China Sustainable Travel Guide
China is highly characterized by its enormous economic growth and technological advancements from the past two decades. Major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong are all known for its modernity, towering skyscrapers and unique architecture. Because of this, China has become one of the most popular countries to visit by tourists each year. In 2014, China welcomed over 128 million international visitors. That’s in addition to their domestic population of over 1.35 billion (that’s billion with a B!), making China one of the most densely populated countries in the world, especially in major cities.
To find China’s top tourist attractions will largely depend on which cities or provinces you visit. Beijing is probably the most tourist friendly of them all, as many of the country’s great attractions can be found either in the city or short drives away. Such examples include: Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the temple of Confucius, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall of China (at least only part of it; it’s over 21,000 km long after all).
Stepping outside Beijing, you can find picturesque valleys such as those found in Guilin, where strange mountain peaks jut out from the valley floor. In Xian of Shaanxi Province, you can find the infamous Terracotta Warriors. Yunnan Province is known for its geographical diversity as you can find snow-capped mountains to the north and tropical rainforests to the south.
Back in major cities, zoos have become popular destinations for both tourists and locals alike. However, many of China’s zoos are well known for their lackluster animal welfare policies. In fact, the Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo was closed in 2010 after 11 Siberian Tigers died of starvation and malnutrition from being fed nothing but chicken bones. Where most of China’s zoos have poor reputations as far as animal welfare is concerned, the Chengdu Moon Bear Rescue Centre on the other hand has a fantastic reputation.
When discussing tourism in China, it’s important to mention the country’s appetite for a particular dish called shark fin soup. China is the largest consumer of this dish, and with the economic growth the country has seen over the past two decades, this dish once reserved for royalty is now readily accessible by all. To make shark fin soup, the barbaric practice of shark finning must take place. This is where sharks are fished out of the ocean, have their fins sliced off, and the rest thrown back in the ocean to die a slow and painful death. Thousands of sharks are killed each year for shark fin soup, to the point where potential extinction is a possibility. Most sharks do not reach sexual maturity until 20 or 30 years, and they only give birth to a handful of pups. This makes it difficult for their population to grow. Unfortunately shark finners often kill the sharks before they’re able to reproduce. As apex predators, they provide an essential role in keeping the balance of the ocean ecosystem. And with growing evidence of them as a potential keystone species, it’s very possible that without sharks, the ecosystems in which they’re found may simply collapse. If you’re ever offered shark fin soup, it’s highly encouraged that you decline; as without demand, there will be no product.
Finally, keep in mind that the air quality in many of China’s major cities is very poor. Many locals wear face masks to ensure they do not breathe in heavily polluted air. However, efforts for improvements are being made. China played a major role in the 2016 Paris accord, where a historic agreement was made in order to curb the effects of climate change. China agreed to get off coal and move toward renewable energy sources. With China proactively engaging in climate reduction strategies, we may be able to prevent a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius after all.