Global opinion of China with regard to Rhino and Elephant poaching is generally very poor. Some facts that are not well known include:
In 1993, China banned rhino horn use in traditional Chinese medicine.
In 2011 China and their giant Baidu search engine moved to stop online auction sites from trading in the products from endangered animals.
By 2012 the International Fund for Animal Welfare, noted that there had been a 40% reduction in sales by auction in China.
In 2013, WildAid, together with the African Wildlife Foundation and the Chinese government carried out an educational campaign to educate Asians about the fallacies of rhino horn’s mythical properties.
In 2015 China has donated goods in the form of vehicles, communication equipment, and other useful products to assist the anti-poaching war in African countries. The value of these donations runs into millions of US$. This has come from a fund of $10 million which the Chinese President set aside for conservation of threatened wildlife in Africa. There have also been large donations raised by intellectual private Chinese persons.
China recently seized nearly 2 tonnes of ivory, bear paws and rhino horn and arrested 16 suspects.
The greatest market demand for rhino horn is not China, but is in fact Vietnam where the ownership of rhino horn products relates largely to social status.
China is culturally closer to the Vietnamese than any of the western nations, so it should be considered that they would be best positioned to influence the education of Vietnamese who demand the products from the international trafficking of wildlife.
The problem is that even if China led a massive information and educational campaign to significantly lower consumer demand in Vietnam, the chances are that it is far too late for the rhino and edging into the critical zone in respect of elephant poaching.
China does not have the massive exposure of Google, You-Tube and Facebook to help get the message across to their own people, never mind other nations in the Asian Sphere. They do have their own versions of these networking tools, but censorship and close monitoring exclude to a large extent, negative media about China. It is a fact that during a survey a few years ago, most Chinese honestly believed rhino horn came from naturally dead rhino or from commercially farmed animals. The Chinese simply do not see the videos, articles and images of the destruction of Africa’s wildlife.
The Chinese government has to contend with a massive population of people who are not in the elite-educated sphere, so understandably they are concerned with information used for political and destabilising purposes by the hoi polloi. In fact, many universities in China do allow access by highly educated students to most Internet resources. It is argued that it is better for the educated to know what is going on as they can make informed decisions, whereas the lesser educated might use the net as a tool for nefarious anti-government purposes.
Massive websites such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube generate huge wealth, and it is even probable that China is reluctant to lose the finances generated from their own equivalent sites.
Irrespective of whether the blocks and bans are commercially or politically motivated, at the end of the day the millions of people in China are largely unaware of the devastation of Africa’s wildlife. The tragedy is that given the lack of access to Facebook and YouTube they will remain ignorant. Ignorant people are unable to push for change in legislation and government commitment to universal problems.
If the Chinese could access Facebook and YouTube, grassroots opinion would have a far better chance of motivating Chinese leaders to act with the urgency required to save our critically endangered species.