A little-known aim of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is ‘people-to-people cultural exchange’, including active promotion of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in BRI countries. On a global scale, this is likely to increase both TCM demand and the sourcing of wildlife-based TCM ingredients from new areas. Any rapid increase in wildlife demand risks exacerbating illegal and unsustainable trade but, with careful management, BRI–TCM could also present opportunities for well-governed supply chains, creating sustainable livelihoods for rural harvesters. With China reaching out to BRI countries to cooperate on the marketing, registration and promotion of TCM products, there is now a critical short-term window for the identification of these risks and opportunities, and to ensure that sustainability is built into these markets from the start.
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A.H. was funded by the Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, and by the Kadas Fellowship at Worcester College, Oxford. The Oxford Martin School supported a visiting fellowship for T.M.L. during which this piece was developed. We thank E. Hsu for her comments and advice.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Hinsley, A., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Cooney, R. et al. Building sustainability into the Belt and Road Initiative’s Traditional Chinese Medicine trade. Nat Sustain (2019) doi:10.1038/s41893-019-0460-6