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Fury at UK 'forks not chopsticks' reports

(Shanghai Daily)

14:20, March 17, 2013

Headlines in two major UK newspapers infuriated China's netizens when they appeared to urge the swapping of chopsticks for knives and forks.

The newspapers, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, were quoting Bo Guangxin, chairman of the Jilin Forestry Industry Group, when he told his fellow delegates at the National People's Congress earlier this week: "We must change our consumption habits and encourage people to carry their own tableware."

The Telegraph reported: "Pointing out that only 4,000 chopsticks can be carved from a 20-year-old tree, he even went so far as to suggest that restaurants offered metal knives and forks instead." The article was headlined: "Chinese 'must swap chopsticks for knife and fork'."

However, Bo made no such suggestion, according to the Chinese media. His only problem was with disposable wooden chopsticks. Rather than knives and forks, he was urging greater use of non-wooden reusable chopsticks that wouldn't be thrown away.

The Daily Mail quoted Bo as saying China was chopping down 20 million mature trees a year to make 80 billion pairs of throwaway chopsticks.

He told the annual parliament "it was time for China to turn away from wooden chopsticks," the paper reported.

Its headline read: "Chinese told they must swap chopsticks for knives and forks to stop destroying forests."

The articles sparked a wave of criticism when they appeared online with many people pointing out that chopsticks weren't all made from wood.

Referring to the author of the Telegraph article, one comment read: "It seems the author of that article has a very limited knowledge of chopsticks other than what he/she might have seen on TV."

Others pointed out that disposable knives and forks were widely used by Western fast food brands in China.

Many said the problem was with disposable "products" rather than chopsticks. "Every one of us can prepare chopsticks when dining out, just the same as we carry our own bags to supermarkets following a plastic bag ban," was a comment on

"More crappy British Anglo media propaganda," commented Jackson Deng online.

Using forks and knives instead of chopsticks was the start of Chinese people losing their identity, wrote Jiayangguizi8 on his microblog. "It will end up with them peeling and eating bananas with forks and knives," he wrote.

However, despite the outcry, the reports contained a major truth. China's forests are dwindling and a ban on disposable wooden chopsticks is much called for.

Official data shows China's forest coverage per capita is 0.145 hectares, less than a quarter of the world's figure, the South China Morning Post reported.

The Ministry of Finance previously said the production of disposable chopsticks was using up forests at 1.3 million cubic meters of timber every year, Xinhua news agency said. China sells 10 million boxes of wooden chopsticks at home and exports about 6 million boxes every year, according to the ministry.

In order to save timber resources, a 5 percent sales tax has been levied on disposable wooden chopsticks since 2006.

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