China’s image at risk as cross-border crimes rise

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/24 23:03:40

Recently, two Chinese citizens were detained by inspectors of the Land of the Leopard National Park in the southwest region of Primorsky in Russia's Far East, according to a news release from the reserve. They were suspected of poaching ginseng, which in Russia only grows in the Primorsky and Khabarovsk regions.

It is regrettable that there is nothing new about Chinese nationals being accused of poaching and smuggling animals and plants in other countries, and their range seems to be widening. In January, Russian media also reported that the Russian border patrol caught four Chinese nationals at a checkpoint in Primorsky Krai and foiled their attempt to smuggle 4,600 sea cucumbers. And there have been reports that Chinese nationals engaged in illegal logging in Myanmar and smuggled endangered forest turtles in the Philippines. Naturally, these actions upset local residents. 

Poaching and smuggling are illegal in China, just as in other nations, and have long been cracked down on. But when such crimes cross borders, they generate a broader impact than just environmental damage.

In the Belt and Road initiative that China is vigorously pushing forward, our neighbors, like the countries in Southeast Asia, are a priority. Yet China's rise has aroused doubts in these nations about what such a major power wants and they are sensitive in this regard. Many residents become hostile to Chinese investment and businesses in their countries and their impressions of China are easily affected by specific things.

China's decision to impose a one-year ban on the ivory trade in 2015 was widely lauded by many international organizations. This indicates how much weight environmental protection currently carries across the globe, and what backlash there would be if damage is done to a country's environment. The poaching and smuggling carried out by Chinese nationals in these countries often cause damage to the local environment, angering local people and staining China's image.

Yet this is a field in which China and its neighboring countries can cooperate. After all, China alone is unable to eliminate such cross-border crimes.

All the countries involved need to work together to conduct overall management of these rare animals and plants, and stop such illegal moves by enhancing education of the crimes and law enforcement. They can also set up a protection mechanism for rare species and include it in bilateral or multilateral cooperation. In this way China sends a positive signal to people in neighboring countries about its determination and hence builds a better image to ensure that the Belt and Road initiative can be promoted smoothly. 

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