China started its bid for first-world status with economic reforms and increased openness, which culminated in this summer's uber-successful Beijing Olympics. No word on democracy yet, but China continues its inexorable march toward modernization with the addition of another classy staple of world powers: the national park.
Tangwanghe National Park, in northeastern China's Lesser Hinggan Mountains, will serve as a pilot park for a national park system resembling our own. While there are hundreds of nominal national parks in China, they function more like national historic and scenic spots, and stress sightseeing and visitation over environmental preservation. Not so with Tangwanghe, according to Wan Bentai, chief engineer of Ministry of Environmental Protection:
"The construction of national parks upgrades the use of natural resources. It also enriches tourism, and promotes the tourism industry. To standardize the creation of national parks will benefit the protection of reserves. It will also boost China's tourism economy."
Tangwanghe National Park will also focus on scientific research and environmental protection education. The area is notable for its extensive virgin forests of Korean broadleafed pines and "geological relics" unique to China. Vegetation covers approximately 99.8 percent of the park.
While planning is in the early stages, officials hope to limit both development and areas open to tourists, instead focusing on preservation. If the program is successful, it could lead to the formation of several more new national parks.
Welcome to the world of national parks, China—it's pretty rad. We've been at this a while over here, so we'll offer you a few pieces of advice: 1) don't make all your trails like this, and 2) make sure your rangers have sweet uniforms. The uniforms are key.
— Ted Alvarez