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  PlanetArk 11 Jul 07
China Urges Responsible Logging Overseas

BEIJING - China urged its logging companies on Tuesday to act responsibly overseas and practise sustainable forestry to avoid tarnishing the country's image.

Environmental groups accuse Chinese businesses of complicity in the illegal import of wood from irreplaceable forests across Africa, Latin America and Asia to feed China's booming export machine as well as to meet domestic demand.

But Beijing says it is clearing up the problem and counters that Western countries that import its timber products should share the blame.

Now the government has unveiled the draft of a handbook promoting sustainable forestry activities abroad, the Forestry Ministry said in a statement on its Web site (www.forestry.gov.cn).

"Proactively encourage Chinese companies to go out overseas and develop foreign forestry activities to make up for the lack of materials for the domestic wood processing industry," Deputy Forestry Minister Li Yucai was quoted as saying.

Yet he added "establish the image of our government being 'a responsible great nation'".

The handbook would be published under the principle of "economic feasibility (and) environmental responsibility" and "accords with the national situation", the ministry added. "(It) positively guides and standardises Chinese companies' sustainable forestry activities overseas, promotes the sustainable development of forestry in those countries (and) protects the international image of our government being responsible," it said.

China's wood products industry has expanded rapidly as increasingly wealthy city residents buy wood flooring, large couches and dining tables for their new apartments.

China has tried to crack down on illegal logging at home, after water rushing down the steep, deforested slopes of Tibet and Sichuan contributed to floods along the Yangtze in 1998.

Its companies have instead turned to countries like Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Myanmar to make up for the shortfall, and have faced growing international criticism for their voracious appetite and environmentally unfriendly ways.

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