- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

BEIJING — China’s growing environmental consciousness has hit the heart of its culture, with the government yesterday announcing a 5 percent tax on disposable wooden chopsticks.

The Finance Ministry said chopstick production used up China’s forests at a rate of 70 million cubic feet a year, a waste that it wanted to discourage.

Chopsticks were not the only targets of the regulations, an early fruit of the government’s new five-year plan, which stresses energy conservation, efficient use of resources and an end to the environmental despoliation that has accompanied its rapid growth.

Wooden floor panels, another high consumer of wood, and even yachts, of which there are few in China, also will fall under the consumption tax.

A 10 percent tax on golf balls and clubs, part of a wider assault on luxury items, might seem to be unconnected, but there is growing concern in Beijing that many municipal drives to attract business by building golf courses are sacrificing land, trees and water supplies for what remains a relatively tiny market.

The five-year plan is a major effort by the government to reorder China’s priorities after 25 years of dramatic economic growth and spread some of the benefits to ordinary people.

The tax on chopsticks is slated to take effect April 1.

China sells 10 billion boxes of wooden chopsticks a year domestically and exports about 6 billion boxes annually, the China Daily newspaper said.

In an effort to curb the use of bigger cars, automobiles with 2.2-liter engines and larger will be hit with a 9 percent to 20 percent tax, up from the current 8 percent.

Taxes on cars with smaller engines would remain at 3 percent to 5 percent to encourage their use.

Oil-based products also will be taxed to reduce energy use. The tax on solvents and lubricants will be about 2.5 cents per liter, or about 10 cents per gallon.

Companies, however, will have to pay only 30 percent of the tax on the oil products to reduce the impact on industry.

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