China has a long civilised history of five thousand years and has 55 minorities. The Chinese people created diversified traditional culture and knowledge in the past long history, which played an important role in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in China.
Policies and regulation in China fully respect the rights of minorities and local communities, respect the traditional living style of the local communities beneficial to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, support the minorities and local communities to participate in the activities in conformity with the objectives of the Convention, and promote the sum-up, inheriting and developing of the traditional knowledge.
China has established a relatively perfect intellectual property right system, but the traditional knowledge is not protected by the current system. For example, the flora species with unmodified genes, such as wild species and original plants planted by farmers, are treated as free-access goods. In the negotiation on International Agreement on Plant Heredity Resources, China supports the aim of the Convention on Biological Diversity, actively promotes the establishment of the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing of the plant heredity resources, and insists on the equitable sharing of the benefits resulted from the access of heredity resources through multilateral system to realize the rights of the farmers.
2.Sum-up and maintenance of traditional knowledge
Under the assistance of relevant international organizations, China actively conducted the sum-up and conservation of the traditional knowledge. The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, in cooperation with the International Research Institute of Plant Heredity Resources, conducted a study and investigation on the taros in Yunnan regarding their heredity diversity, planting, storage, processing and use. The study showed that the local farmers were able to effectively maintain and manage the species diversity.
Under the financial support from Ford Foundation, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, conducted an investigation on the traditional slash-and-burn cultivation in Hani and Jinuo minority communities. The study showed that many traditional approaches stressed the conservation of forests. In lands after the slash-and-burn cultivation, some flora species with special economic and ecological values are often reserved, including banyan, wild mango and timber species. The traditional management approaches have played an indelible active role in the conservation of biological diversity.
The Ford Foundation also provided financial support to the Xishuanbannai Tropical Arboretum in Yunnan to study the relationship between arboretum and the traditional religion (Buddhism) of Dai Nationality and the roles of religion in the conservation of biological diversity. Over 100 botanic species are regarded having important significance on the religions.
3.Participation of minorities and local communities in the conservation of biological diversity
With the assistance of international organizations, some nature reserves performed the management with the participation of local communities. The local communities and women are attracted and encouraged to the management of the nature reserves. Many famous spots of Taoism and Buddhism, as well as other “Spirit Mountains” are places where the biological resources are better protected. Through setup of rules and conventions by local people, the good traditional knowledge is maintained and developed, and the conservation of biological diversity is facilitated. For example, there are 400 “spirit mountains” in Xishuangbanna. These “spirit mountains” have been protected by the local communities of Dai Nationality.
4.Problems encountered in the maintenance and use of traditional knowledge
Although some progress has been made in the conservation of traditional knowledge in China, the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices are scattered greatly among local people and have not been better summed up. Along with the process of modernization, the eminent national traditional cultures are dying away gradually. There is inadequate awareness on the conservation of traditional knowledge, and the national policies, strategies and legislation in this field are still very weak. The mechanism of equitable sharing of benefits from the utilization of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices has not been established. The national capacity and technologies for conservation of traditional knowledge are still weak.