Course:CONS370/Projects/The forest practices of Ethnic Minorities in Xiangxi, Hubei Province, China and the impacts of the government’s forest restoration projects.

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Fenghuang, Xiangxi, Hunan, China - panoramio (7).jpg

Xiangxi is located in the Wuling mountain area of Guizhou plateau, which is one of the most important forest areas in Hunan province. According to the statistical yearbook of west Hunan in 2017, the forest coverage rate of Hunan reached 70.24% and the growing stock had reached 43 million cubic meters. Xiangxi autonomous prefecture is an important forest city in Hunan province, which owns 3 national natural reserves, 5 provincial nature reserves, 4 national forest parks, 3 national wetland parks and 8 state forest farms, occupying 133,400 hectares[1]. There are 43 ethnic groups, including Tujia, Miao, Han, Hui, Yao, Dong and Bai, with a total population of 2.97 million[2]. The rich natural forest resources and diverse ethnic minority groups in the west and south of Hunan province have nurtured the colorful ethnic minority forest cultures, which embodies distinct ethnic characteristics in four levels: of material culture, system culture, behavior culture and spiritual culture. Together these Ethnic Minorities have protected the high theoretical research value and application value of the forest ecosystems. Due to the development of the local economy, the forest was destroyed to a certain extent, so the government decided to carry out the restoration project of the local forest, which had a certain impact on the lives of local ethnic minorities[3].


Location of Xiangxi Prefecture within Hunan (China).png


Xiangxi is generally the general name of the whole western Hunan province. Its geographical range is 109°10 '~110°22.5' E, 27°44.5 '~29°38' N. It is about 170 kilometers wide from east to west and 240 kilometers long from north to south. The prefecture covers an area of 15,462 square kilometers, of which the urban area is 556 square kilometers. It accounts for 7.3% of the total area of Hunan province. In this vast land, mountains and river network are densely covered. The famous mountains are Wuling Mountain, Xuefeng Mountain. The famous rivers are Yuan River and Li River, accounting for two of the four major river systems in Hunan.[4]


On August 1, 1952, the Miao autonomous region of Xiangxi was established. It had direct jurisdiction over Jishou, Guzhang, Luxi, Fenghuang, Huayuan, Baojing -- 6 counties -- and in charge of Yongshun, Longshan, Sangzhi, Dayong 4 counties. By the end of the year [which year?], the four counties were also under direct jurisdiction.

On April 28, 1955, the name of Xiangxi Miao autonomous region was changed to Xiangxi Miao autonomous prefecture, and the people's committee of the autonomous prefecture was stationed in Jishou county.

On September 20, 1957, Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture was established. The people's government of autonomous prefecture was stationed in jishou county. It governed 10 counties as before.

In 1982 and 1985, Jishou and Dayong were designated as cities.

In 1988, Dayong city and Sngzhi county were subsumed into Dayong city (prefecture-level city, now Zhangjiajie city), and Xiangxi prefecture was subsumed into Longshan, Yongshun, Baojing, Guzhang, Huayuan, Luxi, Fenghuang and Jishou[4].

Tujia People

Ethnic Minorities

Xiangxi now has 43 ethnic groups. At the end of 2005, the total population of the prefecture was 2.6834 million, including 2.086 million ethnic minorities, accounting for 74.85 percent of the total population. Among the ethnic minority population, Tujia people number 1,105,900, accounting for 44.21 percent of the total population and 55.06 percent of the ethnic minority population. There are 886,100 Miao people, accounting for 33.02% of the total population and 44.12% of the minority population. Other ethnic minorities numbered 16,600, accounting for 0.62 percent of the total population and 0.83 percent of the minority population.Among them, the ethnic minorities with a population of more than 1,000 are: 8,424 Hui, 2,349 Yao, 2,341 Dong and 1,819 Bai. The other 36 ethnic minorities all have populations of less than 500, and 22 have populations of less than 10.

In general, the ethnic groups in Xiangxi are living in a state of large mixed communities and small settlements. Tujia and Miao ethnic groups are mainly distributed in the villages with no traffic, while the majority Han People and the other ethnic minorities are mainly distributed in the riverside fork mouth and towns. Tujia mainly concentrated in the northern half and central Yongshun, Baojing, Longshan, Guzhang,Jishou. Miao people are mainly concentrated in the southern half and the central part of Huayuan, Fenghuang, Guzhang, Luxi, Jishou, Baojing. Hui People are mainly concentrated in Longshan county, Fenghuang county, Yongshun county and Jishou city. Yao people are mainly concentrated in Bojing, Jishou and Yongshun counties, Dong people are mainly concentrated in Jishou, Huayuan and Fenghuang counties, and Bai people are mainly concentrated in Jishou, Yongshun and Longshan counties[4].

Tenure arrangements

Overall situation

Based on the Forest Act of People’s Republic of China, forest resources are owned by the state, except where they are legally owned by the community. The forest resources are managed directly by the state council. The council can authorize its  natural resources management department to perform the duties of ownership. The ownership and the right to use the woodlands and forest lands shall be registered and recorded by the realty registration department and issue certificates. The key forest areas certified by the state council shall be registered by the council’s natural resources management department. The contractor shall enjoy the management rights and ownership rights of the registered state-owned forests or community-owned forests. The contractor can, in accordance with the law, transfer his forest ownership by leasing (subcontracting), taking a stake or directly transferring to other people. The community forest lands that have not been contracted for operation shall be operated uniformly by the rural collective economic organizations. With the consent of more than two thirds of community members or community’s representatives, the management right and ownership of the forest can be transferred under the law by means of bidding, auction or opening consultation.[5]

Current trends

The article 21 of Forest Act states that where it is really necessary to expropriate forest lands in order to meet the need of public interests such as ecological protection or infrastructure construction, the government should give fair and reasonable compensation to the individuals.[5]

Since Xiangxi is currently conducting a Poverty Reduction Program through forestry ecological construction, the government has altered many forest lands into non-commercial forest and let former owners manage it, as well as give them compensation. However, the result of the Poverty Reduction Program is not overall significant, but it has an obvious impact on the extremely poor people as it has provided a stable income source.[6]

On the other hand, because of the strict management plan of non-commercial forests, local people’s exploitation of forest resources has been limited. About 63.72% thought the restriction is a serious problem and 70% of people thought the subsidies of non-commercial forest is too low[7]. Due to the problem, the enthusiasm of people to manage the non-commercial forests is low and because of that, it is hard for those poor-managed forests to play their ecological role.

Administrative arrangements

System of regional ethnic autonomy

China implements a system of regional ethnic autonomy. Regional national autonomy system is very clear for the central and the subordinate relationship between the provisions of the national autonomous areas, for the given sufficient autonomy within the nation, so the nation can be in accordance with the unified the central route, special customs of the ethnic and regional characteristics to carry out the work to our national benefit, the system is very great, for the development of China's ethnic minority areas is very beneficial.

Public policies and characteristics of ethnic minority areas

Ethnic policies of the country is constitute the premise of public policy in ethnic minority areas, ethnic minority areas of public policy is the country's ethnic policy combined with the local local autonomy into can satisfy the local actual policy, both supplement each other, for the general progress of the society in national regions and the economic development provides a good guarantee.

Civil society theory

Marx made a scientific explanation of the essential characteristics of civil society, and he believed that since the emergence of private interests and class interests, society has been divided into civil society and political state.Domestic scholars usually interpret civil society as the private sector in which members of the society conduct economic activities and social activities on the premise of entrepreneurship and on the basis of autonomy and the private sector in which they participate in and discuss politics in accordance with contractual rules.

Social work theory

As an important measure to maintain social stability, social work is a special profession which aims at helping others and USES a variety of professional knowledge, methods and skills to solve complex social problems.Specifically, community social work is to take the community and residents as the service object, use professional theoretical knowledge and technology, prevent and solve community problems, integrate community resources to participate in community construction and management, carry forward the excellent quality of community residents to help each other, and then promote community development and social progress[8].

Affected Stakeholders

Local ethnic minorities

Since Xiangxi is located in a mountainous area, developing forestry seems to be a good way for people there to increase their income. The income level of people in Xiangxi only occupied 52.96% of national average in 2011. To solve the poverty problem, the government of Xiangxi has launched the Poverty Reduction Program by conducting a grain to green project, which is a project to alter the use of the forest lands and farm lands from crop farming or stock farming to non-commercial forests. Hou’s research of 375 peasant households’ income condition in Xiangxi shows that the government’s measures only have very limited achievement. First, people’s participation in the Grain to Green Project is high. There were more poor people willing to join the project than the relatively rich people because the project’s subsidy contributes little to their income.  In addition, for non-commercial forest projects, rich households have a higher proportion of subsidy because of the national forest allocation strategy. Households with larger areas of forest can develop more non-commercial forests and have more subsidies. Except for forestry, another important source of income is migrant work. By participating in the government’s ecological forestry construction, the time limitation also can restrict the migrant work in other cities and cause the decrease in family income.[6]

Also, due to the limitation of the natural geographical environment, local residents’ living and daily needs are heavily dependent on the access of forest. However, under the strict laws of protecting non-commercial forest, local peoples’ production activity such as fruit picking and logging is in conflict with the laws that protect the non-commercial forest.[6]

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Local government

The development of industrial civilization also causes serious environmental problems. Recent years, people have realized that the cultural value of forests is the main source of tourism attraction. The religious belief, ethnic custom, folk oral literature and the understanding and utilization of the forest of the ethnic minorities in Xiangxi are intertwined with the unique culture and appearance of forest, which are in great value of ecotourism. Having the rich attracting  resources, the ecotourism brand created by the local government has achieved remarkable results. At present, there are 2 national scenic spots, 1 national cultural city, 2 national cultural towns and 1 national nature reserve. In addition, both Gaowangjie and Tonghe parks have applied to the state for the nature reserve project and the national wetland park. Today, Xiangxi has won the title of the best ecological tourism scenic spot in China and the national top ten charming cities.[9]


Forestry cooperative organizations and some forestry companies have organised the farmers who are engaged in the same type of forest production or management. Under the organizations of those NGOs, there are more interaction and cooperation between local farmers, which has greatly increased the income level of individuals. On the other hand, with the best use of the local forest resources and labours, NGOs also achieved significant results on forestry medicine industry, fruit growing industry and nursery stock base.[10]



Under the management of residents committee and the cooperation with outside forestry companies, four different modern models of forest practices is conducted in Xiangxi:

Forestry economy driven mode

This mode plays an important role in achieving the multifunctional utilization of forest resources. To be specific, it is a mode of fully developing the undergrowth management. Meanwhile, release the restriction of non-commercial forest and make the best use of it. At the same time, conducting diversified management mode to the forest land that was converted from farmland, helped to increase the income of the farmers.[11]

Ecological restoration and protection mode

This mode helps to maintain ecological security. Due to the destruction caused by exploitation of the mountainous area, the restoration of the ecosystem needs forest resources and forest ecosystem, as well as a long period of time. Specifically, The restoration of ecological vegetation can repair the damaged ecosystem. On the other hand, the ecological management mode of economic forest can guarantee the ecological benefits of forests as well as the economic benefits.[11]

Forest ecosystem services marketization mode

Based on the existing forest resources and ecological basis, developing ecotourism which combined with the cultural characteristics of ethnic minorities can not only achieve the forest’s ecological functions, but also achieve its economic benefits, and make contributions to the development of the mountainous area.[11]

Specialty forest industry mode

It is an important mode to solve the existing problem in the development of the forestry industry in Xiangxi autonomous prefecture. The forestry industry in xiangxi is characterized by small scale, scattered structure and un-economic structure, which leads to the lagging development of the local forestry industry and forestry economy. The specialty forest industry mode thus can play a vital role in achieving forestry economic growth.[11]

Results of Government’s Forest Restoration Projects

As a project of ecological restoration and reconstruction with a strong policy and a long duration, the Grain to Green program plays an important role in poverty reduction[7]. On the one hand, it can satisfy the living needs of poor farmers through the various utilization and substitution between farmland and forest land. On the other hand, the Grain to Green Project is also a kind of exchange activity of grains and ecological conditions between government and farmers. The subsidies paid by the government have a direct effect on alleviating the poverty of farmers in the mountainous areas. Before the conversion, the land use of the farmers was relatively simple, which was generally used to grow grain and the attached animal husbandry. The income source was relatively single and therefore can bring huge risk on farmland management. A slight fluctuation in the market will cause changes in the income of farmers. After the conversion of the farmland to forest land, there are more various land uses people can choose, which will reduce the market risk of farmers. On the other hand, the subsidies paid by the government can also be a stable income source. Besides, forest management requires less time costing than farmland. People with surplus labour can even go out and work as migrant workers.

However, a case study[7] focused on the Tujia People autonomous prefecture, which includes 7 national-level poverty-stricken counties and 1 provincial-level poverty-stricken county shows a different result of Grain to Green project. Since the income level of people in Xiangxi only occupied 52.96% of national average in 2011. Xiangxi is the first area in China to launch an anti-poverty program. The Forestry Ecological Construction program plays a vital role in both improving the living standards of local people and optimizing ecological environment. The program mainly consisted of Grain to Green Project and non-commercial forest project. The article analyzed 375 peasant households’ income conditions in Xiangxi, and the result shows: First, people’s participation in the Grain to Green Project is high. There were more poor people willing to join the project than the relatively rich people because the project’s subsidy contributes little to the latter's income.  In addition, for non-commercial forest projects, rich households have a higher proportion of subsidy because of the national forest allocation strategy. Households with larger areas of forest can develop more non-commercial forests and have more subsidies. Except for forestry, another important source of income is migrant work. By participating in the government’s ecological forestry construction, the time limitation also can restrict the migrant work. As a result, the impact of ecological forestry construction on peasant households is not overall significant, but it has an obvious impact on the poor people.

Conflicts and issues

In Xiangxi area, due to the limitation of the natural geographical environment, the local residents are largely dependent on the acquisition of forest rights to obtain the necessary material and social conditions for survival. For example, the public interest in environmental protection is in conflict with the interest of the residents in minority areas in picking fruit trees and the public interest in not felling public forests and other trees as well. Disputes over forest rights are extremely intense because they involve the survival interests of local residents. The disputes of forest rights in xiangxi are mostly between villagers or between family members, more complex is the disputes of forest rights between different families or between neighboring villages. In recent years, the number of disputes over forest rights in the Xiangxi region is large.[12]

National policy towards non-commercial forests has restricted the local farmer’s exploitation of forest resources. About 63.72% of the people thought the restriction is a serious problem and 70% of the people thought the subsidies of non-commercial forest is too low. Due to the problem, the enthusiasm of people to manage the non-commercial forests is low and because of that, it is hard for those poor-managed forests to play their ecological role.

The rapid economic development has damaged the environment and increased the demand for ecological restoration, especially for forest ecosystem, thus bringing some pressure to the ecological construction of forestry.In addition, the destruction of forest by economic development is difficult to recover quickly, and the destruction of forest resources leads to the aggravation of rocky desertification.

From a micro point of view, the restrictions imposed by the ecological reconstruction on the owners of forest resources in xiangxi autonomous prefecture make it difficult to convert forest resources into capital effectively, and fail to lift farmers out of poverty.First, the potential of resources is not tapped.Second, the existing forest tourist attractions are small in scale, poor in basic conditions, low in popularity, lack of brand benefits, and do not form a forest ecotourism circle combining points, lines and surfaces.


Governance theory

The theory of governance holds that the source of legitimate power is not only the government, but also the cooperative civil society.As a mass autonomous organization, the residents committee should deal with the community affairs rather than accept the administrative distribution from the government.Only by reducing the administrative function of the community, restoring the true character of the community, and making more decisions on community affairs independently by the citizens, can the community construction be strengthened with the strength of various social organizations, which means the maturity of community governance[8].

Community management institution

The organizational management function of the community management institution of Xiangxi autonomous prefecture: First, to publicize the state's policies and various laws and regulations to the residents, to organize various forms of socialist cultural and ideological activities, to educate the community residents to conscientiously fulfill their legal obligations, and to safeguard the legitimate rights of the community members in accordance with the law.

Second, formulate the development plans of the autonomous prefectures and coordinate the handling of major issues concerning the interests of ethnic minorities.

Third, to be responsible for the employment and assessment of the staff of the autonomous prefecture, with a responsible attitude towards the residents of the autonomous prefecture, and with a sound social work employment system, to ensure the smooth progress of the procedures of competition for employment, democratic assessment, democratic evaluation and so on.

Fourth, assist the government to manage community affairs according to law, the community policing, conflict mediation, social security, family planning and other affairs, give the government can do to assist, community service, property management, community health, community environment and so on about the community residents' vital interests, affect residents' basic work of the problem.

Fifth, build a bridge of communication between the residents and the government, master and understand the needs of the residents, ensure the timely transmission of public opinion, to the residents' opinions and demands, and make a timely response[8].


It is suggested that Xiangxi autonomous prefecture should vigorously develop forest leisure and eco-tourism in forest management, attach importance to the planting and management of broad-leaved forest, strengthen the management of secondary forest, strengthen the adjustment of forest structure according to the target area, the change of ecological demand, improve the phase structure of forest Xiangxi autonomous prefecture. At the same time, the forest ecosystem monitoring should be strengthened to grasp the dynamic change trend and service function of forest resources, so as to provide scientific decision-making basis for the protection and sustainable utilization of the forest ecosystem in Xiangxi autonomous prefecture.

To develop forest cultural tourism, the key is to find out the local cultural connotation, and give full play to its characteristics, to form a boutique forest cultural line. On this basis, the rich forest resources Xiangxi are combined with the ecological ethical consciousness contained in the ethnic and religious beliefs in the forest culture, and the forest culture is integrated into the whole process of tourism activities, so that tourists can feel the enjoyment brought by the forest culture in the process of travel.

The economic development of xiangxi has brought great pressure to the forestry ecological construction, and the fragile ecological environment of the region has a strong practical demand for the protection of forest resources. At the same time, the current forestry ecological construction in Xiangxi with the main goal of protection has also caused certain constraints to economic development. To solve the problem of mutual restriction, the development of the Green Economy is a very effective means. Green Economic growth mainly involves coordinating and strengthening economic, environmental and social policies. The national policy towards non-commercial forests has restricted the local farmer’s exploitation of forest resources. Due to the problem, the enthusiasm of people to manage the non-commercial forests is low and because of that, it is hard for those poor-managed forests to play their ecological role. Some advice to change the situation are pretty valuable:

a. Develop the undergrowth economy and increase rural income.

b. Strengthen input and increase the ecological compensation.

c. Establish incentive and restraint mechanisms for forestry ecological construction and poverty alleviation.


  1. Forestry department of Xiangxi Autonomous prefecture. "Overview of Xiangxi's Forestry".
  2. Guangying Shi, Yuguo Xiang, Ziyou Tan (2019). "Evaluation of Forest Ecological Service Function in Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture". Shandong Foretry Science & Technology. 4: 79–94.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. Wu Ping, Hu Ping (2014). "Nationality and Value Analysis of Forest Culture in Xiangxi and Xiangnan". Hunan social science. 3: 183–186.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture on Baidupedia".
  5. 5.0 5.1 Government of China. "Forest Act of China".
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Yilei Hou, Yali Wen, Wen Jin. (2014). "Research on the Impact of Forestry Ecological Construction on Mountain's Poverty Reduction——A Case Study in Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture of Hunan Province". Journal of Hunan University. 4: 43–50.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Chen, Jiansheng (2006). "The relationship between returning farmland to forest and alleviating poverty in mountainous areas". Modern finance and economics. 10: 6–13.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Wu Fen (2013). "Research on community management in minority areas —— a case study of Xiangxi autonomous prefecture". Central China Normal University.
  9. Fuxia Z. "Evaluation and development of folk culture eco-tourism resources in xiangxi". Guizhou Ethnic Studies. 1: 113–116.
  10. Xiangling L, Yan Z. "The dynamic mechanism and development of forestry cooperation organizations in ethnic areas - a case study of Tujia and Miao people in Xiangxi autonomous prefecture". Academic communication. 7: 91–93.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Yilei Hou, Yang Gao, Yali Wen, Wen Ji. (2014). "Coordination modes of forestry ecological construction and development with mountainous area development——taking xiangxi autonomous prefecture in hunan province". Resource Development & Market. 7: 793–796.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. Yali Wen, Yilei Hou, Zhao Zheng (2014). "Analysis on the Interaction Relationship between Forestry Ecological Construction and Economic Development in Xiangxi Mountains". Forest Science. 12: 131–138.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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