This year, China’s government enacted a ban on ivory sales and started closing down carving workshops. How did such an astonishing U-turn come about?

For years Chinese government officials were followed around the world, at every meeting, by a single issue: the scores of dead elephants across Africa, and the international community that blamed China for this “ivory “holocaust”.

Even the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, could not escape lectures on poached elephants and the evils of China’s legal domestic ivory trade from foreign leaders. For years, China deflected the criticism with claims of a long cultural heritage and incremental policies, such as a ban on ivory carving imports two years ago.

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