While many countries in the world have seen a decline in forest resources, China has increased both the area and reserves of its forests and was listed as one of the 15 countries preserving the most area of forests by the United Nations Environment Program. The forest coverage rate in China is 16.55 percent.
From 1998 to 2001, the Central Government invested 42.7 billion yuan in central and western China to protect vegetation, subsidize local farmers and promote projects transforming over-cultivated farmland back to forests and pastures. The project to reforest cultivated land has been implemented in 25 provinces, autonomous regions and centrally administered municipalities. Reforesting cultivated land has been carried out in 25 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government.
By 2003, some 11.27 million ha of cultivated land had been reforested throughout China. Another effective measure of forest protection is the natural forest conservation program started in 1998 that stipulated a nationwide end to the felling of trees in natural forests. As stipulated by the Research Report on China's Sustainable Development Strategy on Forestry, China's forest coverage rate is expected by 2050 to reach 28 percent, with an added area of 110 million ha of planted forest.
Desertification is one of the most severe environmental problems in China. The area of desertification, which is 2.62 million sq km or about 27 percent of China's land territory, far exceeds the nation's total farmland. Today, although the desertification has been curbed in some areas, it still is expanding at a rate of more than 3,000 sq km every year.
The State Forestry Administration has implemented a nationwide sand control program, which has three phases: The first phase aims to get a basic control of desertification by 2010; the second phase aims then to reduce the area of desertification year by year until 2030; and the third phase aims to raise the nation's forest cover and bring all desertification sources under effective control by the year 2050.