Earthprint Ltd

Getting the Private Sector to Work for the Public Good

Within the space of two decades, China’s forestry sector has been transformed. As part of its broader “socialist market experiment”, China has negotiated a shift in responsibility for forest utilisation and management away from the state towards the private sector. While reform has progressed step-by-step, the cumulative change has been dramatic. Set in motion by the extension of the “Household Responsibility System” from agriculture to forestry in the late 1970s, rural households have been enabled to generate private returns from forestry investment, offered new opportunities to lease forest land and permitted to own trees that they have planted.

The changes underway in China’s forestry sector are as significant as they are diverse. Provinces, prefectures, counties, townships and even villages have adopted their own approaches to negotiating the changing roles and responsibilities between the private sector and government. After two decades of experience, it is time to take stock. This report seeks to make a start at this enormous task of lesson-learning by looking back as well as forward for guidance. Looking back, it seeks to learn from twenty years of forest land tenure reform and local experiments with forestry taxation. Looking forward, the report explores emerging insights in three areas: deals between companies and local communities in forest establishment and production; payments for forest environmental services such as watershed protection and biodiversity conservation; and forest certification. Based on over a year of work by five research teams and widespread consultation, the report ends by setting out potential priorities for policy-makers seeking to promote sustainable private sector forestry.
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