The Future of China’s Left-Behind Children


When thousands of political and business leaders and experts gathered to discuss major economic, political, and social issues at China’s recent Two Sessions, one of the most eye-catching and debatable topics raised was the current situation and futures of millions of China’s left-behind children. 

A challenge whose roots we addressed in a previous article, the recent trend for China’s migrants to leave the East Coast for jobs in one of China’s second- and third-tier cities has fortunately caused the population of China’s left-behind children to drastically drop from 61 million to 9.2 million since 2012.

However, with this improvement comes a new set of challenges. Specifically, with fewer children left behind at home, quality of support from parents, schools, and communities needs to be addressed, and for young parents, juggling livelihoods and parent-child relationships could be challenging.

Education and wellbeing are parents’ main concerns.

According to our street survey of Shanghai’s blue-collar migrants earlier this year, over 68% of our respondents do not have family in Shanghai, with only 11% having brought their children with them.

 

Education and wellbeing seem to be the two main concerns for migrant parents who work thousands of miles away from home, leaving their kids to live either with grandparents or by themselves. For young parents, their children’s education is very much at the center of their needs, hopes, and long-term plans. 

This survey was conducted just before the Chinese New Year, when many said they would not return to Shanghai after the holidays due to family affairs. Besides the high cost of living and unaffordable housing prices, the Chinese household registration system (known as hukou) is often seen as the main obstacle for bringing left-behind children to cities.

“I will return to my hometown to take care of my kid. She is who I decided to come to Shanghai to make money for, and then I decided to come back for her schooling.”
 A lady from Anhui

Children’s well-being, including their personality, physical education, mental health, and long-term development, is the other major concern for parents. Parents often feel anxious for not being able to take care of their children in person.

“I left my eight-year-old and four-year-old with my parents while my husband and I are here. Every time when I know they are ill, I feel deeply guilty and worried. I want to be part of their lives, but what can I do now?”
– 
A young mother from Chongqing working in construction

One study showed that almost 50% of these “left-behind” children suffer depression and anxiety, compared with 30% of their urban peers.

Photo Credit: NATHAN YIP FOUNDATION

In June 2015, four left-behind children from the same family in Bijie, an impoverished Guizhou province, ranging from ages five to 13, committed suicide together by swallowing pesticide. While the local governmental officials were sacked for this tragic accident, the bigger question remains as to how can we prevent these tragedies from reoccurring.

Legislative Protection & Private Sector Opportunity

Facing greater pressure to support left-behind children, in February 2016, the State Council enacted a new regulation to specify the shared responsibilities among families, schools, and the government in providing care to rural left-behind children. During the “Two Sessions” this year, several representatives also suggested strengthening legislative protection to avoid future recurrences of the Bijie Tragedy.

Supporting left-behind children is not just the government’s job alone. It is an opportunity for the private sector to join forces with authorities to provide collective solutions for this social issue.

As China is undergoing a transition from a manufacturing- to service-based economy, the resulting technology boom not only provides convenience but is also creating new types of professions in this area. For example, being a waimai/kuaidi xiaoge (meal/parcel delivery man) was not a full-time job 10 years ago. Today, these thriving online-to-offline businesses employ over two million people, the majority being migrant workers.

Total number of employed individuals by economic sector (1995-2014). Image Credit: COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY

Providing solutions for migrant parents is not just the responsibility of established, large manufacturing companies. Actors in the booming tech sector can also play a role in improved support, such as allowing flexible leave for employees with children or providing parenting-related education.

Additionally, with the growth of second- and third-tier cities, more jobs are being created closer to home  in workers’ hometowns or home provinces, thereby reducing the need for long-distance migration to distant manufacturing hubs. Many provincial governments have started to see the value of generating local jobs for bringing migrant workers back home.  This movement of opportunity will require established businesses to provide training and capacity-building programs to attract top-tier talent (among other adjustments we recommend in our Labor in China Report).

Connecting knowledge and experiences in the cities back to the towns could have huge potential. For example, 36-year-old Cai Qun was part of Guizhou’s “Embroidery Initative”, which aims to train and provide jobs for women using traditional embroidery methods to work locally. She moved back home after working in Guangzhou for many years to look after her children. Now her embroidery workshop provides training and jobs for over 300 women.

Cai Qun was able to take advantage of a job training program in embroidery, allowing her to move back home to her children. Photo Credit: XIANG DINGJIE/XINHUA

For concerned stakeholder, particularly who are looking at China’s interior for project sites, understanding this trend and seeing it as an opportunity is now becoming the discussion.  Creating summer camps for the children of factory workers, providing compensation and benefits packages that are more aligned to families, and developing programs to retain and stabilize labor, are now providing firms with tangible advantages in the market for labor.  A trend that for many industries will over time become the baseline, and will require understanding of and alignment to  factory floor.

 

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Action Over Regulation: The Economics of China’s Recycled Paper & Cardboard

As a valued resource, recycled paper and cardboard in China offer a unique case of how global market mechanisms and government regulation impact the role of waste in society.

From foreign imports to sharp spikes in domestic packaging demand, the waste paper and cardboard supply forms a critical component of China’s economic ecosystem — and lately, these materials has become highly valued as a resource.

Waste Paper & Cardboard: High-Value Commodities

Through our research analysis, we’ve found that China’s waste system handles six main categories of recyclable materials: wood, glass, paper and cardboard, plastics, aluminum and copper, and scrap metal. Among these, waste paper and cardboard products are likely the most widely available recyclable materials, in both governmental-led initiatives and the informal recycling stream.

Just as with other recyclable materials, waste has been the focus and target of dozens of legislation enacted across multiple Chinese ministries and departments — each in place to ensure a healthy and controllable environment for the recycling industry, including:

  • Administration Method of Renewable Resource
  • Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Wastes of the People’s Republic of China
  • Administrative Measure for the Import of Solid Waste
  • Interim Provisions on Administration of Environmental Protection on Wastes Import

From October to November 2016 alone, paper and cardboard prices have seen significant changes, resulting what some have described as an “insane” market for China’s recycling and informal collection industry. Over a two-week period, the price of cardboard jumped 33%, from 1210 RMB per ton to 1610 RMB per ton — and at one point, increased at a rate of 150 RMB per ton per day.

The notable price leap occurred due to four specific reasons.

 

1. Greater Enforcement of Regulations on Paper & Cardboard Waste Imports

The Chinese government has continued raising the regulatory bar on waste imports from other countries under the Green Fence Policy. According to China’s Customs, in October 2016, China imported 192.54 million tons of waste paper — and this was a 27.38% decrease from September.

Several shipments of waste paper and cardboard from overseas were detained at customs due to the greater enforcement of regulations on imported waste — sometimes due to environmental concerns. For example, in September, 667 tons of waste paper from the US were found to include PVC infusion bags and other medical waste, which are strictly prohibited from importing into China, and detained in customs.

Due to the greater enforcement of regulations, recycled paper and cardboard from overseas — especially from the U.S. and Japan — simply cannot enter Chinese markets in as high quantities as before, resulting in a major drop in overseas supply.

2. Stricter application of domestic Environmental Impact Assessment

Foreign imports and handling of waste isn’t the only target of enhanced regulation and enforcement; China’s domestic waste market has recently come under scrutiny as well.

On October 20th, 2016, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection began inspecting over 20 provinces, cracking down on paper and cardboard projects that violated the law — specifically regarding significant pollution created during production.

In the end, many small- and medium-sized paper and cardboard factories that failed to pass the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) were forced to shut down, resulting in a major drop in the domestic supply of reprocessed paper and cardboard alongside the drop in overseas supply.

 

3. increasing demands due to E-commerce boom on Singles Day

China’s Singles Day, on November 11th every year, is the world’s biggest shopping day; this year, shoppers spent $1.5 billion on e-commerce in just 7 minutes online.

However, with this extravagant volume of purchases comes an equally high demand for paper and cardboard bags, boxes, and parcels — which becomes wasted packaging in the aftermath. This year, the National Post Office reported over 350 million packages delivered on Single’s Day, and once goods were delivered to consumers, the leftover packaging had to go somewhere.

The huge influx in demand was good news for paper companies and cardboard recyclers, and with the year-end online and offline market promotions, packaging companies look forward to a seasonal peak.

4. Domestic Stockpiling of Paper and Cardboard

In response to the price volatility for waste paper and cardboard , some large actors began stockpiling supply of these materials in the hope of gaining later profits as the price jumps occurred. This stockpiling resulted in a further reduction in the volume of available paper and cardboard on the market, driving prices higher and higher.

Supply and Responsibility

Each of these four contributing factors (regulation enforcement on imports, domestic crackdowns, demand for delivery packaging, and domestic stockpiling of supply) have caused waste paper and cardboard pricing to climb. The inflation is a positive for those seeking to make a profit — at least for the moment.

This case study is just example of the impact that growing environmental regulations can have on the waste industry, a trade long reliant on both the international supply of waste and relatively poor environmental practices domestically.

While the prevalence and value of waste benefits many economically, the externalities of environmental harm must be addressed — and actual enforcement of many year’s worth of existing regulation over these recyclable materials is critical. Much like efforts to correct China’s air pollution crisis, theory must meet practice, holding key actors responsible for meeting standards and improving the industry as a whole.

And with increasing public concern for environmental issues, paper and cardboard are not the only materials that have caught Chinese authority’s attention.

Since 2013, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has been cooperating with the National Anti-Smuggling Unit, intending to reinforce waste import management for materials across the board, including scrap plastic, waste garments and e-waste. As for whether tightening domestic enforcement will prove to have been a mere one-off measure or if it will trend for other waste types in the future, we will have to see.

 

This article is originally published at Collective Responsibility, http://www.coresponsibility.com/economics-recycled-cardboard/ in December 2016.

Providing Sanitation for China’s millions in need

According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), providing widespread sanitation is one of the world’s most urgent challenges. Although sanitation is considered a basic human right, 2.5 billion people, almost 1/3 of the world’s population, lacks access to clean and functioning toilets. This challenge poses significant risks to public health; spreading disease through untreated human waste, such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio. The problem also contributes to significant societal problems – especially for women, children, the elderly, physically challenged individuals, and the underprivileged living in rural and urban areas.

Sanitation in China: Progress Made and Challenges Ahead

While the problem is a global one, more locally China is yet to achieve full scale provision of sanitation, with 24% of Chinese people lacking access to decent toilets. This is not to discount the incredible advances in countrywide sanitation that China has made over the last 30 years.  In 1993, only 7.5% of China’s population had access to basic sanitation facilities and by 2014, this number increased to 76.1%, achieving its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) goal one year early.

But despite this progress there is still lots of work to be done. When looked at on a more localised scaled this issue is clearer as the majority of communities lacking sanitation facilities are located in northwest China, where water scarcity and poverty remain some of the biggest challenges.

It is, however, not a challenge that is just isolated to the remote rural areas of the country, but one effecting the country’s cities as well. While China’s rapid urbanization has created considerable wealth for its populations it has also led to increased inequality and the number of people in urban and rural areas without clean access is growing. In fact, the number of individuals without access to basic sanitation in urban regions of China went from 3% to 6% over the past two decades. Great burdens are now being placed on the aging infrastructure and sewage systems of the country’s cities, as more and more individuals flooded to the cities with the hope of capitalising on the economic boom.

In response to this, in 2015, President Xi Jingping inaugurated legislation known as the “Toilet Revolution”, with the goal of improving life standards in rural areas and the service standards in the country’s tourism industry. As part of the China’s 13th Five Year Plan, the State Council aims to reach 85% toilet accessibility in underdeveloped regions, as well as 90% accessibility in developed regions by 2020. In addition to the government’s solutions, solutions from the private sector are in high demand, and represent an opportunity to tackle the problem through a profit driven model via selling to the “bottom of the pyramid”.

快时尚“漂绿”-购买指南 Is doing nothing doing bad ? - A guide to consume sustainably in fast fashion

最近一篇讲述牛仔裤“真相”的文章 - 你穿的每一条牛仔裤都在毁灭我们的未来 反复出现在我的朋友圈和知乎的时间线上。作者受2012年德国纪录片牛仔裤的代价的启发,开始对自己的牛仔裤追根溯源。纪录片展示了made in China的廉价牛仔裤触目惊心的制作过程,不仅耗水量巨大、化学残留难以去除,工人的健康也遭受着日复一日的威胁。作者认为消费者间接成为了沉默的同谋者,因为无知而选择无为。底下的评论大多是震惊,讶异自己居然成了这被忽视的罪恶的帮凶。抛去这篇文章的准确性不谈,就作者的观点而言,不由得给我种有种何不食肉糜的感觉。

时尚似乎和绿色环保总是搭点边,尤其是快时尚品牌越来越多在广告营销里出现绿色buzzwords,塑造健康积极的形象。快时尚到底是不是真正关心地球,关注自己带来的影响? 要搞清这个问题,得先问问到底什么是快时尚。 学术文章Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands的作者说:

The phrase “fast fashion” refers to low-cost clothing collections that mimic current luxury fashion trends. Trends run their course with lightning speed, with today’s latest styles swiftly trumping yesterday’s, which have already been consigned to the trash bin.

简言之,“快时尚”指的是模仿奢侈品牌当季时尚潮流的低成本服饰线。宏观来看,中国经济正在从传统制造业向消费型转型 ——鼓起来的钱包带来了填不满的物质需求,无脑网络文化也催化出了各种淘宝网红。潮流这个东西更是更迭迅速,昨日的宠儿眨眼间就成了明日黄花。对大多数年轻消费者来说,快时尚似乎成了最实惠的选择,有时甚至能花费H&M的钱享受Lanvin的设计。讽刺的是,这些消费者恰恰是最在乎环境的一代。

shopeers-outside-hm-shop-010

2014年某道德消费指南就快时尚品牌是否采用动物实验、环境影响、员工福利、政治因素和产品可持续发展力进行了调查排名,玛莎百货M&S排名第一,Zara和H&M紧随其后。这个结果很有意思,我的解读是所谓绿色时尚品牌,会叫的孩子有奶吃。Zara和H&M作为快时尚巨头,门店遍布全世界,每年斥巨资为自己漂绿。Indeix集团每年出版的可持续性报告,从头到尾把公平交易的棉花到最后美美的广告大片给消费者分析了遍,似乎在大叫:“我不仅长的好看真心关心环境关注地球, 快来买我啊!”H&M更是开展了旧衣物回收等周期性campaign,收效颇丰,为其他品牌树了杆大旗。这样一来,其目标顾客看到这些报告和活动,继续心安理得地买买买,有选择性的屏蔽类似“牛仔裤真相”的文章。

快时尚之所以和绿色环保半毛钱关系都没有,是由它的本质决定的。Zara从设计稿到成衣上架仅需短短数周。这种快速、便捷、随手可得的时尚往往附着着鼓励消费者“穿完就扔”的潜在消费习惯。为了吸引源源不断的顾客,快时尚品牌卯足了劲加快产品周期,扩大全球销量,衣服制作被外包到第三世界国家的工厂,以压低成本。低廉的成本使母公司即使想实施自己的可持续标准,在外包方也很难控制。这些快时尚巨头的体量也大的惊人。H&M每年卖掉5.5亿件衣服,并且还在逐年增长还在。在这样的数据面前,再雄心勃勃的污水处理计划能带来的效果也值得打一个大大的问号。

lamar-american-apparel

再来看我们熟悉的“有良知”的制衣品牌American Apparel。对,就是它家把所有广告拍的像三级片!这家已经破产的公司倒是很在乎员工福利和企业社会责任感,号称所有衣物都使用公平交易的棉花,在洛杉矶本土制作。抛开老板的性丑闻和最近的破产风波不谈,American  Apparel一件基本款T恤的标价近300块人民币。这好像一下子解释了“有良知”的代价,但同等价位我们可以在H&M买10件。

这似乎陷入了一个死循环,快时尚品牌便宜但有害;有良知的品牌选择又少又贵,请问在乎环境的年轻消费者该怎么办呢?以下给出我的实用指南,供参考。

  • 你可能真的分不清时尚品牌到底是不是在“漂绿”

目前我们能接触得到的企业道德方面的信息都是由企业自愿发布公开的。也就是说,这些数据和事实都是企业选择告诉消费者的,这其中有多少水分我们不得而知。普通消费者很难花时间去了解一件当季新款夹克背后的故事和背后的人。这也不是消费者的责任,政府和监管部门的锅我们不背。

  • 大多数时候,选择“漂绿”的快时尚品牌好过缺乏此方面宣传的品牌

会叫的孩子有奶吃,再快时尚行业在正确不过了。虽然普通消费者很难得知真相,但大多数情况下,一个愿意在可持续供应链、员工福利、其他公益项目持续投入人力和资金,想必也不至于太昧良心,至少它们在努力。当然,即便如此,漂绿也还有可能是绕不过去的槛。

  • 不要因为不了解就不在乎,相信自己的行动能带来改变

消费习惯的改变是个很漫长的过程。我是做conservation NGO的,很多时候我们不愿去做awareness campaign,因为短期内投入和回报不成正比,效果很难量化。其实我很高兴这样的故事引起了媒体的些许讨论,当然这可能只是第一步。不同声音的碰撞,或许激进或许被质疑,才会让大众意识到原来自己习以为常的消费习惯会带来这么大的蝴蝶效应。接下来,媒体或监管部门可能才会对这个问题引起重视,颁布新政。

很多时候消费者不是不在乎,而是缺乏了解渠道。网络时代信息鱼目混杂,筛选有效信息的成本也随之提高。付出一点时间,查找下相关讯息再自己加以判断,ethical shopping其实没有那么难。我不敢居高临下得说普通消费者无为即是作恶,因为毕竟这也既不是也不应该是我们的责任,但起码 I do care.

  • 有目的得消费 - shop mindfully

花费很多时间在所谓的时尚上,往往是没有意义的事情。潮流来来回回,90年代的normcore风潮不知怎么又吹回了2016,所谓得流行很多时候只是资本市场在推波助澜。最底层的消费者永远在追逐这个风潮,衣柜里的单品穿一季丢一季,买来买去最多只是网红同款和淘宝爆款。有态度的有风格的人可能不仅仅是在乎多了几件时尚单品吧。

  • 尝试极简主义,为自然为自己祛毒

我每年都会清理自己的衣柜,说来惭愧,往往会被自己买的垃圾所惊到。我的下一个目标是尝试下极简主义,不仅仅是物质上的极简,也包括心理和行动。快时尚不停地刺激着我们买买买,可是我们真的需要这些吗? 快时尚和true sustainablity的关系进阶好像还没有一个完美的答案,但至少我们作为消费者可以让这个进程更理性更有意义。

 

What’s going on with legal rhino horn trade? 犀牛角贸易解禁了吗?

Recently, the homeland of thousands of hundreds of rhinos – South Africa has lifted its ban on domestic rhino horn trade.  Although the written judgement from Pretoria High Court seems not to be publicly available yet, some sources indicated that the judges questioned the effectiveness of the moratorium.

So far, the CITES ban on international trade in rhino horns seems to be unaffected, but it’s hard to tell whether the decision will be affected at the next CITES meeting, which will be taken place in September 2016. It will be a very interesting game of interest by then with some African nations and NGOs try hard to lobby against it.

All species of rhinos are at considerable risk of extinction with 4 out of 5 rhino species rate vulnerable or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. – I’m sure many readers have seen the horrific story of the world’s last northern White rhino in Sudan.  Even White Rhinoceros in South Africa is not listed as being in imminent risk of extinction, they are facing the greatest poaching crisis since the late 80s. According to the SA government figure, nearly 1200 rhinos were poached in 2014 alone.

Scenario Analysis: What Impact will the legal domestic trade bring?

Legal trade means more poaching?

It is very difficult to say, even for the elephant, which is probably species received the most attention at the moment due to its instinct link with terrorism and increasing political will. However, the current data may shed some light on to this issue.  According to the SA government figure, nearly 1,200 rhinos were poached in 2014 alone. In Namibia, rhino poaching has been increased over 300% with 79 rhinos slaughtered this year, – a sharp increase from the total of 25 rhinos poached in 2014, 4 poached in 2013, two illegally killed in 2012, and only one poached in 2011.

It will offer a legal cover for the illicit trade. Now there is a legal market available domestically, but not internationally. The market for rhino horns are outside of South Africa, far in Vietnam or China, and their appetite will only increase within time. Poachers and gangs will figure out ways to sell these “legal” horns inside this clandestine market.  Captive-bred tigers in China may share the similar situation. As Chinese government has opened a parallel legal market for captive-bred tiger skins, parts and other derivatives for “scientific or educational purposes”.   Tiger skin rug has been sold as luxury home décor for the symbol of social status and identity. It might also urge some speculative purchasing as the owners try to stock up for the potential price rise.

On the other side in China, an ex-firearm company Hawk Group recently announced on its website that its subsidy Longhui Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd has acquired the SFDA permission numbers for 35 type of drugs by purchasing another Pharmaceutical company. Interestingly, some of these 35 types of drugs are known for historically containing rhino horn ingredient. This is a perfect legal act and there is no evidence that Longhui is or has been using rhino horn ingredient in its drugs, nor the drugs have been in production.

A quick review of Longhiu’s history of importing rhinos for captive breeding in China. Since 2006, Longhui has been breeding white rhinos at its Hainan base, which were imported from South Africa. Later, a shocking business plan of “harvesting rhino horn” has been published on its local government’s website. Most recently, the director Zhang Juyan announced his ambition to have over 200 rhinos by 2016.

Again, everything they did seems to be perfectly legal and the plans are currently stays on paper. No evidence suggests any further move of the company, but it did ring a bell of demand in rhino horn as an ingredient for TCM market.

Stay wild xxx

Why tigers belong on the UK – China agenda? 中英商贸升温,请别忘了老虎!

tigerposter1

Earlier this week, President Xi started his first state visit to the UK, bringing along billions of investment. While criticised “bending over” to China, the UK is eager to prove its friendship with the second largest economy of the world. , Despite the human right issues, the environmental abuse, China often is under attack due to its irresponsibility in animal welfare and the utilisation of wildlife. This profounded issue emerged largely because of the influence of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), but now the wealthy class of China are the main customers who “bank on extinction”. Same as the ivory stories, tigers are largely bred for their meats, skins, bones and derivatives in China and other Southeast Asian countries. It is estimated while 3200 tigers remain in the wild, more than 7000 captive-bred tigers are living behind the bars in Aisa, let along the huge numbers of “pet tigers” in the US.

In order to ensure that tiger conservation remains a priority for the international community and to end tiger farming and trade, several tiger conservation groups wrote to PM David Cameron and ask him to raise this issue during President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to the UK. Specifically, appealing to the PM to encourage Xi to announce a total ban on all trade in tiger parts and derivatives including from captive tigers, to end tiger farming and destroy stockpiles of
tiger parts and derivatives.

Stay Wild xxx

“Ivory Queen” Busted–Corruption and Tanzania’s ivory trade 落网的“象牙女王”

The recent arrest of the Chinese trafficker, nicked named  “Ivory Queen”  in Dar is a striking message among elephant conservationist and my fellow NGO colleagues. It is reported at least 706 elephant tusks worth about $2.5 million (RMB 19 million) was smuggled by her.

Yang Feng Glen, the 66 year- old Chinese business woman is thought to be the most notorious ivory trafficker arrested in Tanzania so far. She ran a sophisicated supply chain of ivory between East Africa and China for 14 years.  The insiders commented Tanzania authority finally caught a big fish!

It’s a very delicate case also because of the sophisticated connections between Yang and the officials working in the Chinese embassy in Dar. The ambassador of Tanzania commented on Yang’s arrest, “We welcome any enforcement effort from the Tanzanian authority, but in the meanwhile we want them to ensure suspect’s legal right. “

What I found interesting was that in 2014, Yang Feng Glen was invited as a railway expert for a wildlife conservation event held by the Chinese embassy in Dar. (see here:http://tz.chineseembassy.org/chn/dhwz/t1199994.htm) This close tie with the local officials really makes people wonder the real connections behind the scene.

Once convicted, Ms Yang will face 20-30 years in prison. Tanzania should really learn from its neighbour Kenay on elephants conservation despite the huge elephant population.

Stay Wild xxx

Xi: ban domestic commercial ivory trade 中美象牙禁令解读

The state visit of President Xi Jingping may not achieve the fruitful result as the US expected, given China’s tough position on cyberattacks and the South China Sea issue, but the announcement of domestic commercial ivory ban indeed excited  the environmental groups. From what I see today, the internet is flooded with the words of praise, many call this action as a  “historical movement”.

My previous blog mentioned a brief timeline of China’s actions of this ivory war- several public destructions of the ivory products and a statement by the Premier Li Keqiang. It’s encouraging to see ivory has appeared to be a hot topic in the political discussion as well as in the public domain. The question now is, are words followed by actions?

Ivory use in China

Ivory carving benefits from the intangible cultural heritage, the official reason of the existence of the legal ivory market. Hence, the processing, sales and retailing of the legal ivory has received state support and permission. It began from the early 2000s, when the state started to make efforts to preserve the intangible traditional culture – an art form has thousands of years history. It is reported the state has also actively involved in the promotion of the ivory carving skills training to make sure it passes on. The need to sustain its cultural heritage was also the main reason given by the SFA when seeking CITES approval for the 2008 one-off ivory sale. To date, there are 34 ivory processing facilities permitted by SFA and134 licensed ivory retail outlets in China.

As both China and the US rank top 5 of the ivory consumption countries, the appeal reads as follows:

Wildlife Trafficking-  The United States and China, recognizing the importance and urgency of combating wildlife trafficking, commit to take positive measures to address this global challenge.  The United States and China commit to enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, and to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.  The two sides decided to further cooperate in joint training, technical exchanges, information sharing, and public education on combating wildlife trafficking, and enhance international law enforcement cooperation in this field.  The United States and China decided to cooperate with other nations in a comprehensive effort to combat wildlife trafficking.

I personally feel less excited with the wording used here, if it’s a ban of domestic commercial trade of ivory, then what else can exclude from this ban?There is no guarantee the non-commercial ivory trade will not emerge again in disguise of other purposes. Take tigers for example, tigers are listed under the state first class protection, which prohibits the any kind of commercial trade. However, the legal trade in its body parts and skins continue to persist under the cover of “for educational and scientific purposes”, which are primarily used as expensive home decor or business gifts.

Suggestions

It’s unfortunate the mentality of  utilisation of the wildlife products still persist in the majority of Chinese customers, and is largely encouraged by the state. The state could play a significant role in guiding the public’s opinion leads as well as conserve the intangible cultural heritage if it can achieve the following:

  • To move the domestic ivory trade away from the commercial use, SFA should immediately halt the new license issue to any ivory carving, process or retail outlets.
  • The existing stocks of ivory carvings should be preserved in a specialised museum, open to the public to truly achieve its conservational and aesthetic value.
  • Destroy the confiscated and seized illegal ivory stockpiles; send out a clear message to the international society that China hold the zero tolerance to the illegal ivory trade.
  • Review the relevant domestic laws and regulation as its legal basis.

Stay wild. xxx

Why we need to address illegal wildlife trade as a serious crime?

I believe many may have raised the questions, when it comes to conservation – why we need to concern about the wildlife thousands miles away? What impact will it bring if one species extinct? It is indeed not an easy task for the public to  visuialise this message and understand the serious impact it brings.

This fascinating video talks about how the wolves in Yellow Stone National Park changed the landscape of river, after they have been reintroduced to the area in 1995, 70 years after they had vanished from the area.This is a good example of how a single species can well maintain and restore the ecosystem, known to the ecologistis as a”trophic casede”.

When it comes to the illegal wildlife trade, the matter seems to be more delicate. We are not only talking about the ecological value of the species, so much more also need to be addressed, including the economic values, the political will, the perception of the public etc.

Illegal wildlife trade alone, excluding the timber and marine is worth $10-23 billion per year, ranking 3rd of the world illicit trade, right behind the trade in drugs and weapons. (Note: the figure here is controversial, some say it’s the 5th largest illicit trade in terms of the value.) It is such a lucrative business, and no doubt it attracts large criminal syndicates,knitting a global net of “transnational organised crime”. In Africa, ivory is also known as white gold fueling the civil war, paying off the arms for the rebels.It is very encouraging more countries have seen the massive impact and its caused effects. US and China, the top two ivory consumption both announced their commitment to putting an end to the ivory trade, though the actual actions are still in doubt.

Other species are not lucky as elephants, despite the slumping population in the wild, many still haven’t received the attention they deserve, for example tigers. As few as 3000 wild tigers, this majestic creatures are largly neglected in political dialogues. This month, President Xi Jingping will be visiting US and EU,which is a fantastic opportunity for the bilateral meeting in illegal wildlife trade as well as the domestic trade in tiger parts and derivatives.

Stay wild xxx

Is China really committed to eradicating ivory trade?

Late last month, at an event in Beijing, where foreign diplomats and conservationists witnesses 662kg of confiscated ivory being destroyed. Mr Zhao Shucong, head of China’s State Forestry Administration, said: “We will strictly control ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted.”

This act immediately received international applause. As the biggest illegal ivory consuming country, it is the second time China has openly destroyed its ivory confiscation. Let’s have a look at the time line of China’s recent actions against illegal ivory trade.

  • In Jan 2014, Chinese Customs burned down 6.1 tonnes confiscated ivory products in Guangzhou to declare the war with illegal ivory trade.
  • In Feb 2015, SFA issued a temporary one-year ban on processing or importing ivory for individuals.
  • In May 2015, Chinese Customs and SFA crushed 662kg confiscated ivory. China has committed to phasing out the domestic manufacture and sale of ivory products for the first time.

These actions are more than welcoming as a responsible country, however, no further timeframe was announced nor the detailed plans.In fact, on April 29 the SFA issued a new list of 34 ivory processing factories and 130 sales outlets, including entities associated with four publicly listed companies that have been officially authorised to process, manufacture and/or sell ivory in China.Right after China has committed to phase out ivory trade, an official called for US to act on illegal ivory trade too.

I personally think completely ending ivory trade is feasible in China given the attitudes from SFA and other authorities. They do want to tackle this problem, comparing to other species i.e. pangolins, tigers, rhinos ect. Ivory trade seems to be way less complicated and involving less interest parts. It is a matter of time and the commitment. If SFA only wants to provides an attitude of tackling this problem rather than supporting with detailed strategy and other substance, then it will never work.

Stay wild xxx

What do UK political parties say about illegal wildlife trade?

As many of you who live in the UK might be aware, the election just finished weeks ago, very chaotic day indeed.(Appoligies : this supposed to be live on the day before the election, but due to my schedule, it has to be a post-election blog)

David Camron has come back to Downing 10th to continue his government for the next 5 years. In order to get some votes from these conservationists, every party seems to have some wildlife-related manifesto. Comparing to education, employment, economics, wildlife policy definitely isn’t the most important in their agenda, but I managed to dig something out.

My office is a complete green one (not politically). We even have a worm compost in kitchen to minimize waste and to be more green. Surprisingly, not many will vote green though, perhaps because nobody knows what exactly their policies are.

 

Conservatives — traditionally considered not too green, however, during this election, Tories seems to put the full crack on and published a lot valuable manifesto related to wildlife. Stanley Johnson, father of Boris Johnson, yep the well-loved mayor of London, recently prepared a briefing to lobby MEPs to ban ivory trade in the whole EU. Willam Haugue, the second hand of Tories also attended an illegal wildlife trade workshop with Prince Willam last year in London Declaration. Both send out a clear message that the Tories do care about our lovely elephants and rhinos. As my colleague said, at least they are talking about the illegal wildlife trade.

Libdem— was the greener side of the coalition, who put the climate change to the agenda. When I searching the wildlife manifesto, Libdem claimed they will go further and faster to protect Britain’s wildlife. The news of Nick Cleggvisted a seal sanctuary in Cornwall to learn more about the harm plasticsdo to animals and to see first hand the work being done to protect Britain’s marine life. Catherine Bearder, an active conservationist but also an MEP from Liberal Democrats. She has been working closely with ENGOs to pass evidence to the European decision makers. Her latest agenda is to lobby governments to ban ivory trade globally.

Stay tuned ! Greens and Labours coming soon

Stay wild xxx

To Burn or Not to Burn: African countries’ ivory stockpiles

Earlier this month, the Malawi government announced to postpone the scheduled burn of its domestic ivory stockpiles, the new date is yet to be set. The official reason of the delay was the need to include the outstanding 2.6 tonnes of ivory which is court evidence, which requires further audits and monitor under CITES.

Setting a fire on confiscated ivory is not news anymore. The current and previous Kenya presidents all set fires on ivory stockpiles before. The latest one happened in this march, more than 15 tonnes ivory were burnt into ashes.

There is also doubt of whether destructing ivory stockpiles really help the wild elephant conservation in the long run. The answer is a big fat YES from me.

Firstly, the poached ivory stockpiles have no economic value and are out of circulation. So burning out the ivory doesn’t mean the ivory is “wasted” from someone’s perspective, and it will not make the ivory more scarce. As I said, confiscated ivory cannot be seen as commercial products from a simple “demand-supply” angle.

Secondly, countries holding massive ivory stockpiles usually have less capacity or law enforcement power. In Africa, poaching and wildlife crime often are associated with corruptions, regional conflicts, drug trade and even human trafficking. Storing and managing tonnes of ivory for years is not an easy task, so destructive in one go largely eliminate the chances of “inside job” or theft. If the contraband makes its way back to the black market, the previous effort will be in vain.

Ivory stockpile destruction also sends out a powerful and unequivocal message to the public that these contrabands are the results of criminal activity and the countries are willing to fight against the wildlife crime. Even this action can be interpreted as a PR work sometimes. Their main argument is if burning out the ivory stockpiles are really effective, then it has been burnt out not once, not twice, but dozens times, why the smuggling and poaching rate still remain high?

High demand from east plays the vital role in here, which also stimulate the demand for either legal or poached ivory. China and Japan are the main ivory consuming countries, both claim have stringent domestic ivory policies. According to various surveys and field research the civil societies have done, it is not a difficult task to buy the ivory even on the street. Some shops use the government issued official permits as a cover to “whitewash” the illegal sourced ivory. Clearly, this parallel legal system fails to fulfill its responsibility and far away from curbing poaching. After the two one-off sales to China and Japan, pushed by pro-trade activist in 1999 and 2008, a spike in poaching has steadily increased to the point that the past 3 years have been among the worst ever for elephants.

Stay wild xxx

African elephants on the verge of extinction—blame China or Africa?

Recently, a Kenya conservationist Paula Kahumbu published an article on CNN, titled “We don’t buy panda products, so Chinese should keep hands off our elephants”, directly pointing at the biggest ivory consuming country.

She said due to the endless demand from China, the wild elephants are on the verge of extinction. Although numerous efforts were put in to saving wild elephants, unless the leading consumer of ivory- China- commits to put a halt on ivory trade, elephants will be doomed.  I believe her point probably is the mainstream view for elephant conservation every where except for China. However, what do Chinese actually think about it? To figure out this, let’s look at the official attitude from the China CITES committee and an online survey reflecting the general public’s opinion.

CHINA’s OFFCIAL ATTITUDE:

China’s high demand is not the only reason—responsibilities lie in every country

Meng Xianlin, deputy director of China’s Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office(濒管办常务副主席), the body of China’s CITES committee, who is also the representative at 2015 Kasane IWT Conference. He commented on African elephants conservation more than once in different occasions.  He stresses that China hopes that countries can improve coordination, do less finger pointing and make more joint efforts in fighting ivory smuggling globally and conserving elephant population.  The following are his comments made in 2013 and after Kasane Conference:

“We can’t simply attribute that to legal utilization and trade of ivory or to market demand. The fundamental solution to this problem must come from close cooperation among countries that hold elephant habitats, are transit points for shipments or are big consumers of ivory.”

“CITES came into force on 1st July 1975. The Pre-Convention wildlife product stockpiles held by western countries are still constantly being exported. In addition, 70‒80% of trophy hunting activities in Africa, including elephant hunting, which is legal in Zimbabwe, are undertaken by Europeans and Americans. The nature of trophy hunting activities should be re-evaluated, whether they are conservational or commercial. The prime responsibility lies in every country.”


Dr Meng’s remark acts as a whitewash, somehow blame other countries’ ivory policy rather than examine its own.  According to IFAW, China has replaced Japan, become the biggest ivory consuming country in the world, in which illegal amount is 6 times of legal one! China insisted it has the most stringent ivory policy, which can effectively regulate the market. However, the above data doesn’t agree at all. IFAW’s research showed it is a common practice that the licensed ivory shops usually secretly sell the illegal smuggled ivory with the shield of its legal license. The endless demand in China stimulates rampant poaching in another continent.

Poll: When the buying stops, the killing can too.

Tecent, the Chinese news portal started an online opinion poll on whether China should be responsible for the African elephants’ tragedy. Till now, more than 50,000 people voted, among which, 61% believed China is the one to blame, while 39% disagree.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 15.33.21

Does China endangers African elephants?_ poll by Tecent

Those who disagree, argue that African countries fail to protect their own elephants. They should not blame their own faults to other countries. If poachers do not kill elephants for the pecuniary benefit, then no matter how big the demand is in China, there should be no ivory in markets to offer.  It is unfair to blame China if the sourcing countries cannot halt domestic poaching first. Other pro-trade parties interpret from an economic perspective, they believe it is the “zero poaching” policy itself to blame. The stringent ivory policy makes the ivory products “scarce”, which increases the trade cost also stimulates even larger demand.  BTW, I think this “economic illustration” is completely BS. I will blog about economic analysis of illegal wildlife trade in the future. Please Stay tuned: D

The poll result brings some pleasant comfort: majority of the general public believed in “when the buying stops, the killing can too.” China saved pandas from extinction, recovered Tibenten Antelope to 30,000 by 2014. China is capable and responsible to save African elephants. Reducing domestic demand and stronger law enforcement will be the next step.

Stay wild xxx

 

 

 

 

Laos Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone: Raid in response to EIA’s Sin City report

After EIA exposing the rampant illegal wildlife trade in Laos Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone (GT SEZ) in its latest report,  the Laos government immediately operated a raid to crack down on the illegal sale and consumption of wildlife. In this “lawless playground”, restaurants openly sell stir fry tiger meat and tiger bone wine. Inside of the casino, numerous pieces of ivory bangles, carved tusks display in front of these gamblers.  Has this situation truly changed? Please see the news posted on the GT SEZ official website, translated as follows.

However, the news did not disclose the detailed law enforcement, i.e. how many pieces of wildlife products were confiscated or what’s the next step of it. Let’s hope this is not just a PR work.Stay wild.xxx

GT SEZ cracks down on the illegal sale and consumption of wild animals and its products. 

 31-03-2015

On 23rd March 2015, the GT SEZ convened a team comprising of the police, army, commerce and the relevant personnel from the Kings Roman Group and conducted an impromptu raid at Chinatown, Lao-China Friendship Street, farmers’ market, the riverside shops and restaurants. The aim of the raid is to check for illegal rearing, sale and consumption of wildlife as well as the illegal sale of wildlife products.

The raid was carried out in accordance to the relevant Laos national laws and regulations related to the SEZ. The infractions uncovered during the raid would result in its immediate rectification and the products seized were turned over and dealt with by the relevant authorities. In addition, the people involved in the illegal activities will be dealt with by the law and penalties would be imposed. The GT SEZ will carry out wildlife protection work and continue to resolutely crack down on illegal wildlife-related criminal activities.

The Lao PDR protects wildlife in accordance to its laws, especially endangered wildlife, and that is the responsibility of the SEZ Management Committee. The next step for the GT SEZ Committee is to strengthen the management of the markets, prevent from happening again, the trade or killing of wildlife as well as its production, sales and consumption. “When the buying stops, the killing can too”, wildlife protection begins with us, do not buy, sell, kill wildlife and its products. Let us work together to care for wildlife by creating a beautiful and harmonious home.

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老挝金三角经济特区依法打击非法出售、食用野生动物及制品专项整治行动
作者:liangge 日期:2015年03月31日 来源:liangge 浏览:70 次

     2015年3月23日,老挝金三角经济特区管理委员会召集公安、国防军、工商管理处以及金木棉集团有限公司相关部门,对唐人街、老中友谊街、农贸市场、江边广场等区域的商铺、餐馆进行了突击检查,本次检查重点是非法饲养出售、食用野生动物和非法制售野生动物制品的违法行为。

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此次突击检查是根据老挝国家相关法律和特区相关条例来执行,对于在检查过程中出现的问题特区管理委员会勒令其及时整改,对收缴到的违法违禁品将上缴国家相关部门做进一步处理,并对违法违禁人员做出相应的法律制裁和处罚。野生动物保护作为老挝金三角经济特区管理委员会一项常态化工作必将持续的进行下去,坚决打击区域内针对野生动物的违法犯罪行为。

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老挝人民民主共和国是法制社会主义国家,依法保护野生动物,特别是涉危野生动物是特区管理委员会义不容辞的责任。下一步老挝金三角经济特区管理委员会将加强市场管理,杜绝买卖和杀害野生动物及制作、出售、食用野生动物制品的违法行为发生。“没有买卖,就没有杀害”,保护野生动物从我们身边做起,拒绝买卖、杀害野生动物及出售、食用野生动物制品。让我们共同携手关爱野生动物,创造美好和谐家园。

Is Wechat’s action on illegal wildlife trade just a hide-and-seek trick?

Hello, this is my very first blog. I want to talk about the China’s rampant online wildlife products and the influence of the Wechat recent action on banning the illegal wildlife trade.

This week, the mobile chat app Wechat, also known as the leading social media platform for online wildlife trade has finally taken action. It exposed 168 accounts that were allegedly associated with illegal wildlife sales, including the sales of ivory, mammoth ivory, rhino horns and helmeted hornbills. These accounts will be closed for 30 days. Wechat claimed they would work closely with scientific institutions and relevant NGOs and send out a clear message that Wechat has zero tolerance for illegal wildlife online sales. It also encourages users to report abuse once found wildlife products for sale.

Rhino horn carved ornament for sale on Wechat (picture from Wechat official weibo)

Ivory carved Buddha amulet for sale on Wechat (picture from Wechat official weibo)

This is an encouraging small step, given the contexts that Wechat as China’s largest mobile social media sent out a clear message to the public and set up a positive example.  I can see on Weibo many NGOs and activists forwarded this news and celebrated on that. However, the penalty of a 30-day suspension is far away from  adequate in my opinion. The 30-day suspension is more like a hide-and-seek game and these accounts are likely to be active again after 30 days. Once closed, the cost of setting up new accounts and keeping posting is very minimal. A conservationist I knew, had told me one of the sellers he has been tracking requested his current subscribers to switch to another account and the streams of offers continues as per normal.

For Wechat, a mobile app company, what else can it do? It is not the forestry police, it does not have the enforcement authority or even the capacity to verify authenticity of sale or products on offer. The current voluntary report abuse system is totally relying on users. It is fragmented and has little power to deter crime.  I am expecting the actual enforcement to take place that the forestry police work with the relevant interest parties together to effectively shut down these online hubs.

To give you guys a sense of the rampant online sales of wildlife products, let’s have a look at a recent report, TRAFFIC claimed social media had became the new heavens for the wildlife sales, with around 2000 monthly new added advertisements, in which most lead to social media for the final transaction.

Number of total illegal wildlife product advertisements in monitored Chinese-language websites (January 2012-September 2014) © TRAFFIC

We can see the online advertisements dropped a lot from 2013 thanks to a series of collaborative operations with traditional e-commerce giants: Alibaba, Tecent, Jingdong etc. Well, it’s hard to imagine what was it like before  2013.  Recently, the logistics industries also joint force in this war. With all of these efforts from different sectors, the key comes back to the China’s enforcement. It is the only force can take the lead in combating the illegal wildlife trade and engage all of these sectors.

I will keep a close eye on the follow-up enforcement if there is any. Stay wild xxx