Dating back more than four millennia, China is the world's oldest continuous civilization and host to a wealth of historic treasures, varied geography, and a culture shaped by the teachings of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Its 52 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List (second only to Italy) include 12 natural heritage sites and 36 cultural heritage sites. With an estimated 34,687 species of vascular plants and animals, including the highly endangered Yunnan Golden Monkey and Giant Panda, which serves as a national treasure, China is the third most biodiverse country in the world, with ecoregions from towering mountain ranges to the arid Gobi Desert. Some of China’s most significant cultural heritage sites include the Great Wall of China, built over thousands of years to protect its territory from northern invaders; the Forbidden City of Beijing, where emperors ruled for more than 500 years; and a Terracotta Army of over 8,000 protective red clay soldiers buried with China’s first Emperor in Xi’an. Today, China is the most populous nation on the planet, with 1.4 billion inhabitants from 56 ethnic groups, and an economic giant anchored by thriving modern international business hubs such as Shanghai and Hong Kong. Any way you approach it, China is a kaleidoscope of travel experiences that inspires the imagination at all turns.
As the fourth most visited country in the world, China is investing in its rapidly-growing tourism industry as an effective tool for sustainable development, with national policy requiring new construction projects to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments. China also hosted the UNTWO ‘Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals: Journey to 2030’ Assembly in 2017, aimed at bringing stakeholders together to work towards a more responsible global industry. Construction of the world’s first ‘forest city’ in Liuzhou, set to commence in 2020, aims to mitigate the troubling levels of pollution caused by rapid industrial development over the past decades. The small city will incorporate over 1 million plants and 40,000 trees that will collectively absorb 10,000 tons of CO2 and 57 tons of pollutants, while producing nearly 900 tons of oxygen annually, setting a new standard for creatively working to mitigate environmental impacts.
Thought to be extinct in the 1960s, only about 3,000 Yunnan golden monkeys remain in its native China, making this one of the most endangered primates in the world. They live in the treetops in the steep, snowy forests of China’s Hengduan Mountains. In fact, they live at the highest altitude of any primate except humans. The pink-lipped monkey is facing the same dangers as so many other species – habitat loss and illegal hunting that are pushing the monkey to the brink. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has paid hunters to switch jobs to become forest patrollers who protect the Yunnan Golden Monkeys instead of killing them. Because of the work of these patrollers, one local population of monkeys has tripled—from 200 to 600 individuals. Thanks to TNC, the China Academy of Sciences and local Chinese partners, the monkey is getting more protection and local people are helping.Why the Tiger Ranking?