a result of faster economic development and continuous improvement in the people's standard of living. As a means of local economic development and a way for farmers to alleviate their poverty and improve their incomes, timber production became an important support for the local economy and a source of revenue for the farmers in many areas, particularly in the underdeveloped mountainous areas. At the same time, people became increasingly aware of the ecological environment and role that forests play in ecological conservation, but they did not reach a consensus on protecting the ecological environment. This phase, from the perspective of forest development, was characterized by coexistence and the interaction of different ideas and new and old concepts. Clashes of old and new tasks in forestry work occurred which demanded changes to be made on forestry but there were no clear indications of the central tasks of the new approach. The five transitions in China's forestry were around the corner at that time, but they did not materialize because of various constraints.
In the new century, China has entered a new phase of development to nurture an affluent society and accelerate socialist modernization. With socio-economic development, people have become more aware of the role of forestry and this has brought about the opportunity for change. Following the implementation of China's strategy for sustainable development and the development of its western region, the people have turned their attention to the ecological environment, and a qualitative change is taking place in their awareness of forestry's standing and role. While they want to be assured of a sufficient supply of forestry products, they also want an improvement of the ecological environment. Hence, promoting “equal care for the three major results while giving priority to ecological results” has become the guideline in forestry development. With the approval and implementation of the six major programs, China's forestry has entered a new phase which seeks to promote rapid overall development, leading to sustainable development. In this phase, stepping up ecological development has become the main task in China's forestry sector. Natural forest resources are being protected, timber production from natural forests is being replaced by felling plantations, afforestation is taking place on previously cultivated land and a compensation system has been put in place to reward those who participate in these projects for ecological gains. The time has come for promoting the five major transitions in forestry.
A readjustment of forestry development guidelines means that there is an enhanced awareness of forestry's standing and role, the profound changes that are taking place because of the demands on forestry by the national economy and social development, the supply-demand relationship of forestry, and the consumption level and pattern of resource distribution.
1. Owing to the rapid development of China's economy, the pressure on the environment has been growing more menacing. The problems arising from soil erosion and desertification have become increasingly serious. The annual increase of natural calamities, such as floods, droughts, and sandstorms, has caused huge economic losses. The living environment for the people is not satisfactory and some 800 million people still live in the areas affected by bad environmental conditions. The worsening of the ecological environment imposes a serious constraint on building an affluent society and accelerating socialist modernization. Given the long-term objective and fundamental interests of the country, the Central Committee of the CPC and State Council have emphasized in clear terms that China's resources and environment must be protected, that the needs of the population and resources must be in-line with economic development, and the strategy for sustainable development must be implemented. Forests, constituting the main part of the ecological system, and forestry as the main vehicle for ecological development, serve as the important foundations for sustainable socio-economic development. Advancing its role in improving the ecological environment has become the main aim of forestry in the national economy and social development.
2. Social and economic development is profoundly changing people's traditional way of life and production. It is also gradually turning from the sole economic demand on forest resources to serving diversified demands on forestry products, the protection of biodiversity and natural heritage, and the development of forest culture.
3. In the course of establishing a socialist market economy, the government is increasingly becoming the main body for public welfare development, and optimizing the distribution of social resources through economic means is one of its important responsibilities.
This adjustment is the inevitable result of changes in the basic supply and demands of forestry. As China is now in the primary stage of socialism and will remain so for some time, the contradiction between the material and cultural requirements of social development and the rising standard of living will always be a basic social problem. This basic problem will find expression in forestry as demands on it grow. At this primary stage of socialism, it is a long-term task for forestry to accelerate growth to meet social demands. As there is now an urgent need to provide a better ecological environment, the main task facing forestry is how to bridge the gap between rapidly-growing social demands and the backward state of forestry production. The only way to do this is to accelerate the speed of ecological development.
The time is now ripe, with suitable conditions available to make strategic adjustments to the guidelines for forestry development and to promote the five major changes.
1. The central government must place great importance to the development of the ecological environment and the Chinese people support it. Bearing in mind its historical mission and overall situation of the country, the Chinese leadership has decided on a major strategy to accelerate the development of the eco-environment. A series of important decisions on the development of forestry and the eco-environment has been mapped out with detailed plans in many aspects. In August 1997, Jiang Zemin called for “rebuilding a northwestern region of beautiful mountains and rivers.” He wrote comments on eco-environmental improvement and issued important instructions for forestry work, particularly eco-environmental development. The confirmation of this strategic objective has made forestry development an important component of the socialist modernization drive, and given it an important position in sustainable development, especially in ecological development. There is a greater awareness among the people of the importance of accelerating eco-environmental development, which will attract strong support for the cause.
2. The economic and material growth of China since reform and the opening-up of the country has greatly strengthened its finances to provide strong support for the five major transitions. As eco-environmental development is a social welfare undertaking, it is necessary to obtain financial support from the State. Over the past twenty-odd years, China has enjoyed spectacular economic growth. With its growing economic and overall national strength, China is in a position to utilize part of its finances for eco-environmental development in key areas. China has increased its input in forestry by a big margin and drawn up guidelines for eco-environmental development, with mainly government support. In view of this, the six major programs need a total investment of several hundred billion yuan over the next ten years, which has never been seen before. This investment will form a solid basis for implementing the five major transitions in ecological development.
3. As an effective vehicle, the development of the six key programs has made it possible for the five major transitions to be realized. In the new era, the six programs will be the “aircraft-carrier” of China's forestry development. Covering 97% of China's counties, the development of the six transition programs will bring about great changes to the country. To realize the five major transitions, the objectives and tasks of forestry development must be made clear, and guidelines adjusted for forestry work.
- Implementing the five major transitions is the important task of the forestry department in carrying out the important concept of the “Three Representations.” By giving priority to ecological development, the direction for the development of forestry's advanced productive force is made clear, and is in line with the forestry development trend in the world. It represents the fundamental and long-term interests of the Chinese nation and will promote national development and social progress. The five changes will give full expression to the term “keeping pace with the times.” “Times” here means the present status of development and the new demands on forestry by social-economic development, while “keeping pace” means taking the initiative to meet society's demands on forestry, and adjust forestry guidelines and methods of production to further integrate forestry work into China's economic and social developments.
- Implementing the five major transitions will help to maintain China's ecological security, and promote sustainable development of the national economy. The key to the five transitions is to focus on ecological development as the main aim of forestry development, and give it top priority. Implementing the five transitions will bring about well-rounded eco-environmental development, improve the eco-system and make the natural ecology more stable and balanced. All this will play an important role in maintaining China's eco-security, and promote sustainable development of the national economy.
- The five transitions will assist the government to review its approach, and further promote ecological development. A scientific understanding of the trend in forestry development will help the choice of the right type of forestry suitable for a market economy. In accordance with the operation mechanism of a market economy, two resource-distributing patterns and two management-operating modes of the government and the market must be practiced. The disadvantage that the government faced in doing everything within forestry's terms of reference must be overcome. The government must focus on reviewing its policies, guidelines, and development programs, and improving macro-regulation; and capital must be used for supporting ecological forests for public use and compensating the eco-results.
The five major transitions give full expression to all the features of forestry development. Implementing them indicates an accurate understanding of forestry development trends, the strategy to keep forestry in-line with the market economy system, and the important decision to adjust forestry work. The changes also show the cautious choice made by the Chinese people for their own development, which will be of great significance and have farreaching influence. It will certainly bring about a new chapter in China's eco-environmental development.
The new strategy in forestry development is in conformity with the reform concept of the successive leaderships in the former Ministry of Forestry and the State Forestry Administration, and is therefore, a crystallization of their collective wisdom. Since the end of the 1970s, the policies on “The Theory of Division of Forestry Functions,” put forward by Yong Wentao, “Regard Development of Forest Resources as the Core,” by former Minister Gao Dezhan, “Build a Sound Forestry Ecological System and Develop a Forestry Industrial System,” by former Minister Xu Youfang, “Hold High the Banner of Ecological Development,” by former Minister Chen Yaobang, “Forest Management in Classification, Breakthrough in Separate Areas,” by former Administrator Wang Zhibao, and “the Five Major Transitions,” all serve as a concentrated expression of practical experiences in the field of forestry, and of the ideological system. This ideological system has laid a solid foundation for forestry to adapt to the new situation and adjust the strategy for development.
The change in demand on forestry in the new century by the national economy and society has pushed ecological development to centre stage in implementing the strategy for sustainable development, and determined the new character and position of China's forestry. The move from a focus on timber production to ecological development is the basic characteristic of China's forestry development and is the core and pivot of the five major changes in forestry. This key change will have a fundamental impact on the general direction of forestry development in the new century.
The move in focus from timber production to ecological development necessitates a major reform in the character and position of forestry, as well as guidelines for development.
This change depends on an understanding of the current status of China's ecological environment and the role played by forestry. Only when this change is clearly understood, can the objective of forestry development in the new era be correctly determined, and priorities and tasks of forestry development be decided. Building and protecting a sound eco-environment is the leading demand of society on forestry today. Meeting this growing demand is the major task of forestry development in the new era. Guided by the principle to “focus on eco-development,” the objective, orientation, and priority of forestry development can be correctly determined, the overall interests of the national economy and social development better served, and the scope for forestry development further expanded. In view of the above, the distribution of forestry productive forces should be adjusted and optimized at the same time, while various policy measures should be made and implemented so as to harmonize all factors of production to ensure the fulfillment of forestry's central task.
5.2.1 The Change from Timber Production to Ecological Development
A correct understanding of the position and role of forestry is both a basis and prerequisite for establishing correct guidelines for forestry development. The change from timber production to ecological development requires both a scientific understanding and an accurate grasp of forestry's character and position in the new situation. The basic principles of Marxism state that only by understanding the position, viewpoint, and method of dialectical materialism and using this to handle problems, can their objective nature and development law be grasped. Only when the central task and priorities are observed and analyzed from a historical, objective, and overall perspective, and not statistically or subjectively biased, can the role, position and direction of development be understood in a scientific manner.
The priority given to timber production is a phase of development that is now past. During this period, China's main concern was the guarantee of timber supply while forestry's central task was to produce timber in a big way so as to meet the requirements of economic recovery and development. Accelerating timber production was given top priority as more timber produced meant greater contributions to the State. Timber played an important part in meeting the needs of China's industrial, architectural, and military fields, in breaking the international economic blockade, and in helping the national economy to recover and develop. The period between the 1950s and 1970s was the prime time for timber production. It was the leading demand on forestry by China's socio-economic development, decided by the political, economic and social requirements of the time, and is therefore of historical significance.
At the turn of the century, great changes took place in the demands on forestry by socio-economic development, which brought about changes in the macro-environment.
1. The worsening of the ecological environment and the change in the economic growth model led to fundamental changes in the demand on forestry by national economic development. While the rapid economic growth brought great wealth, it also produced a series of problems, of which the drain on natural resources and the worsening of the ecological environment were the most serious. The harsh reality of the worsening ecological environment, which was eroding the living space of the people, posed a daunting challenge to China's socio-economic development, and has become one of the most urgent and important problems that China needs to tackle. Through bitter lessons, the people have realized that economic growth at the expense of resources and the environment is not only short-lived, but the disadvantages also outweigh the gains. Only by not harming the ecological environment, not wasting natural resources, and not sacrificing the interests of future generations, can development be sustainable. Pursuing sustainable development has become the growing trend of economic development in the world. First, sustainable economic development requires the preservation and development of natural resources and the environment. Timber, a product provided by forests, can be replaced by other materials, while a sound ecological environment provided and conserved by forests is irreplaceable. The contribution of forestry to conserving a sound ecological environment for China's sustainable economic development is much greater, more important and more lasting than its function of supplying timber. Accordingly, having gradually replaced timber production as the main function, the development, conservation and improvement of the ecological environment has become the primary demand on forestry by the national economy and social development.
2. With the progress of science, there is an enhanced public awareness of the role of forestry. As man's understanding of the science of the natural environment has deepened since the 1960s, the importance of the ecology has made great headway. More and more people realize that the ecological environment is an important guarantee for healthy socio-economic and sustainable development. Forests serve as the most important vehicle for maintaining ecological balance and preserving the ecological environment, the value of which far outweighs the direct economic value of timber production. Therefore, forests should play a greater role in conserving water sources, preserving water and soil, protecting animal and plant species, regulating the climate, and protecting fields. Thus, the focus of forestry work should be shifted to ecological development. Through the lesson of the 1998 floods, a great leap has been seen in the public's awareness of the role of forests and forestry, and their concern about the issue of ecological environment has reached new heights.
Thus, fundamental changes have taken place in the demand on forestry by socio-economic development. Accelerating ecological conservation and development has become an urgent and prime task of forestry. The change from timber production to ecological development is hence inevitable. Timber production had its heyday, making significant contributions to the nation and to society, and should therefore not be undervalued for that particular period. However, if timber production remains the main function of forestry in the face of rapid socio-economic development, it may not meet the new demands by social development in the new situation. Conservation and improvement of the eco-environment must now be the primary function of forestry. Ecological development is a historic mission entrusted to forestry by the new era.
5.2.2 The Trend of Forestry Development in the World
Forests belong to the entire mankind and forestry to the whole world. The growing trend of global forestry development will certainly have a profound impact on the orientation of China's forestry. China should make great contributions to mankind, and its forest eco-results will be one of its contributions.
As forests all over the world share common attributes, so do forestry development share common development laws. Because there are differences in their social and economic development, all countries in the world are in different phases of forestry development and their paths to forestry development have their own characteristics. However, they must all follow the common laws of forestry development. Forestry development in general has by and large undergone the following phases: primitive utilization of forests, excessive utilization of timber, forest recovery and development, multifunctional utilization, and sustainable development. Looking back at the different phases of forestry development, it seems that the general trend in forestry development in the world shows that the emphasis on economic interests has gradually shifted to one of ecological and social results. This trend has been proven by the change of themes at successive world forestry conferences.
At the first to the seventh world forestry conferences held between 1926 and 1972, the main emphasis was on the economic role of forestry, yet the theme of the fifth conference had a bearing on the multifunctional role of forestry. Remarkable changes have taken place in the themes of the conferences since the eighth conference held in Jakarta in 1978, with importance attached to and emphasis placed on the role of forestry to mankind and society. The theme of the Jakarta conference was “Forestry for people;” that of the ninth conference held in Mexico in 1985 was “Forest resources in the integral development of society;” that of the tenth conference held in Paris in 1991 was “Forests, a heritage for the future;” and that of the eleventh conference, held in Antalya, Turkey, in 1997, was “Forestry for sustainable development: towards the twenty-first century.”
The UNCED, held by the United Nations in 1992, gave full expression to the world's concern about the issue of forestry, and leaders of all the countries represented reached a consensus on forestry's sustainable development. The conference pointed out that among man's problems needing solution at present, “No problem is more important than forestry,” and “Forestry should be put in the first place.”
Great importance has been given to forestry because ecological issues such as global warming, air pollution, soil erosion, desertification, and the loss of biodiversity have grown more prominent, and the issue of forests has become both a great concern and a hot topic among the international community. The countries of the world have taken action to enable international forest conventions to become a legal binding force, and dialogue on forestry policies has been ongoing at international forums. The whole world has reached a broad consensus on sustainable forest management as the way to achieve sustainable forestry development, and this has been adopted as an important principle by the international community and the governments of all the countries making forestry policies.
The trend toward sustainable development in the world and the progress made in global forestry will influence the orientation of China's forestry in the new century. Pursuing coordinated integration of the environment and development and achieving sustainable development has become an urgent quest, so that emphasis has been placed on accelerating ecological environment development—the trend of forestry development in the world today. As the largest developing country in the world, China can be considered a big forestry power. Whether it is meeting the need to integrate its economic development with the world's, or making its due contributions to the global ecological environment, China must follow the objective law of forestry development in the world and the trend toward accelerating ecological environment by establishing clear and resolute policies for this purpose, which is the most important task of China's forestry in the new century. The change from timber production to ecological development that China has been promoting in a big way fully conforms with this objective and trend.
5.2.3 Strategic Adjustment of Guidelines for Forestry Development
In the new century, outstanding and obvious changes are taking place in forestry's position and management aim. There are two kinds of approaches or ways to adapt to the new trend. One is to mechanically copy others in a blind and passive manner, and the other is to be creative in a positive, active, and flexible way. The former approach follows vulgar materialism, which will be inevitably swallowed up by historical tides, while the latter follows dialectical materialism, which will become the pioneers riding on historical tides. Facing the new demands on forestry in the new situation and going with the trend of forestry development in the world, China should resolutely follow the principle, “Promote in a big way the change from timber production to ecological development.” This will require a major adjustment of guidelines for forestry development to push forestry development to new heights.
Therefore, resolutely shifting the strategic priority of forestry development from “timber production” to “ecological development” is an urgent requirement for national economic and social development, which will be determined by the actual conditions prevalent in China's forestry.
The results of scientific research and the practise of forestry in the developed countries have shown that if a country wants to maintain a sound and stable ecological environment, and provide an ecological guarantee for its national economy and sustainable social development, and its forests must be well-distributed and well-structured in terms of classification. The present status of China's forests falls far short of this requirement.
With regard to forest stock, China's resources are inadequate and unevenly dispersed.
1. Although China's forested area ranks fifth in the world, it makes up only 4.1% of the world's total, while its forest cover is 13% lower than the world average of 29.6% —in other words, only 63% of the world's average. Its forest stock ranks seventh in the world, but it accounts for less than 3% of the world's total.
2. China's forest resources are unevenly distributed. They are mainly concentrated in east China, where the average rate of forest cover reaches 30.95% in the eleven provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government), accounting for 1.9 times that of China's average. They are more densely dispersed in the northeast and southeast coastal areas. The average forest cover is only 11.99% in the twelve provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government) of west China, while the forest cover in five provinces and autonomous regions in northwest China is 3.34%, accounting for only 22.7% of China's average. Qinghai, the source of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, has its forest cover registering only 0.43%, while that of Xinjiang, Ningxia, and Gansu is 1.08%, 2.20%, and 4.83%, respectively.
In view of the target, China's afforestation remains at a low level and is developing at a snail's pace. Since the 1990s, artificial afforestation, aerial-seeding afforestation, and afforestation by closing hillsides have reached 4.2 million hectares, 0.6 million hectares, and 4 million hectares respectively on average per year, but the actual standing area only accounts for 50% of their afforestation area, so that the results of afforestation are not satisfactory. The standing area of afforestation achieved in the first phase of the shelter project in the north, northeast, and northwest of China is 22 million hectares, while the new forested area in the project zone covers only about 63 million hectares, with its efficiency rate at 28.9%. Since the founding of New China, its forest cover has increased to 16.55% from 8.6%. At this rate, it will take at least 100 years for China's forest cover to reach 28%, the target set for 2050.
While implementing its strategy of sustainable development of the national economy, China must adapt to the requirements of the new situation and new tasks, and make strategic adjustments to the guidelines for forestry development so as to give ecological development top priority in forestry work. The main tasks of forestry development must be pursued by improving the conservation of the ecological environment, maintaining the eco-balance, and establishing a complete, stable, and efficient system of forest ecology. Only by doing this can national and social forces come together to accelerate forestry development. Improving environmental protection and development is China's basic policy, and it is through forestry that this can be achieved. Giving “priority to ecological development” means coordinating the demands on forestry by national economic development and forestry development, as well as the national policies on eco-development and environmental development, and the integration of forestry development into the national program of development. This is the main reason for the State to launch the six key programs with a huge investment of several hundred billion yuan. Ecology is a major social concern across the whole of China. Forestry development is closely connected with the development of such social undertakings as the environment, agriculture, water conservancy, communication, urban development, and hygiene, and attracts support from people from all walks of life. This will further promote participation by the whole society in forestry, thus turning professional management into social management.
5.2.4 Impact of Change on the Orientation of China's Forestry Development
The most remarkable feature during the period when timber production was emphasized was that China's national economy suffered a shortage of materials. Under those conditions, accumulating wealth and meeting the demand for scarce materials became the primary task of the various economic departments. As for the forestry department, priority for timber production was the inevitable option, thus influencing and determining the characteristics of forestry development at that time.
As timber production was the primary task, felling natural forests in large quantities inevitably became the first option. This was also a quick and convenient solution to the food problem, which was common at that time, because the forestland where trees had been felled was turned into farmland. Destroying forests to reclaim the land became the most convenient means for increasing farmland. As a result, the existing natural forests were pushed back to the mountains, valleys, and inaccessible remote areas.
As the main purpose was to meet the demand for scarce materials and to accumulate development capital for the State, free felling of natural forests was seen to be the best way to reduce costs and increase profits. Since forest-felling was free, it was hard to maintain simple reproduction, let alone the compensation for ecological results.
As timber production was the main task of China's forestry department, the nature and position of forestry as a production department providing an essential material was also made clear.
As the old characteristics of forestry development were all rooted in timber production, it was difficult to change the old characteristics of forestry production without a change of guidelines.
The reason that priority must now be given to ecological development is that fundamental changes have taken place in the socio-economic environment. Owing to these changes, the aim of the 21st century must be sustainable development. The rapid development of China's economy has left behind the difficult period of material shortage. There is now an abundance of commodities, most of them belonging to a buyer's market. With the improving standard of living, there is also a fast-growing demand for culture and a quality environment. However, China's ecological environment falls far short of this demand. From this perspective, the overall situation facing forestry development is changing from a shortage of materials to a deterioration of the environment. As ecological benefits have become the main demand on forestry, accelerating ecological development is its foremost task, and priority given to ecological development is of utmost importance. With this, great changes will certainly take place in the main characteristics of forestry.
Forests have diversified economic results, and society has also diversified its demands on forestry. While timber production stresses the economic role of forests, ecological development will bring about ecological results. The first step is to protect the ecological environment by conserving natural forests but meeting society's diversified demands on forestry should also be taken into consideration. The people involved in the forestry field must work hard to accelerate the cultivation of plantations, and be ready to shoulder the heavy task at home. The shift from felling natural forests to felling plantation forests has become a major move, bringing about diversified economic results.
Since forests are “the lungs of the earth,” destroying them for the sake of reclamation has resulted in holes being made all over the lungs of the earth. Ecological development requires forestry to urgently tackle the deterioration of the eco-environment, and one of the basic steps is to afforest cultivated land on a large-scale to make the earth healthy again with robust, green lungs. The change from the destruction of forests for the sake of reclamation to afforesting cultivated land has become an important means to expand forest cover and improve the ecological environment.
Material interests are the basic driving force to promote production while the free utilization of forest ecological benefits will retard the development of forestry. Ecological development calls, firstly, for sustained and steady development by building welfare forests, and the key to this development lies in the relations between the management of forests and economic interests. The change from the free utilization of forest ecological benefits to paid utilization of these benefits ensures the success of forestry's main task and opens a wide and permanent path to promote the management and development of welfare ecological forests.
Forestry is an undertaking of a public-welfare nature, and forestry run by the department concerned reduces the State Forestry Administration to an insignificant department in charge of material production. Ecological development calls for reversing the deterioration of the ecological environment and mobilizing all the Chinese people to devote themselves to the great cause of conserving and improving the ecological environment. This has posed a serious challenge to the old system and the mechanism and policies of the original forestry department. It calls for the freedom of forestry from departmental restrictions so as to promote afforestation by the whole nation, and forest management by society. The change from departmental management of forestry to a social management of forestry has become the means for promoting and expanding forestry development.
In a word, the change from timber production to ecological development is both the core and link of the five major transitions. Understanding this is the key to forestry development in the new era.
Yong Wentao, a former forestry minister, once said in a vivid manner that not felling even a single tree across China would fall short of ecological results, whereas felling all the trees in China would fall short of economic results. How to solve this contradiction? “Grasp the main contradiction,” was the philosophical thought of Mao Zedong who provided the key to solve this problem.
The change from felling natural forests to felling plantation forests to meet society's demand for forest ecology is a strategic choice to achieve comprehensive results, and form the guideline for forest management policy to implement “ecological development.”
After confirmation of the change in direction from timber production to ecological development, does it mean that forestry is only responsible for bringing about ecological results, and that it will not place much importance on economic results? The answer is “no.”
Ecological development seeks to bring about ecological results and this is the primary task for forestry. However, with rapid economic development and continuous improvement in people's lives, the demand for such forest products as timber has increasingly grown. Therefore, it is vitally important to also bring about economic results to meet the growing demand for forest products.
The ability of forestry to achieve three major benefits lies in the quantity of forest and quality of the stands. The larger the quantity, the better the quality of stands, and the greater will be their ability to achieve the three major benefits. However, the present state of China's forestry is that forest resources are scarce, their distribution is uneven and stand poor, which fall far short of society's demands. Yong Wentao once gave a vivid description of this situation: even not felling a single tree across China would fall short of ecological benefits whereas felling all the trees in China would fall short of economic benefits. Consideration used to be given to the three major goals in general: firstly, all the forests should be used for timber production, and only later for ecological purposes. As a result, none of these benefits were achieved nor did forestry make much headway.
Mao Zedong said that among the various contradictions there is always a main and decisive one. Once this main contradiction is understood, others will be easily overcome. The main contradiction of forestry at present is that between society's growing demand for forest ecology and its backward productive forces. This main contradiction must be fully understood and the primary task of forestry is to find a solution to ecological conservation and ecological development. Given the present state of China's forest resources, an overall plan should be drawn up to meke use of its various functions to achieve benefits.
To meet the general requirements of the change from timber production to ecological development and abandon the practice of felling natural forests, these valuable resources must be protected. Timber production must therefore not rely on natural forests so that ecological conservation and development can be achieved. On the other hand, the emphasis on felling planted forests means that full use of the various functions of forests should be made, and fast-growing and high-yielding trees should be planted in selected areas where soil, manure, water, light, and heat are plentiful and where the ecological conditions are not so important so that the economic function of these forests can be fully exploited to fulfill the important task of providing society with forest products. This concept—of bringing about the best results through selective development—is a concrete application of Mao Zedong's philosophical thinking on forestry: “dealing with separate parts one by one while integrating them into a whole in the end.” In other words, the change from felling natural forests to felling plantations means that by giving priority to the achievement of ecological results, forestry's various functions can be coordinated and given free rein. This is a concrete expression of the guideline of giving “emphasis to ecological development” in forest management.
Why should natural forests be freed from the heavy burden of timber production? The reason is that they play a tremendous and irreplaceable role in regulating climate, conserving water sources, preventing water and soil erosion, protecting the diversity of living things, and maintaining the ecological balance. This role far outweighs the value of timber production.
Forests form the main part of the ecosystem on land, while natural forests constitute the main part of the land ecosystem. Natural forests are nature's most perfect, stable, and richest storehouse of carbon, genes, resources, water and energy, and have such functions as regulating the climate, conserving water sources, preventing soil erosion, providing shelter from wind, preventing sand-drifting, improving soil and reducing pollution, and play a decisive and irreplaceable role in improving the eco-environment, maintaining the eco-balance and protecting the basic environment for man's survival and development. Of the various types of ecosystems, natural forests has the most direct, important, and pivotal impact on man. Natural forests are the storehouse for genes of the life system on earth. There are some 5.30 million kinds of species on earth, including 250 thousand plant species, 45,000 vertebrate species, and 5 million non-vertebrate species, most of which live and procreate in natural forests. China is one of the countries in the world that is characterized with a rich diversity of living things. Its plant variety accounts for 10% of the world's total. There are 27,000 kinds of high-grade plants, ranking third in the world, of which angiosperm amounts to 53% of the world's total. Therefore, China can be called the homeland of the angiosperm. There are over 2,000 varieties of animals in China, making up 10% of the world's total, of which 450 are beasts, 1,186 are birds, 196 are amphibians, and 315 are reptiles. Over 50% of them live and procreate in natural forests.
Forests can be said to be the central control room of the eco-balance on land, while natural forests form the main component of the eco-balance. As part of the vast ecosystem on land, forests play an important part in regulating the dynamic equilibrium of the biosphere, the atmospheric layer, and the hydrosphere. As forests can turn the nonorganic into organic, and solar energy into chemical energy, they play a major role in energy and substance exchange between the biological and nonbiological world, and a pivotal and balancing role in maintaining the overall function of the ecosystem. Global water circulation is the most basic chemical circulation in the biological world. As the main part of the ecosystem on land, forests are tiny water storehouses in the distribution of global water, because they effect water circulation between land and the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration. In other words, land precipitation and steam returned to the atmosphere amount to 107 × 1015 kg per year, and 71 × 1015 kg per year respectively. Study has proven that the chemical circulation of phosphorus, potassium, and calcium in the bio-world through the forest ecosystem amounts to 30% in the world, while calcium circulation amounts to 69%.
Natural forests are also a treasure-house for maintaining the diversity of living things and preserving man's future wealth. The biodiversity on earth is the product of natural evolution over some 4 billion years, constitutes the main factor for human survival, and serves as both the source of all material wealth and the basis for the future survival and development of mankind. In the biodiversity system of the world, the land ecosystem, with forests as the main component, plays a crucial role while natural forests, as the main factor for protecting biodiversity, plays a conspicuous and irreplaceable role. Biodiversity is an essential condition for man's survival and development, because it not only provides man with indispensable bio-resources, but also constitutes the bio-world that man needs for survival. It also provides man with basic food. Of all edible plants, thirty are grains. Animals have been domesticated to provide food, and aquatic products have been produced from wildlife. From the perspective of development, the conservation of biodiversity has preserved both important genes for improving economic species, and material conditions for future bio-commodity production and ecological industrial development. It is hard to estimate the potential economic value of biodiversity conservation. At present, over half of the formulas for medical products come from wildlife and wild plants. In addition, biodiversity has provided man with much industrial and agricultural raw materials, while modern industry calls for exploitation of more bio-resources, such as raw materials and energy. With regard to the sustainable development of society and the economy, there is a huge potential value of biodiversity found in forest resources. It is possible that deepening man's understanding of biodiversity and the continuous development of biotechnologies, using the rich biodiver-sity resources of forests, may contribute significantly to the improvement of life and sustainable socio-economic and ecological development.
Hence, natural forests play a large role in social and economic developments. In other words, the conservation of natural forests is the basis for protecting China's ecological environment, and the biggest “ecological regulator” for protecting the land and the genes of species, as well as biodiversity and man's future.
Natural forests are China's national treasures. Protecting and developing them will contribute to building China into a beautiful land. Realizing this lofty cause will fulfill the call made by Jiang Zemin to the whole CPC and nation, and is a historic mission for all who work in the forestry department. This call was issued for the first time in his written instructions emanating from an investigative report on the ecological control of loess plateaus. His instructions, developing from the control of loess plateaus to the call for improving China's eco-environment, made clear the lofty mission of the Chinese people to transform the country. Comparing the past with the present, his instructions also called for beautifying the loess plateau which used to be lush and green, and described the bright prospect of the Chinese nation in building the country into a beautiful homeland:
What did the loess plateau look like in ancient times? It is recorded in the book of mountains and seas that during the rule of Emperors Yao and Shun, the loess plateau was “beautiful with green hills, dense grass, and tall ancient trees.” Commentary on the waterways describes the south of the loess plateau thus: “Shades of different trees overlap one another, and drooping cloud touches the rising smoke,” “Green cypress shelters the hilltops and clear springs flow from the hilltops,” and “rows upon rows of pine decorate rocks and tall cypress trees stand like guards.” In the Book of Songs Elegance you can find a vivid description of fertile soil and lush plants to the north of the Wei River of Shanxi Province.” In AD413 when Helian Bobo, leader of the Xiongnu came to the bank of the Wuding River in the north of the loess plateau, he exclaimed with admiration, “how beautiful this place is— close to the big river and many a clear spring! I've been to many places, but never seen such a beautiful place like this.” Therefore, he built a grand city here with magnificent palaces.
The description above prompts the question of what “the beautiful mountains and rivers” really mean. It means that China should become green. It is not beautiful if the land is bare. To turn China into a green country is a primary goal. However, to realize the goal of beautifying China's mountains and rivers, higher standards and objectives need to be set.
How did people describe the “beautiful mountains and rivers” in the past? Tao Hongjing, a medical scientist-cum-writer from Liang State during the Nan Dynasty, gave the following description: “The beauty of mountains and rivers has been a common topic since ancient times. Peaks pierce the clouds and clear water shows the riverbeds. Cliffs standing along both banks glitter with different colors, woods and bamboo are green all year round. The disappearance of the morning mist heralds the chorus of monkeys and birds, and the setting sun induces fish to play with water.” Thus, he called this scenery “a paradise on earth.”
And how did Tao Yuanming, a famous poet of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, describe the beautiful mountains and rivers? Everybody should be familiar with the following two famous lines of his: “Picking chrysanthemum beside the east fence and admiring the south hill at leisure.” The hill he admired must have been green with lush woods and clear streams, otherwise he would not have gazed at it “leisurely.” It is not wishful thinking, because the evidence can be found in his other two lines, “what a beautiful scene it is at sunset when the hill is enveloped in light mist and birds are flying back to their nests.” There must have been water in the south hill as it was full of mist at sunset. There must also have been trees on the hill because birds can only make nests on trees. What a lovely countryside scenery: the green hill, the dense woods, murmuring streams, and chirping birds! Tao Yuanming could not help admiring this rural scenery for he said at the end of his poem: “No words can describe the true meaning of this wonderful scenery.” And indeed, the natural beauty found full expression in this scenery. Intoxicated by it, the poet could not find words to describe it—that is, no words are better expression than words. Beautiful mountains and rivers must have the following four features: beautiful terrains, clear waters, green trees, and carefree animals.
Although green means the color of life, green alone without other colors is not enough to make the world colorful, vibrant with life, and full of vitality. However, man alone cannot survive because he needs animals which are not only the sources of his clothing and food, but also his companions and friends. In ancient times, man respected animals, and many nations regarded animals as their totems. Even today, people still have friendly and philosophical sentiments toward them.
Beautiful terrains, clear waters, green trees, and carefree animals give a true portrayal of ideal mountains and rivers. With these four features present in their distribution areas, natural forests form the hub of the beautiful terrains, with clear waters and green trees providing a paradise for carefree animals. Natural forests are the jewels of the beautiful mountains and rivers in China today, and the hope of the people tomorrow.
It is pitiful to see the plantations today compared with natural forests because there is no grass on the ground, no birds flying in the sky, and no beasts living in these forests. The plantations can take over the function of timber production from natural forests but they cannot provide the ecological benefits that natural forests can. Natural forests are the elite group of plants that can never be replaced by any artificial plant group. Forests are always full of life and energy, from one season to another, and new life prospers. Looking back at the development of natural forests, every change of ecological groups, be it the process of forest growth on rocks or the emergence of forests around rivers and lakes, has made the composition of these groups more complicated in structure than their previous ones, making better use of the environment and playing a bigger role in reforming the environment.
Today, when studying and exploring approaches to the sustainable development of society and the economy, people often call to mind an ancient thought in China: “unity of heaven and man.” What does “heaven” imply? An ancient Chinese philosopher held that heaven was the source of all creatures. It was also mentioned in the Book of Rites: Chapter Jiaotesheng that “All creatures in the universe originate from nature.” Then, what is “unity of heaven and man?” There was a famous saying in the book by Zhuang Zi, Discourse on Seeing all things as Equal: “Heaven and earth were born simultaneously with man and all creatures in the universe have coexisted with man since then.” Lao Tze illustrated this even more clearly when he said that, “The ways of men are conditioned by those of earth. The ways of earth by those of heaven. The ways of heaven by those of Tao, and the ways of Tao by the Self-so.” Thus, “unity of heaven and man” means that man should respect nature, model himself after nature, live amicably with Nature, and promote each other. It may be asserted that the idea of “unity of heaven and man” contains naive but rich materialist world connotations. Certainly, the idea of “unity of heaven and man” also implies some erroneous ideas, such as that man must unconditionally comply with nature, man is powerless in the face of nature, etc. This dross must be discarded. What should be assimilated and drawn from the idea of “unity of heaven and man” is that man should comply with nature, model himself after nature, and learn from the laws of nature, so that he can acquire a better understanding of nature and make use of and transform nature in a scientific and rational way according to the needs of man.
The history of Nature provided a vivid example of dialectics. The best forests that are seen today are natural forests. Having experienced many vicissitudes over a long period, these forests are biological communities that can best adjust to the natural environment and have the most rational composition and most stable functions. Such biological communities are models where plants, animals, and micro-organisms are interdependent, coexist amicably, and develop jointly. What they have demonstrated in a most vivid way is that man must respect nature, learn from nature, comply with nature, and model himself after nature. This will enable man and nature to coexist more harmoniously and promote each other, so that the development of forestry will be compatible with the needs of human progress.
At present, China has more than 106.67 million hectares of natural forests, and most of them are located around the source of the big rivers. They play a tremendous role in safeguarding the biological environment, and their ecological value is beyond estimation. There should be no delay in protecting these precious resources. In order to do this, programs for protecting these natural forest resources and for protecting wild animals and plants by establishing nature reserves have been launched. Since the implementation of these programs, the elite natural forests in nature reserves, have been given strict protection, and the commercial felling of trees in the natural forests on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River have been stopped completely. Timber production in the key state-owned forest zones in the northeast and Inner Mongolia have also been greatly reduced. This is a major decision that China has made.
Forest trees and forest produce are indispensable and irreplaceable resources for any country in its economic and social development. Timber is used most extensively. It is closely related to the construction, railways, vehicles, chemical, mining, and shipbuilding industries, and agriculture, and is also a necessary material in people's lives. The forest products industry, using timber as the raw material, can turn out many products of light industries, the chemical and the food industries, such as rosin, active carbon, tanning extracts, shellac, tannic acid, hydrolyzed alcohol, furfural, etc. Though new materials may continuously replace traditional ones, saving nonrenewable resources and making use of and developing renewable natural resources will be the direction and basis for the development of materials science. Forest resources are important renewable resources and will play an irreplaceable role in the development of the materials industry in future.
- Materials originating from forests are renewable. So long as there is rational utilization, there can be ceaseless utilization. Moreover, the materials originating from forest resources have great diversity and can satisfy the diverse needs of future generations in the spheres of production and life.
- Since the processing and utilization of forest resources, including timber, consume little energy, pollution of the environment is insignificant. Thus, they are ideal green materials.
- Materials produced from forest resources are easy to retrieve for further utilization and may reduce the consumption of natural matter to the maximum. It can be predicted that in the future, with the continuous improvement of technology in processing and utilizing forest resources, forests as a huge treasure-house of renewable natural matter will play an essential role in the development of the materials industry.
Since forest products have so many special features and advantages, especially with the daily growing of China's economy, the demand for timber and other forest products in national development and people's lives will become steeper. It is estimated by experts that by 2015, besides the demand for fuels, the annual demand for timber will reach 330–40 million cubic metres, and the shortfall will reach 140–50 million cubic metres. The growing demand is, to a great extent, a rigid demand. In recent years, China has imported large amounts of timber to meet the market demand. In 2001, China imported over 13 million cubic metres of logs, and if imported cardboard, paper, and pulp are included and converted into logs, the import volume would exceed 70 million cubic metres.
Ever since the program for protecting natural forests was put into operation, the supply of timber has been decreasing correspondingly. On the other hand, the demand for forest products by society has grown increasingly. The imbalance between supply and demand will be further aggravated. This has become a major problem in the development of forestry that must be resolved. It is unrealistic to rely on imports to satisfy the demand for timber in China over a long period. For one thing, as environmental problems gradually developed into a worldwide phenomenon, many countries have stepped up the protection of their own forests, particularly natural forests; for another, such a big trade volume is difficult for the world market to sustain over a long period of time. Therefore, China's inevitable option is to make great efforts to develop plantations in the shortest time possible in a bid to increase the supply of timber and resolve the imbalance between the supply and demand of timber.
A quick change from relying mainly on felling natural forests to felling plantations is the only way to further strengthen ecological development and satisfy the diverse needs of the national economy. Thus, reinforcing the protection of natural forests and developing man-made forests as quickly as possible are the two important avenues, neither of which should be neglected, for resolving the contradictions between ecological and economic needs. If well protected, the natural forests may undertake the primary task of protecting the ecological environment and play a vital role in ensuring the security of the national ecology, and at the same time, create relaxed conditions for the building of plantations in other areas. The faster the growing of plantations to shoulder the heavy responsibility of providing timber and other forest products, the sooner the imbalance between the supply and the demand of timber will ease. This will also alleviate the pressure of producing timber from natural forests, so that they can be allowed to bring about more ecological benefits. At the same time, natural forests, when recovered and rehabilitated, may enhance the stand quality, and allow the productive forces of forestland to improve greatly and bring about sustainable development, resulting in more forest products of different kinds for society and achieving a virtuous circle in forest management. This is the goal to be attained, to bring about a drastic change from relying mainly on felling natural forests to depending mainly on plantations.
The impact of the development of plantations on forestry in China is many-faceted.
- It will completely change the traditional structure of forest resources and play a decisive role in reducing the pressure on natural forests and decreasing the imbalance between supply and demand in regard to the total amount of resources. The development of plantations has accelerated the process of intensive management of production and brought about an internal expansion in reforestation.
- Plantations may bring about the optimization of the structure of timber production and the adjustment of the objectives of management. Plantations may, in the light of the requirements of their structure, region, function, and market, carry out directed breeding and adjust the structure of species and the age of the stand to meet the various and constantly growing needs of society and the economy.
- The continuous development of plantations and adaptation to the market economy have helped to reconcile the industrial distribution of forest resources with their capacity to supply regional resources, resulting in the optimization of forest resources, which in turn can better cater to the needs of natural economic conditions and social and economic development.
- The development of plantations and their orderly and effective utilization are favorable to increasing the economic income of forest farmers and the accumulation of wealth, thus generating enthusiasm among the broad masses of forest farmers in developing plantations. The ultimate hope for the development of forestry in China lies in arousing the enthusiasm of Chinese farmers.
Currently, China has 46.67 million hectares of plantations, including 24 million hectares of timber forests. The size of its plantations ranks China first in the world, accounting for 26% of the world total of 180 million hectares. Through accumulation over a long period, the plantations are playing an increasingly important role in the supply of timber. According to the national plan for felling trees in the period of the Tenth Five-Year Plan, the quota for felling plantations was to account for approximately 38%, but in the annual plans between 2001 and 2002 it reached about 60%, showing progress toward the stage of relying mainly on felling plantations. What should be noted, however, is that it was a result of macro-control by the government at a time when the quantity was hardly able to meet the market demand. It still has a long way to go to reach the level of “relying mainly on felling plantations” to meet the market demand. Therefore, it is important to quickly raise the level of management of man-made timber forests in China. Industrial belts can be set up and bases established for fast-growing and high-yielding forests through intensive management and directed breeding in areas where the conditions are good and no soil erosion will result. This is of great significance to the overall strategy of forestry development. Only when sufficient fast-growing and high-yielding timber forests are established and the productive forces of forestland raised so that smaller areas of forestland can produce more timber in a shorter cycle, can natural forests be protected in a fundamental and lasting manner. According to the plan for establishing areas of fast-growing and high-yielding timber forests, by 2015 China will generate 6.18 million hectares of new forests for industrial raw materials (for making synthetic fiberboards and pulp) and transform and improve 7.14 million hectares of low-yielding forests, so as to expand the bases with a total of 13.33 million hectares of fast-growing and high-yielding forests. When completed, the bases will be able to support the production of 13.86 million tons of pulp and 21.50 million cubic metres of synthetic fiberboards, as well as provide 15.79 million cubic metres of high-quality timber. By stepping up efforts to develop fast-growing and high-yielding forests, a new pattern of timber supply will gradually take shape, with bases for industrial raw material forests as the focal point, supported by ordinary plantations and, in some areas, supplemented by natural forests that will gradually yield to sustainable management through recovery and rehabilitation.
What needs to be explained is that the present move to enforce strict protection for natural forests does not mean that no felling will be allowed in future. It is only a temporary measure imposed in view of the fact that natural forest resources are decreasing drastically at the present time and the pressure on ecological protection is tremendous. By putting the program for protecting natural forests into operation, it is hoped that the precious natural forests in China will be recovered, rehabilitated, and restored with new vitality. When sustainable development and utilization have been achieved, natural forests in China may again to allowed to be felled appropriately.
The change from reclaiming land by deforestation to converting reclaimed land by reforestation is filled with a deep sense of history and a sense of responsibility of the times. At the present time, reclaiming land by deforestation can no longer be considered a victory of mankind over nature, but an abandonment of the cradle of civilization by mankind and a reversal of the process of development of civilization.
The change from reclaiming land by deforestation to converting unduly reclaimed land by reforestation is not only a fundamental measure to prevent soil erosion and desertification, but is also a more effective approach to optimize the structure of land utilization and to protect the ecological environment. The change has gone through a long historical process. The process reflects the course of a continuous deepening of mankind's understanding of Nature, and is also a process of mankind's continuous adjustment of its relationships with Nature, from reverence to destruction and then to adaptation.
Since mankind became a civilized society, the felling of forests and the seizure of forestland has never stopped. Reclamation of land by deforestation has always accompanied the march of civilization.
In the early stage of primitive civilization, felling forests to open up farmland was a decisive step to end an economy based mainly on gathering forest products, or leaving the forest for settlement. This was the second largest step to civilization, next only to the use of fire in the early history of mankind. It marked the beginning of a brand new era of civilization in the history of mankind, which was described by the famous sociologist Alvin Toffler as the “First Wave” of human history. Farming ensured, to a large extent, food and enabled mankind to gradually end the wandering life of hunting and establishing villages here and there. Because farming greatly raised the social productive forces at that time, class polarization and cities and countries came into being gradually. The appearance of farming was a great advancement of human civilization, and was an epoch-making event in human history. In this sense, it may be asserted that it was precisely because of the replacement of forests by farmland that the agricultural civilization was brought about and that the change from forests to farmland made tremendous contributions to the evolution and progress of mankind. The reclamation of land by deforestation in this historical period was absolutely more advantageous than disadvantageous, and the loss of forests was “for a worthy cause.”
In the period of the agricultural civilization, man's demands on forests were mainly expressed in such fields as timber and gathering of nuts, and the purpose for reclamation by deforestation remained the increase of farmland. However, the need to open up farmland was not the chief cause for large-scale extinction of forests at that time. In the period of the agricultural civilization, the development of social productive forces was at a relatively low level and population growth was slow. Therefore, the size of the land roughly corresponded with the demand of mankind for survival and development. For this reason, the pace for reclaiming land by deforestation was sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and the degree of damage to forests was relatively low. During the Shang Dynasty, the land in its territory had not yet been completely developed, and barren hills and wild forests were in existence everywhere. In the Western Zhou Dynasty period, King Liwang prohibited his people from making use of mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes to generate income. Till the Warring States Period, the prohibition of land reclamation began to undergo changes. In the political reform introduced by Shang Yang, an important statesman from the State of Qin, encouragement was given for the reclamation of wasteland, with a stipulation that those who earned more income from farming and weaving would be exempted from compulsory services. The reclamation by deforestation in this period may be assessed as “merits neutralizing demerits.”
What needs to be emphasized is that in this period the reclamation by deforestation caused only a limited degree of damage to forests. The main factors for mass felling and even destruction of forests and mass seizure of forestland were the development of cities, and the devastation caused by wars. They were the chief culprits of the destruction of forests in the period of the agricultural civilization.
Cities during the period of the agricultural civilization had insignificant functions of production and an undeveloped economy. They were mainly the political centres and the consumption centre for rulers. Autocratic emperors and feudal aristocracies in successive dynasties, for the purpose of their enjoyment and pleasure, carried out large-scale engineering programs to build palaces, pavilions, and mausoleums, using up incalculable forests. The first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (259-210BC), apart from building the well-known Afang Palace, constructed 145 palaces in the other six States. Furthermore, he put up 300 provisional imperial palaces in Guanzhong and 400 provisional palaces in Guanwai. Approximately 800,000 laborers were sent for the construction. It was far more serious than the description “With mountains in Shu State becoming barren, the Afang Palace was erected!” When Liu Bang of Han State ascended the throne, he moved the capital to Chang'an. He also embarked on large-scale development, and trees on the northern slope of the Qinling Mountains were felled almost completely. In the Eastern Han State, the capital was built in Luoyang. Emperor Lingdi built palaces by collecting timbers from many prefectures, including Taiyuan, Hedong, and Didao. Because the palaces could not be completed for years, the timbers went rotten (The Biographies of Eunuchs: The History of the Later Han Dynasty.) A folk song collected by the ancient Music Bureau gives a vivid description of the scenario of the wanton felling of forests for building palaces: “On the towering peaks of Nanshan Mountains, pines and cypresses grew luxuriantly, with their upper branches touching the cloud and their central parts growing as thick as over ten arm spans. Luoyang gave orders for central beams, and pines felt sorrowful secretly. Axes and saws cut pines to fall to the eastern or western side. Then transported by four-wheeled carts, they were sent to Luoyang for building palaces. One could not see the scenario without sighs, and could not help asking which mountains they were from. Who could engrave them? Carpenters like Gongshu Lu Ban. They were painted in red colour and smoked with storax. Originally pines of Nanshan Mountains, they were now beams of palaces.”
As for the destruction of forests by wars, no matter whether in terms of area or degree of destruction, the damage was fatal. Just as it was written in the book Zuo Zhuan, “In the Chengpu War, the commandant of Jin felled tall trees for the benefit of his soldiers. In the War of Yao, Xianzhen felled trees to stop the advance of Qin troops.” In the Spring and Autumn Period, the States of Wu and Chu contended for power and fought wars in the areas of the Yangtze and Huaihe rivers for more than 100 years, devastating almost all forests along the river banks. In the period of the Three Kingdoms, Zhuge Liang destroyed Bowang slope by fire and the eastern Wu State was also burned by fire, destroying Caocao's linked barracks stretching as long as 700 li (about 350 kilometers), and reducing innumerable forests to ashes.
In the early period of the industrial civilization, the pace of reclamation by deforestation was hastened. Compared with the previous periods, tremendous changes took place in both the nature of the demand for forests and the intensity in felling trees.
1. Felling forests was no longer merely to satisfy some needs in life, but for the accumulation of capital. In the early stage of the industrial civilization, the basic fuel used for all trades and professions was timber or charcoal. As a raw material, timber was also widely used in the building industry, arms manufacturing industry, paper-making industry, ship-building industry, mining industry (pit props), communications and transportation (sleepers and railway carriages), furniture-manufacturing industry, synthetic fiberboards, rayon and wood chemical industry. The demands on timber by industry resulted in a serious drain on forest resources. The development of industry also called for factory buildings, storehouses, shops, dwellings, cities, schools, highways, railways, etc. All these gave rise to a new demand for the acquisition of forestland for industrial use, posing a new threat. The seizure of forestland by these trades was irreversible, and the result was a complete destruction of forests and forestland. Once destroyed, forestland could never be restored.
When felling forests was done for the accumulation of capital and the demand of large industries, the intensity and speed of felling increased tenfold, and even a hundredfold. It became the motive for felling even larger quantities of forests, which in turn sustained demand and led to more destruction of forests through reclamation by deforestation. Felling forests was an important means in many countries, and even the main means in some, to accumulate capital. This was the characteristic in Russia where there was a “frenzied felling of forests.”
2. Up to the period of the Industrial Revolution, owing to the rapid growth of social productive forces and the population, the demand on farmland grew vigorously. Reclamation by deforestation became the most economical and quickest way to increase farmland. The overlapping of the demands for capital and for farmland caused the felling of forests in the early stage of the industrial civilization to reach a peak in history, and the speed at which forests were turned into farmland and pastures increased in an unprecedented manner. It may be said that the early stage of the industrial civilization was a period in which the destruction of forests was most serious, and which also witnessed a high rate of reclamation by deforestation. The influence of this state of affairs on later generations continued. Right up to the present, quite a few less-developed countries are still cutting forests incessantly in order to increase their exports or for food production.
It is undeniable that the mass felling of forests in the early stage of the industrial civilization made great contributions to the accumulation of capital and played a vital role in ending the feudal system and replacing it with the capitalist system. It therefore has significance in history. With the passage of time, up to the later stage of the industrial civilization, people gradually realized that, simultaneous with the accumulation of material wealth among society, the mass felling of forests brought about more and larger disasters. These disasters were mainly expressed in the following ways. Because of the loss of shelter by forests, soil erosion became more serious, the greenhouse effect more obvious, the quality of the air poorer, the biological species declining, and the environment for the survival of mankind more aggravated. It has been pointed out in the Global Environment Outlook 2000 published by the United Nations, that mankind's demand for farmland has turned 30% of forests into farming land. Looking back at the history of land reclamation by deforestation, people of the present time have found with deep regret that the negative effects of the reclamation by deforestation have grown, far outstripping the positive effects that it has brought to society, and that reclamation by deforestation has become one of the major contributing factors to the damage of the ecological environment, posing an impediment to sustainable social and economic development.
The shift from reclaiming land by deforestation to converting reclaimed land by reforestation is combined with a deep sense of history and a responsibility of the times. Viewed from the development of human history, mankind's civilization originated from forests. With the progress of mankind from the agricultural civilization to the industrial civilization, however, the destruction of forests has worsened, and forests have been reduced significantly. Reclaiming land by deforestation has had positive effects that are favorable to social and economic development, but with the development of the times, its negative effects have become more conspicuous and serious. Today, it has caused serious damage to nature and to sustainable development of society and the economy. Reclaiming land by deforestation is no longer the victory of man over nature, but an abandonment of the cradle of civilization and a desertion of the process of development of man's own civilization.
It can be seen from the history of the development of civilization that in the years from the birth of mankind to the 17th century, the relationship between mankind and nature was basically one of adaptation with reliance on and demand on each other, and mankind and nature could live amicably. However, after the 17th century, the industrial civilization brought about by the industrial revolution demonstrated two apparent tendencies of polarization: a rapid increase of social wealth on the one hand and an enormous drain on, and even damage to, natural resources and the natural environment, on the other. In the era of the industrial civilization, the “capability” of mankind to transform and control nature increased greatly, but at the same time, man's “ambition” to conquer nature expanded drastically. Human beings deemed themselves as the master of nature on earth, as if they could do whatever they liked. But mankind quickly received unexpected retribution. In this connection, Engels gave a classic comment. He said that human being should not be excessively intoxicated with their victory over nature. For every such victory, nature will retaliate. For every victory that is achieved initially, there will be different and unexpected effects later, often offsetting the earlier achievement. Karl Marx pondered deeply on this tragedy of civilization. In his letter to Engels, Marx remarked that civilization would only leave behind wilderness if it is a spontaneous development and not a conscious one.
Through reflection on history, people have finally realized that the industrial civilization was only a “spontaneous” civilization. Their understanding of nature was superficial, their knowledge inadequate, and their ideas undeveloped. Mankind began to seek for a more “conscious” civilization. In the mid-20th century, mankind finally began to learn lessons from bitter failures, and thus emerged the concern over the ecology and the theory of sustainable development. This marked a turning point when mankind began to reflect on development from the high plane of science and ideology, to seek a more rational and lasting path of development and pursue a more “conscious” social civilization. The history of human civilization is now marching toward a new stage of the ecological civilization, to learn from nature, conform to nature, and return to nature. The transition from the practice of reclaiming land by deforestation to converting reclaimed land by reforestation is a sign of the new ecological civilization that fits in with the demand of the times. It is a rational return to the natural state as mankind acquires a new understanding of the environment and the relationship between man and nature.
Reclaiming land by deforestation has been practiced for thousands of years in China, and the idea that “food is the first necessity of man” has been the major basis for formulating various policies. Beginning from the founding of the PRC up to the mid-90s, the question of food consistently troubled China in its development, and the effort to expand farmland at the sacrifice of forests did not stop even for a day. However, when the food question was solved, soil erosion and desertification became serious problems, and the ecological environment worsened. The annual soil losses in the Yangtze River valley and the Yellow River valley reached 2.4 billion tons, and 1.6 billion tons respectively. According to a survey, the major contributing factor for the soil erosion was the reclamation of land on steep slopes. At present, farmland on slopes of 25 degrees and above cover more than 6.06 million hectares, most of which are distributed in the western region. They are “the largest clans” causing soil losses. Owing to irrational farming methods and reclamation of land by deforestation, two-thirds of mud and sand carried into the Yangtze River and the Yellow River annually are from farmlands of this kind.
The Yellow River is the “mother” of the Chinese nation, having sustained the Chinese civilization. China's ancient civilization, the Yellow River civilization, was the most representative and influential. It was the birthplace of the Chinese nation, just as the Nile River was to ancient Egypt, “the two rivers (Euphrates River and Tigris River)” to ancient Babylon, and the Indian River and the Ganges River to ancient India. The prolonged reclamation of land by deforestation has caused some places to become barren. The middle reaches of the Yellow River have become the most serious example of soil erosion in China. The development of a civilization earned by unlimited extraction from nature will certainly suffer from merciless punishment by nature. The rolling Yellow River continues to bring along mud and sand. This has not only made people in the middle and upper reaches live in an extremely harsh environment for production and life, but has also given rise to a hanging river in the lower reaches, seriously endangering the security of people's lives and property. More than twenty years ago, some farsighted people pointed out that there was a danger that the Yangtze River might become a second Yellow River. This was by no means sensational. Owing to the excessive felling of trees and the reclamation of land on steep slopes for farmland, the function of forests for conserving headwater has diminished, the loss of soil has been aggravated, and the lakes and reservoirs along the Yangtze River have silted up, resulting in the raising of the riverbed and successive floods. The worst flood in 1998 once again sounded the alarm bell.
It is imperative to stop reclaiming land by deforestation and to convert reclaimed land by reforestation. Promoting this change vigorously will not only help to control the loss of soil and prevent river floods, but will also be conducive to the expansion of forest resources, the protection and improvement of the ecological environment in large regions, and accelerate the establishment of the ecological system in China. Implementing this will shift the strategy of “taking agriculture as the foundation of the national economy,” that is, “to take food production as the key link” to a new resolve “to develop forestry to promote agriculture,” or “to improve the ecology to enable food production in return,” thus strengthening the position of agriculture as the foundation of the national economy. At present, converting reclaimed land by reforestation is the fundamental measure for preventing soil erosion and desertification. This is of decisive significance to the permanent harnessing of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. It is also the most realistic and effective way to adjust the mode of rural production, to boost domestic demand, and to increase the income of farmers, which will be warmly welcomed by hundreds of millions of farmers. From a long-term perspective, it is a way to compensate for the debts owed by mankind to nature, and is also a way to create and expand future ecological benefits.
By assuming overall control and making a correct assessment of the situation, the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council have seized the opportunity to make a major policy decusuib by launching the program to convert reclaimed land by reforestation. This program for forest ecological development involves very extensive areas, has a huge task to fulfil, the largest investment to make, and requires the strongest commitment and fullest participation of the masses. On completion of the program, 14.67 million hectares of sloping fields will be turned to forestland. With the reforestation of 17.33 million hectares of barren hills, the newly added forest area will amount to 32 million hectares. This will increase the forest cover by 4 percentage points. It is bound to end the history of land reclamation by deforestation in China, which lasted for several thousand years, and usher in a new era of rational utilization of land resources. It will be a great historical turn.
Exchange at equal value is the most fundamental law in a market economy. Unpaid utilization of forest ecological benefits is equal to unpaid possession of forest products. This is a renunciation of the law of the market economy, and is also the deep-seated cause for the slow development of production in forestry, especially the ecological forest for public benefit.
The change from unpaid to paid utilization of forest ecological benefits is a major innovation in forestry. What it hopes to achieve is to enable the strategic change of “giving first place to ecological development” to establish itself fully in the economic field.
In theory, the change from unpaid to paid utilization of forest ecological benefits is to make the external benefits of forests become internalized.
Just like timber which is a product of the forest, ecological benefits are also forest products, and very important ones at that. However, these ecological benefits have different properties in that they are not real objects but are abstract and their values cannot be traded through direct exchanges. Their consumption process cannot be defined, and people may enjoy forest ecological benefits at any time and in any place without immediate payment for this enjoyment. Therefore, forest ecological benefits find expression in the external benefits of forest production and at the same time in the enormous social benefits enjoyed freely by the public.
According to external economic theory, a part of the benefits produced by people in their activities cannot be enjoyed by themselves, and this part of the benefits is defined as external benefits. If undertakings with external benefits cannot get corresponding compensation in their operation, there will be no incentive for the essential factors of production to flow in, and social and public-interest undertakings will not develop. Forest ecological benefits are a major manifestation of the nature of public interest in forestry. To forest producers and managers, forestry has very large external benefits. Under the structure of a socialist market economy, to continue providing free utilization of forest ecological benefits obviously will not be compatible with the basic law of a market economy and will be unfavorable to the development of forestry, especially ecological forests for public benefit. Therefore, it is necessary to follow the most fundamental law of a market economy, that is, adjust the mechanism of interests in forestry, find an effective way to internalize the external benefits of forests, and gradually realize paid utilization of forest ecological benefits, so that the exploitation of ecological benefits will have an economic base.
In practice, a change from unpaid to paid utilization of forest ecological benefits will require the protection of the basic interests of forest farmers and support for a healthy and sustained development of ecological forests for public benefit.
The ecological function is a natural attribute of a forest, and the exploitation of ecological benefits must be predicated on the existence of the forest entity. Once a forest is cut down, its ecological function will vanish immediately, and the exploitation of its ecological benefits will come to an end. If timber production is taken as the representative of the economic benefits of a forest, then timber production and the exploitation of ecological benefits repel each other. Both have strong exclusive tendencies at a certain stage. In this sense, it may be asserted that the exploitation of forest ecological benefits is preconditioned on the sacrifice or abandonment of economic benefits over a considerably long time. This is a remarkable characteristic in the relationship between the ecological and economic benefits of a forest. This characteristic is expressed especially strikingly in the management of ecological forests for public benefit, such as shelter forests, water source preservation forests, and wind-checking and sand-fixing forests. Owing to the fact that the exploitation of ecological benefits should be taken as a primary task, the commercial felling of ecological forests designated for public benefit will not be allowed and hence, the exploitation of economic benefits will amount to almost nothing. If unpaid utilization of ecological benefits continues, the management of ecological forests for public benefits will not generate any income. This will not be acceptable to any forest manager. Even ecological forests for public benefit are developed with the State's investment, and if there is no rational and lawful income derived from their management, it will be difficult to meet the expenses for management, such as the cost of cultivation, management, and protection of forests, and the prevention and control of diseases and pests. Such ecological forests can in no way sustain over a long period. Therefore, the paid utilization of forest ecological benefits is a rational reciprocation for the work of forest managers and is the basic precondition for maintaining the reproduction of forests. Especially for the managers of ecological forests for public benefit, paid utilization of the benefits is the most basic and important source of income for maintaining forest management, and is the primary condition for the simple reproduction of these forests. Only when paid utilization of forest ecological benefits is realized, can forest production be carried out smoothly, and forests for public benefit be developed in a healthy and sustained manner.
To implement the policy on the paid utilization of forests certainly requires special social and historical conditions. This conforms with the subjective and objective conditions for formulating the guiding policy of “giving the first place to ecological development” in forestry. The transition from unpaid to paid utilization of forest ecological benefits is a process of continuous deepening of mankind's understanding of the function and value of forests. It is also the process of a continuous merging of the development of forestry and social and economic developments, and an enhancement of the intensity and level of support to forestry by social and economic forces. The State Council's Notice on Further Strengthening the Work of Afforestation and Greening in 1993 explicitly provided that the system on collecting compensation for ecological benefits of forest should be put into practice step by step. It was clearly provided further in the Forest Law of the PRC, amended in 1998, that, “The State shall establish a fund to compensate for the use of ecological benefits in order to protect forest resources and promote the planting, cultivation, protection, and management of trees in shelter forests and forests for special purposes that provide ecological benefits.” The affirmation of the system of compensation for ecological benefits by government regulation and state law shows that the conditions are becoming more conducive for implementing paid utilization of ecological benefits.
In the course of the transition from unpaid to paid utilization of ecological benefits, two major breakthroughs have been made to date. They are the implementation of the six key programs and the system of compensation for forest ecological benefits, which are discussed below.
5.5.1 The Implementation of the Six Key Programs
The implementation of the six key programs show that China has ended the unpaid utilization of forest ecological benefits and entered a new stage of paid utilization of forest ecological benefits.
Forest ecological benefits have the prominent characteristic of being external. Currently, forest ecological benefits are only an abstract concept, as many functions in the exploitation of ecological benefits are intertwined, and the direction of various ecological functions is not clear. Hence, the objects of the service, that is, the objects that enjoy ecological benefits, cannot be defined, and the entire society is utilizing these benefits without payment. Therefore, in the initial phase of paid utilization, administrative measures are often adopted, and the State makes compensations for utilizing these benefits on behalf of the entire society. In the past, the State made investments for a batch of forest programs, but the total amount of investments at that time was small, and the investment per-unit area of a program was inadequate even for buying saplings. The voluntary labor of large numbers of farmers was mainly utilized to carry out such programs, to say nothing of compensation for forest ecological benefits. Since entering the new century, China has successively launched the six key programs. The volume of investment for the programs was basically decided according to the actual needs of the programs, which far exceeded the input level of any afforestation program in the past. Of the six programs, five are ecological in nature, and large-scale high-standard purchases of and compensation for forest ecological benefits were carried out by China for the first time in the form of “large state programs.” The programs on the conservation of natural forest resources and the establishment of areas for conserving wild animals, plants, and nature may be regarded as purchases of and compensations for the ecological benefits of the existing forests. The program for converting reclaimed land by reforestation, that for the control of wind and sand sources in the Beijing and Tianjin areas, and that for the building of shelter forests in three northern areas (China's northeast, central north, and northwest regions) and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, are considered as purchases in advance for the ecological benefits of future forests. Such purchases of and compensations for forest ecological benefits in the form of state programs are basically one-off compensations. The advantage is that as the amount for purchases and compensations is large, it is easy to see the effects in a short time. The drawback is that as the one-off compensation lags behind and does not have follow-up measures, there will be no continuity in the compensation for ecological benefits, and it will not become systematic.
5.5.2 The System of Compensation for Forest Ecological Benefits
The establishment of a system of compensation for forest ecological benefits marks a new phase in the move toward the institutionalization and legalization of paid utilization of forest ecological benefits.
In 2001, the state financial authorities invested 1 billion yuan as funds for conducting an experiment to subsidize ecological benefits at selected points in 658 counties and twenty-eight state-level natural conservation areas in eleven provinces involving 13.33 million hectares of key shelter forests and forests for special purposes. It was a hallmark breakthrough in the history of the development of forestry in China. This was the first crucial step taken by China toward the institutionalization and legalization of paid utilization of ecological benefits. In the history of the development of forestry in the contemporary world, there is no developing country that has made direct compensation on such a large scale for forest ecological benefits.
The establishment of the system of compensation is a great leap forward. It is an effective and rational allocation of social resources to meet the objective requirements of the laws of the market economy by applying an economic means (not by an administrative means of the government), and a good example of paid utilization of forest ecological benefits. The current experiment at selected points was only a subsidy at a relatively low level, but it means that the form of compensation for forest ecological benefits has risen from a “state project” to a “state system,” and has expanded from a “governmental act” to a “social act,” thus opening up a constant, reliable, and stable channel for developing ecological forests for public benefit.
The paid utilization of ecological benefits is very complicated and difficult, involving many interests. It is sensitive in terms of policy and there is much work to be done. There are also many difficulties and problems demanding prompt solutions. The following questions need to be addressed.
126.96.36.199 Who should receive compensation
Some people may understand this literally, holding that what is to be compensated for will be the ecological benefits of forest. This is a misunderstanding. Forest ecological benefits are a natural attribute of a forest, for which there is no question of compensation. Just like wind energy and tidal energy which may be used to generate electricity, there is absolutely no need to make compensation. The forest ecological benefits discussed here are provided by forests that have been planted, managed, and protected by forest managers. They are invisible products which are the externalization of the fruits of labor of forest managers. Owing to the exclusive nature of the forest economic benefits, when these benefits are exploited, a forest has to limit and even sacrifice the exploitation of its economic benefits, and forest managers may thus reduce and even forfeit economic income. The compensation for forest ecological benefits is, in essence, a payment for the loss suffered by forest managers in this regard, and for the labor income of laborers who have created these benefits.
188.8.131.52 How should the standard of compensation be fixed
Quite a few experts and scholars have applied various methods to calculate forest ecological benefits and obtained many results in their research. These numerical values reflect the objective existence of forest ecological benefits, playing a graphic and visual part in publicizing the vital role of forests and deepening the understanding of the entire society of the significance of developing forestry. Can this be taken as the standard of compensation for forest ecological benefits? It may not be appropriate.
- In the results obtained through various quantitative research of ecological benefits today, the specific numerical values are not the same, but seen as a whole, the amounts are extremely large. On the one hand, it shows that forests have indeed large ecological benefits, and on the other hand, the amounts are so large that society can in no way compensate for these benefits according to the amounts. It is reasonable that forest ecological benefits cannot be compensated for completely. This is because in accordance with the theory of external benefits in economics, no external benefits can be compensated for completely. A part, and even a greater part, of external benefits are enjoyed without payment by others and by society. This is one of the prominent characteristics of external benefits.
- Looking at the essence of forest ecological benefits, as analyzed above, what is compensated for is the loss of the labor income of forest managers. Therefore, in settling the standard of compensation, one should firmly grasp the link between the interests of forest managers and the ecological benefits enjoyed.
It is stipulated in the Forest Law of the PRC that the compensation for ecological benefits shall be mainly used for the planting, cultivation, protection, and management of shelter forests and forests for special purposes. That is to say, the compensation for forest ecological benefits at present is ecological protection for public benefit. This fully conforms with the national and forest conditions in China. Therefore, the standard of compensation for ecological benefits should, firstly, ensure the simple reproduction of ecological forests for public benefit. This is the most basic requirement for the survival and development of such forests, and should also be the minimum standard of compensation for forest benefits. With the continuous improvement of the system of compensation and the further increase of the state financial resources, the level of compensation can be raised gradually to make it possible for the managers of ecological forests to earn average profits for their management under similar conditions. Only in this way can a long-term, stable, and healthy development of ecological forests for public benefit be guaranteed.
184.108.40.206 How can paid utilization of forest ecological benefits be further extended
At present, the main form of paid utilization of ecological benefits is the compensation made by the State on behalf of the entire society through state forest projects. This is the initial stage of the paid utilization of ecological benefits. With the extensive implementation and continuous improvement of the system of compensation, the State will no longer act as the direct builder, purchaser, and compensator of ecological benefits, but will change its role from “state purchaser” to “state coordinater.” The State will play a new role in macro control, such as formulating rules, deciding on standards, regulating services, and strengthening management. By means of macro control, such as legislation, taxation, and redistribution of national income, the State will establish a rational mechanism of compensation such that the “one who receives benefits will make compensation and the one who receives more benefits will make more compensation.” This will conform to the basic principles and rules of operation of the market economy, and realize legalization and institutionalization.
In accordance with this line of thought, paid utilization of ecological benefits should fit in with the basic requirements for the development of the socialist market economy. According to the principles of commodity production and exchange of equal values, business operators who make use of or utilize forest ecological benefits for business activities and earn profits should pay compensations to the producers of these benefits based on the principle of “users pay.” Take the following as an example.
There is an exchange between the protection of ecological forests for public benefits and carbon emission indexes. According to the rules of the Kyoto Protocol, a system of emission indexes will be adopted with regard to the emission of greenhouse gases. Some countries have started fixing exchange rates for the emission and absorption of greenhouse gases. According to a report in Asahi Shimbun (Japan) on June 9, 2002, in order to reduce the volume of emission of greenhouse gases, Japan would introduce “a system of keeping scores on the reduction of greenhouse gases” to purchase the fruit of reduction, carbon dioxide, at a price of 50 Japanese yen for every kilogram. The Environment Agency planned to appropriate a special-item fund of 200 million yen in the budget for 2003 to support the implementation of this system. Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas emitted and the forest is the largest bio-community to absorb it. Therefore, the exchange of carbon emission indexes will provide enormous scope for the cultivation of forests. Carbon emitters may probably be the biggest users of future ecological benefits. As China has decided to sign the Kyoto Protocol, this approach should arouse much attention.
Large water-source conservation forests on the upper reaches of big rivers can benefit from the income generated by the economically developed areas on the lower reaches. China may consider enacting “an ecology tax” in the economically developed areas on the lower reaches of big rivers, and the tax collected will be used especially to compensate for the establishment of water-source conservation forests on the upper reaches.
The ecological benefits of quite a few forests (such as reservoir water-source conservation forests, wind-checking and sand-fixing forests, landscape forests, green passage project forests) have definite objects of consumption. A certain proportion of the special funds from the economic incomes of the utilizers of ecological benefits of these forests should be taken and used for compensating the relevant forest managers.
The system of payment by the utilizers of forest ecological benefits conforms with the basic principles of the socialist market economy, and is favorable to the establishment of a fair exchange relationship between the production and utilization of forest ecological benefits, the guarantee of the lawful and rational interests of the builders of ecological forests for public benefit, and the promotion of a healthy and sustained development of these forests. According to this principle, a corresponding and clear-cut relationship of commodity exchange should be established between the utilizers and producers of ecological benefits. Therefore, the system for payment was set up.
The establishment of this “system for payment by utilizers” will have a tremendous effect on the producers and utilizers of forest ecological benefits.
As far as the producers are concerned, to adapt themselves to the new types of demand, it is imperative to change the modes of cultivation and management. In order to meet the demands of the utilizers, the cultivation of ecological forests for public benefit should have its emphasis changed to the cultivation of special-purpose forests for public benefit that can provide certain ecological functions. In this way, forest ecological benefits will become a type of “service,” and a specialized and directed system of forest ecological service will be built up step-by-step.
As far as the utilizers are concerned, when they become paid utilizers of forest ecological benefits, they will understand more deeply that these benefits do not come by easily, and so will appreciate the forests even more.
Certainly, the establishment of “the system for payment by utilizers of forest ecological benefits” will not be easy. Because of the free use of these benefits over a long period of time, there is a mistaken belief in society that there is “no price to pay for forest ecological benefits”. People will not be able to accept easily the idea that they must pay for utilizing forest ecological benefits. In particular, those business operators who have enterprises related to forest ecological benefits will be opposed to the system as it will affect their vested interests. Therefore, the implementation of this system will not be accepted spontaneously and naturally. It will have to be a new mechanism set up compulsorily by the state in the light of the need for strengthening the protection and creation of a forest ecological environment. This requires intense publicity on the significance of paying for the utilization of forest ecological benefits so that society can have a better understanding of forestry and support it. At the same time, the function of the State must be reinforced for macro control. When the protection and building of the ecological environment has been advanced and sustainable development of the national economy and the society has been promoted, suitable conditions must be prepared to introduce “the system of payment by utilizers of forest ecological benefits” at an early date, in order to ensure the development of ecological forests for public benefit.
Forestry managed by a particular sector (Forestry Departments) has suffocated the vitality of forestry development. The experience of the development of Shanghai shows that an open policy generates an advanced productive force. Only when forestry is placed in the surging tide of social and economic development and its development becomes a shared responsibility of the whole society, can broad prospects be created for its development in the new century.
The change from forestry administered by a particular sector to its development by the whole society represents a change in the principal component of forestry and its mechanism of development. This is an important guarantee for success in advancing forestry in the new period.
For a long time, forestry had been regarded as “an important sector of material production in the national economy.” This is the classic image of forestry administered by a particular sector. It is closely related to the general practice of a planned economy and bears a striking resemblance to it.
1. The target of production was unitary. Giving priority to timber production was the most important task for the forest sector.
2. The ownership and management mechanism was unitary. The forest sector was dominated by state ownership and collective ownership, leaving no place for other economic sectors.
3. The principal task of forestry development was limited. The development of forestry became the responsibility of a sole sector, and the professional work was done by the State Forestry Administration and its staff. In the rural areas, because of the malpractices of collective management and the practice of “eating from the same big pot,” forest management had no direct links with the interests of the farmers. The farmers were thus not enthusiastic about forest production, and the development of forestry could hardly garner support from the farmers. Corresponding to this was the fourth special feature, that is, the low income derived from forestry. The interests of the vast number of forest farmers were not given just attention. In addition, the proportion of forest taxes and charges account for more than half of the timber price, or even higher.
Owing to various malpractices in forestry managed by a particular sector, the scope of forestry was confined to trade in timber, and thus the vitality for the development of forestry was suffocated. Consequently, the speed of development has been very slow. Comparing the indexes over the fifty years since the founding of New China, the annual growth of forested areas was only 0.1 percentage point, far from meeting the pressing demands of the national economy.
How can the passive position of forestry managed by a particular sector be changed? In the course of deliberations on this problem, the experience of Shanghai was cited as one from which lessons can be learnt.
In 1986, the State Council agreed that Shanghai should become a city and would be specially designated as such in the state plan. Shanghai lost no time in seizing this opportunity. As a latecomer, Shanghai took the policy of opening to the outside world as the key to its development. The future of Shanghai was planned around five big centres—an international financial centre, an economic centre, a trade centre, a shipping centre, and an information centre. It incorporated its own development into the general plan for national and international economic development. Through its opening to the outside world, it encouraged the utilization of foreign investment to make up for the shortage of development funds. During the period of the Ninth Five-Year Plan, Shanghai's newly contracted foreign investment and actual utilization of foreign funds were respectively 1.5 and 1.7 times of those in the previous three Five-Year Plans. Up to the present, the countries and regions from where investments flowed into Shanghai numbered over 100. In 2000, the foreign investment introduced by Shanghai reached US$4.8 billion, an increase of 140% over the previous year. By the end of 2000, Shanghai had approved 22,200 projects, with foreign investment totalling US$45.5 billion, and actual utilization of US$30.89 billion. With continuous opening up, Shanghai introduced not only funds but also technologies and people of talent. This also reflected the extent and development of China's reform process, from superficial change to deeper ones and from general ones to directed ones. In the early stage of the reform, three types of processing (processing of imported raw materials, assembling imported parts, and processing according to imported samples) plus compensation trade were the main activities, and much experiences and lessons were gained—for example, in compensation trade and the introduction of foreign funds. Closely following it was the introduction of management and technologies, as well as the hiring of people with talent. In Pudong, foreign experts from scores of countries were hired to work. At the same time, Shanghai sent out large numbers of service laborers for building, fishing, and catering businesses and to undertake designing, consulting, and contracting projects in over fifty countries in the world at different times.
Shanghai has continuously displayed a consciousness for innovation. The reason why Shanghai has now become a bright star in China's economy and a place that is drawing world attention is that all trades and professions have been imbued with a sense of not being a content with the status quo. As people have the sense of urgency and an awareness of innovation, profound changes have taken place. Time is precious for Shanghai people, especially for those whose thinking has undergone changes. Their sense of time, profession, morality and money have all changed. In Shanghai, time is money. They seize every minute or second, abide by the law, and know how to make money, having both the fine virtues of the working class left by the traditional industries and the astuteness of present-day businessmen. This is the characteristic of the new generation in Shanghai. The sustained and rapid development of the economy of Shanghai is inseparable from the consciousness of innovation brought about by the opening up of the country.
The innovative spirit of the Shanghai people has made it possible for them to attain immense benefits. In order to change the backward outlook in the urban development of Shanghai, they have emancipated their minds, broken through the restrictions of old ideas and policies and boldly advanced in a pioneering spirit. They have adopted the international practise of bidding for land-use rights, created a precedent in utilizing foreign funds on a large-scale for bidding infrastructural facilities, and accumulated a set of experiences. With the completion of major projects, such as the inner ring subway and the Yangpu Bridge, a new pattern in communications has emerged in Shanghai, with the simultaneous development of air and land communications and the linkup of Pudong and Puxi. Shanghai is now just like Manhattan—it has the image of an international metropolis. In particular, the development of Pudong in Shanghai has created many national firsts: the first bonded area, the first joint-venture department store, the first foreign insurance company, etc. Shanghai has created a win-win situation by opening up to the outside world, making it a model for the whole country.
Opening up to the outside world and boldness in innovation have contributed greatly to the acceleration of development. Firstly, they have promoted the formation and development of new and advanced technologies by seizing every precious opportunity. By absorbing and applying these technologies and secondary innovation, the basic industries such as energy, post and telecommunications, communications, and iron and steel have reached new heights. The output of Baoshan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. in one year is double the sum total of the national output in the past because of its complete modernization. Today, three-quarters of the industrial enterprises have been transformed by the introduction of technologies and equipment, with the result that the overall level of industrial technology in Shanghai has advanced by twenty years. The reform and opening of China to the outside world have pushed development forward in Shanghai, helping it to advance by twenty years under regular conditions.
Shanghai has made full use of various foreign funds and human resources, and fulfilled the task of urban development in ten years, which would have normally taken 100 years to fulfil with regular appropriation of funds by the government, as was done in the past. Shanghai has achieved a historic leap in development. How has this rapid development in Shanghai been achieved? It has relied on opening up. The experiences of Shanghai may be summed up in one sentence: “Opening up represents an advanced productive force which promoted the dynamic development of social forces.”
Shanghai's experiences have given forest workers tremendous encouragement. It is precisely because Shanghai has opened up to the outside world with extraordinary magnanimity and broad vision that it has scored great achievements and earned the support of the whole country, and arrested the attention of the whole world. The attributes of forestry determine that it belongs to the whole society. However, China's forestry, run by a particular sector for a long time, has greatly suffocated, draining the vitality for development, just like fettering a big dragon in a small shallow pond. In the new century, with priority being shifted to ecological development, forestry is heading into a period of overall development. The forestry managed by a particular sector can in no way accommodate the momentum of development, with changes taking place daily. In order to realize the shift in the management of forestry to the whole society, it is imperative to give it a broader and fuller scope of development and release the big dragon as soon as possible.
The shift in the management of forestry to the whole society is necessary because of the special features related to the development of forestry. Since the initiation of reforms and opening up, forestry has been made the responsibility of the whole society and the nationwide afforestation drive has seen real results. In particular, the vigorous “afforestation on barren hills and wasteland” after the mid-1980s has played an important role in the development of forestry in China. Since entering into the new stage of development, the six key programs have been launched. As a result, forestry has been upgraded to become a social program that requires the attention of the whole society, the high rate of participation by the public, and the energetic cooperation and support of all. It cannot be compared with any other project in the development of forestry in the past in terms of the extent of the scope involved, the difficulty of the task, the richness of the contents of development, and the large volume of investment. It is not only a matter that concerns the forestry sector, but also an engineering project, and the will of the State. It can hardly be done by relying only on the strength of the forestry sector. Objectively, it requires the energetic support and enthusiastic participation of the whole society. Bringing about the change will help to crystallize the consensus of the society and draw the interest, attention, and support of all people to forestry, and help to further attract social productive factors and expand the forces for forestry development. It will also help to invigorate the operating mechanism in forestry, so that it becomes an undertaking that has duties, responsibilities, interests and vitality, which will help to promote the transformation of the functions of the forest sector, in order to provide good public services, and law enforcement and supervision.
Forestry run by the whole society in the new period requires a change in the main direction of forestry. Along with the change from giving priority to timber production to that of ecological development, the task of forestry development has undergone major transitions— from the sole aim of timber production to the derivation of diversified benefits of forestry, particularly giving a prominent place to ecological development. This has resulted in the expansion of forest areas under management and the unprecedented difficulties of the task of forestry development. The forest sector alone cannot fulfil such a tremendous task. It must have the unanimous attention, support, and participation of the whole society. When forestry becomes the responsibility of the whole society, it will be liberated from the narrow stream of the sector and allow it to converge into the surging torrent of the whole society.
Forestry run by the whole society in the new period requires further opening up in many fields and in all directions. The drawbacks of the unitary system of public ownership which existed for a long time should be resolutely overcome to attract extensively all social funds and all forms of ownership to participate actively in the development of forestry. So long as enterprises, social organizations, or individuals want to do something for forestry, they will find a role to play. Particularly in the development of commercial forests, it is necessary to establish unswervingly the guidelines of the market economy by opening up to the whole society. A preferential policy should be formulated to attract social resources to flow toward the development. Great efforts should be made to develop non-public forests, and priority should be given to the development of commercial forests to inject new vigor into forestry.
- All forces should be mobilized for its development, with the policy as the guide and the principle of material interests as the core, in an endeavor to achieve multipolarity of the main purpose of forestry development.
- By giving emphasis to the rights of disposal by the owners of forestland, and the relaxing of forest taxes and charges, the lawful rights and interests of forest managers will be guaranteed, and the development of non-public forests will be encouraged and stimulated. The forest sector should do well in overall planning and coordinating services. It should not seek the ownership of but the flourishing of forestry.
Forestry run by the whole society in the new period requires a further transformation of government functions. Governments at all levels should, in line with the overall interest of developing the national economy and society, bear the responsibility of establishing social public services. Therefore, it is a duty of utmost importance for governments at all levels to lay stress on forestry. In accordance with the unified planning of the State Council and the requirements of “the five-point directive to be carried through by all provinces,” all provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government) should be responsible for the implementation of the forest ecological projects in their respective areas, the formulation of regional plans for forest ecological development, and their link-up with the six major state projects. This will bring about a new situation in which all-round consideration and arrangements are made for the nation as a whole. Thus, coordination between the leadership and the rank and file will be secured, and emphasis is given to key areas, while the overall requirements are being pushing forward.
Forestry run by the whole society in the new period requires the launching of a nationwide voluntary tree-planting drive, with emphasis on raising the fulfilment rate. To ensure success, the campaign should be enriched and improved continuously and efforts should be made to raise the fulfilment rate especially among people of the right age so that the tree-planting drive can develop in depth and breadth. At the same time, it must fit in with the demands of the market economy, by consciously applying the market mechanism and economics and arouse the enthusiasm of the people in pursuing the overall objective of improving the ecological environment. Regional economic and social development will also help to increase farmers' income and alleviate poverty. A determined effort should therefore be made to link the six key programs with the vital interests of the broad masses of the people so that they can take the programs as their own. They will then put all their efforts into the development of ecological projects, in the course of which the interests of the vast number of farmers will be met.
The whole program requires intensified efforts in publicity. Strong public support will result in more participation in forestry development as it becomes a conscious action of every citizen. All citizens will be motivated to both care for and support forestry in the fundamental interests of sustained development of the economy and the society, and thus, of the entire nation, and dedicate themselves to forestry for their own survival and development. The roles of the armed forces, the Chinese Communist Youth League, and the departments concerned should be enhanced. A study should also be conducted for the establishment of a constrained mechanism for all trades and professions and all departments to perform their obligations conscientiously by participating in and supporting the development of forestry.
In promoting the five major transitions, both difficulties and hopes arise as well as challenges and opportunities exist. The degree to which the five major changes are promoted determines the future of the development of forestry. It will be really terrific if it is well done but it will be terrible if it is not. It is important that people have the spirit of holding themselves highly responsible to the CPC and the people, and ensure the smooth promotion of the five major transitions.
What should be emphasized is that it is necessary to acknowledge the difficulties and complexities in promoting the five major transitions. They represent a gradual process of change from the quantitative to the qualitative, a process of rapid development of forestry, one with pains and hardships but full of hope.
The transition from a focus on timber production to giving priority to ecological development is a strategic choice made to suit the new demands on forestry as a result of the development of the national economy and society. The choice itself is a historic reform. It must be noted that the reason why the policy of “giving priority to timber production” has been stopped at present is not because the mission for the development of forestry in this period has been accomplished. On the contrary, there is a strong demand for forest products, especially timber, in national development and people's lives in the present stage, and the gap between the supply and the demand of timber is still huge. However, compared with the demand for timber, the need for a good ecological environment by society is stronger and more urgent. Forestry should play a bigger role in the protection and improvement of the ecological environment and safeguard it. It is precisely because of this that the policy of “giving priority to timber production” has been terminated and the emphasis in forestry work shifted to “giving priority to ecological development.”
The road to realize this historic change will be rough. On the one hand, it is necessary to take ecological development as the most important task and give it priority in forestry work. On the other hand, it is also necessary to provide sufficient forest products for national development. Both the tasks are tremendous. For this, the managers of forestry must exert greater efforts than at any time in the past. The difficulty of change at the heart of forestry is the epitome of the process of the five major changes. To fully accomplish any of the changes is an arduous mission and a process of hard struggle.
With regard to the shift from felling natural forests to felling plantations, firstly, the decision to protect natural forests is a very important and difficult one. Because of historical reasons, the existing natural forests are basically distributed in areas where the economy is less developed, where timber production is of crucial importance, and even the only source of income in some places. The rigorous protection of natural forests often means that those areas will lose the most important source of income, and the establishment of any new economic activities will not bring about significant effects in a short time. To protect natural forests will cause those areas to undergo a difficult switch, and even experience an economic and social shock. The difficulty of the process is unimaginable. At the same time, the development of plantations will not produce immediate effects. The establishment of bases of fast-growing and high-yielding forests can also hardly take on the heavy task of timber production in a few short years or even over a longer period. The demand for timber brought about by economic development and the hope of the people in the forested areas to lift themselves out of poverty and become rich will exert tremendous and lasting pressure on the protection of natural forests, which will in turn translate into a strong demand for accelerated cultivation of plantations. The establishment of bases of fast-growing and high-yielding forests will face a severe test.
With regard to the change from reclaiming land by deforestation to converting reclaimed land by reforestation, the reclamation of steep slopes is, in the first place, a manifestation of poverty. The vicious circle of “the poorer the more reclamation, and the more reclamation the poorer” is an authentic depiction of those poverty-stricken areas. In order to bring about a genuine change of the situation, one cannot expect to accomplish the whole task in one stroke. It is difficult to stop cultivating reclaimed land, but it is more difficult to reforest the land, and it is most difficult to hold on to the land after reforestation without any recourse. If farmers do not find new activities for economic growth and new sources of income, converting reclaimed land by reforestation will not be successful. There is a possibility that they will abandon the forests to begin farming again at any time. It is not unrealistic to say that the results of converting reclaimed land by reforestation may be lost overnight.
With regard to the change from unpaid to paid utilization of forest ecological benefits, although the unpaid utilization of forest ecological benefits has been terminated, the compensation for forest ecological benefits is only beginning. Both the amount and the scope of compensation are also only at a low level. In the light of the present circumstances, the concept of paid utilization of forest ecological benefits is still relatively new and has a long way to go. One reason is that compensation for forest ecological benefits is entirely done by the state. Because the financial resources of the State are limited, the compensation for forest ecological benefits is only sufficient for a part of the expenses for the management and protection of ecological forests for public benefits. There is a substantial shortfall as only a minimum amount of compensation is given for maintaining the ecological forests for public benefit. A direct link between the production and utilization of forest ecological benefits has not yet been established. The compensation is very limited in scope, and there is no compensation for the greater part of the benefits. The development of ecological forests for public benefit still relies entirely on the input of governments at all levels, and has not received reciprocity from a multitude of users. Thus, the system for paid utilization of forest ecological benefits still has a some way to go.
As for the management of forestry the change from a system managed by a particular sector to one involving the whole society, the former has not only made the scope and concept of forestry very narrow, but what is more serious is that it has subjected forestry to the shackles of old institutions and ideas of a planned economy, and the vestiges of that system have been retained in the development and management of forestry. Many ideas and concepts, rules and regulations, policies and measures, management systems, operational rules and methods still conform to those of the period of planned economy and old conventions which are not in keeping with the times. Those old concepts and institutions have already become the outer casing that does not fit the demand of the new stage of development and the system of a market economy. This will stifle the vigor and vitality of forestry and impede its development. If those shackles are not freed and old ideas and practices are not removed, it will not be possible to really push forestry development forward for the whole society and smoothly bring about change.
The process of making historic changes in China's forestry is difficult and complicated. The implementation of the six key programs will lead to changes in the division of work in forestry and in the positioning of its leading functions. Under the condition of inadequate supply, the change of functions will inevitably cause conflicts with the original development patterns and functional locations, which will find expression mainly in areas such as the operational system, management pattern, technical rules, as well as further conflicts between the traditional methods of operation and the concepts, requirements, and objectives of development. The adjustment of the task of forestry development in the region will give rise to a strategic regrouping of the pattern of production of China's forestry. Some regional industries will be confronted with new opportunities, others will undergo a transition, and still others will be subjected to restrictions. Under such environmental conditions, forestry may undergo a shock for a short time or a longer period because of the contradition between the promotion of the five major transitions and the farmers' effort to shake off poverty and attain prosperity, and between the development of the regional economy and social stability.
Behind the historic changes of forestry is the adjustment of social relationships. As forestry is a social activity, the changes will certainly evoke a series of social contradictions and conflicts of interests. The managerial ideas and methods of the new development model are bound to cause the abandonment of traditional methods of production. Development in accordance with the new methods will introduce new content to forestry. This implies that it will directly or indirectly affect the interests of forestry managers and at the same time increase the economic burden for those involved in building up forestry. An adjustment of interests as a result of the historic transitions in forestry will run affect the entire process. These changes in forestry are really an adjustment of rights and obligations, and through this adjustment, a new relationship between rights and obligations and institutional arrangements will take shape gradually.
Facts suggest that the implementation of the five major transitions is a colossal task, requiring painstaking efforts. The idea that it is easy to bring about the five major transitions and accomplish this aim in one move is not only naive but also extremely harmful. It is important to be aware of the complexity, and the protracted nature of the work to realize the five major transitions, and be mentally prepared for the hard struggle. At the same time, it must be realized that the five major transitions in forestry will determine the future of China's forestry, and even affect sustainable development in China. The realization of the five major transitions will write a new chapter in the history of development of China's forestry and even in the history of sustainable development in China.
Through painstaking tempering in the course of the five major transitions, forestry will be lifted to a new level. Its primary importance in ecological development and in the pursuit of sustainable development will be established and give forestry a wider scope. In its new position, through development and the abandonment of traditional practices of forestry, the productive forces will experience a great leap forward, contributing significantly to meeting the pressing and diversified demands of society and enable forestry to enter into the stage of sustainable development at an early date.
To implement the six key programs to achieve the five major transitions is the main aim of China's forestry in the short term. The way to assess whether results are achieved from the six key programs is to see whether the five major changes will continue to forge ahead in depth and width.
It is necessary to work toward reaching a consensus in ideological thinking. The six key programs, the five major transitions and rapid development are three organically integrated parts of a whole. The strategy for a great leap forward in development is the natural choice for forestry in the new period, and the six key programs are the basic vehicles for achieving this. Only when these programs are well implemented will it be possible to realize the five major transitions and promote rapid development. Intensified efforts should therefore be made to publicize this main thrust to bring about “luminous points” and “focal points,” so that all workers involved in the industry and the whole society will fully understand that the five major transitions represent a strategic shift in the overall development of forestry. This is necessary for the development of the national economy and society and is an important mission that has been entrusted to the people.
It is essential to keep abreast of the times and advance in a pioneering and innovative way. Therefore, people should open up their minds to accept the five major changes. Innovation is an inexhaustible motive for the development of forestry. Efforts should be put into developing new theories and ideas, institutions mechanisms and scientific knowledge so as to further adjust the relations of production and strengthen the productive forces of forestry. China must not only walk along the road towards its goal of development, but must also repair the road as it progresses in order to abolish old habits and customs and build new rules and regulations. To achieve the five major transitions, a series of adjustments in all fields will have to be made at various levels. Innovations must be part of the course of changes to attain development. As for guidelines for the work, it is necessary to balance with care the relationship between economic and ecological development, so that sustainable development of the economy and society can be attained. In terms of the basic policy, it is necessary to adopt various incentive measures to support, encourage, protect, and promote the development of forestry. In terms of organizations, it is necessary to set up a structure of diverse ownerships, develop non-public forests, and create a relaxed environment for their development. In terms of the institutions, it is necessary to establish a managerial system and an operational mechanism by which responsibilities, powers, and interests are well-defined, ownerships are clearly established, and enterprises are separated from government.
The style of work also needs to be altered. After the direction, objectives, and tasks have been determined, the focus should shift to implementation. The six key programs and the five major transitions will bring about historic changes in the nature and tasks of forestry. Therefore, its aims and questions that arise in many areas of forestry need to be explored. In the course of implementation, new questions and new situations will continue to crop up which also need to be addressed. Thus, extensive and intensive investigations and research need to be conducted to ascertain the opinions of those at the lower levels, in order to understand the trends in the development of the programs. New experiences and questions with regard to the laws of nature need to be understood so that guidelines can be constantly adjusted and improved. Policies and measures must also be adjusted to bring about a healthy development of forestry through reform and innovation.