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Economy, Forestry and Fishing

tung tree, pine resin, reform policies, mollusks, crabs

China's forest resources are limited due to centuries of cutting for fuel and building materials. Programs to convert open land into forests have increased the extent of forestland from about 8 percent of the total area in 1949 to 17.1 percent in 2000. Tree-planting campaigns throughout the country have been organized both at the state and local levels; rural villages have been responsible for planting 70 percent of the total reforested area. Trees have been planted around settlements, along roads, on the edge of bodies of water, and by the sides of peasant homes.

The distribution of forests in China is very uneven. The northeast and southwest have half of the country’s forest area and three-quarters of the forest resources. Principal species cut include various pines, spruce, larch, oak, and, in the extreme south, teak and mahogany. Other commercial species include the tung tree, lacquer tree, camphor, and bamboo. Major forestry products include timber, plywood, fiberboard, pine resin, tannin extract, and paper pulp.

China's total catch of fish, shellfish, and mollusks in the 1990s was more than that of any other nation. Aquaculture, the breeding of fish in ponds and lakes, accounted for 54 percent of the total catch, and wild-caught fish accounted for 46 percent.

Aquaculture was an important part of traditional Chinese food production. The government’s initial five-year plans deemphasized aquaculture, but since 1984 reform policies have restored and modernized this activity. Carp ponds, a Chinese food source for thousands of years, yield a significant share of the total acquaculture catch. Prawns, crabs, and scallops are also raised in ponds. The principal aquaculture producing regions are those close to urban markets in the middle and lower Yangtze Valley and the Zhu Jiang delta. In addition to fish, China also harvests aquatic plants.

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