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The ambitious plan to establish a National Park System in China

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 07, 2019

Sanjiangyuan in Qinghai

Sanjiangyuan in Qinghai is set to become China’s first national park, opening in 2020. It’s part of the Chinese government’s plan to follow the US model of national parks by replacing seven different departments with one, the National Park Administration.

Jonathan Jarvis, the Director of the United States National Park Service under President Obama, visited China to observe some of the past efforts and the new initiatives being put forth. Jarvis was interviewed by AJ Cortese at Pandaily.

Obviously China has had a high priority on economic development for a long time so it was actually refreshing to see them at least state politically, that they want conservation to be the priority. Because, frankly, if you’re going to have a real national park system it can’t just be about visitation or economical development and tourism it has to have a foundation in conservation and historical preservation as well.

We met with local mayors and provincial leaders and they clearly had gotten the message that they were now going to be evaluated in terms of their accomplishments and career status based on ecological conservation and not economic development. What’s interesting was they were asking us to help them figure out what that means because most of them had been trained professionally in economic development, which was to build something: a road, a hospital, a library or a school in these remote communities and now they were being challenged with ecological conservation at the same time as improving the lives of the local communities.

China has said politically that they want to have a complete national park system by 2030. Of course China is hosting the convention of biodiversity next year in October 2020, and I would anticipate that China will be announcing sometime in 2020, this sort of trajectory towards having a complete system with actual designation of at least the first slate, and then another slate and then another. They are trying to do what the US did over 100 years, starting in 1916, in just 10 years. This doesn’t surprise me because that’s kind of the way China does things.
(Emphasis mine.)