China has emerged as a champion in the fight against desertification by investing heavily in land restoration efforts through several major initiatives. The Three-North Shelterbelt programme, also known as the "Green Great Wall of China," is a national tree-planting project designed to rehabilitate degraded land and stop the desert encroaching into the fertile grasslands and farmlands of northern China.
To scale up measures against desertification, the Chinese government has also developed a National Action Programme to Combat Desertification by expanding protected areas and restoring overgrazed and marginal farmlands to their natural state. It has created strong incentives to encourage private-sector organisations to invest in restoring degraded areas through public–private partnerships.
In 2016, China launched the Belt and Road Joint Action Initiative to combat desertification across the Silk Road region, and the cooperation between partner countries and communities is expected to accelerate in the future.
China is making major strides towards combating desertification, but with a growing population and a warmer and drier climate, the challenges will also increase. We must ask what we can learn from China’s experience, and seek to balance the needs of socio-economic development with the protection of vital and limited natural resources.