Supply of and demand for ivory in China is a complicated issue, affected as much by obfuscated trade policies - national and international, present and historical - as socioeconomic factors within the world's second largest but fastest growing economy.
While China has recently announced to implement a "one-year import suspension of ivory carvings" the limited amount of ivory import that will be affected, only makes me realize how small the legal ivory trade truly is in China.
Though negligible, the legal ivory trade is the ultimate culprit in attracting, incentivizing and disguising a massive illegal ivory trade.
In order to understand the situation, we need to go back to 1989 when CITES banned the international trade in elephant ivory.
The ban stigmatized ivory consumption, causing the demand in the West to wither away, ivory markets to collapse and prices to drop. The reduced ivory price weakened incentives of poaching elephants for their ivory.
The ivory trade ban provided elephants - a long living and slow breeding species - some much needed reprieve. African elephant populations started to recover from the devastating massacres in the 1970s and 80s that more than halved their population.