Man riding with scooter

The Myth of the Chinese Wilderness

As China aims to create 60 national parks by 2035, what will happen to the 12 million human residents inside protected areas?

On the rough cement of a pitch-black village road sometime before midnight, a family hacked at the hind meat from the carcass of a cow.

“It starved to death because there wasn’t enough land to graze,” claimed one man. The family was in a rush to get the cuts to market by morning, as their livelihood largely depended on their cow herd, which grazed illegally within the bounds of Momoge National Nature Reserve, a 1,440-square-kilometer wetland in northeastern Jilin province in which the family lives.

It is estimated that 12 million people live within the borders of China’s sprawling system of over 1,600 nature reserves, where residents and conservationists are set on a collision course.

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The Myth of the Chinese Wilderness is a story from our issue, “Call of the Wild.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Tina Xu (徐盈盈)

Tina Xu is the former culture editor at The World of Chinese. She writes across film, literature, and society, spanning from indie documentaries to diaspora communities. Her stories for TWOC received the 2021 SOPA Award for Excellence in Regional Reporting on the Environment, and were finalists in Women’s Issues and Photography.

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