Eastern horizons

​Introducing Wangqiu Song – Metsä Group’s recently recruited SVP, Asia and China – and his unique perspectives on both the Finnish and Asian pulp businesses. 


​Arriving in Finland as a young exchange student in 1987, Wangqiu Song couldn’t possibly have imagined how his fate would be intertwined with the country he would go on to make his home.

“In many ways, I entered the Finnish forestry sector thanks to a series of coincidences,” he explains. “After my studies concluded, my first job here in Finland was at Statistics Finland, the national statistics bureau. I was then offered a job in a quality-control project requiring a statistician to collect and analyse data – this was my first step into the industry.”

It wasn’t long before his employers realised the benefit of a Chinese-speaking emissary representing the Finnish pulp and paper industry in Asia. As Song explains, this went far beyond simply overcoming language barriers.

“Having the advantage of an understanding of both sides of the table, I would say that my role – in addition to that of business manager – has always involved a great deal of cultural interpretation for both parties in our dialogues and negotiations. The ability to read the situation correctly from each perspective is hugely important,” he says.

A new world

Turning his attention to the China of today, Song points out that recent legislative change in the country imposing severe limitations on the importing of all manner of waste materials, including recycled fibre, has had complex ramifications for paper makers and their suppliers.

Song explains that these bans were imposed for two reasons. He first cites the price China has paid for its economic growth, in the form of environmental damage during the past 40 years. Various decisive measures have been taken by the government to reverse the situation, among them limiting the import of waste materials. It may appear that to some extent recycled fibre has been indiscriminately lumped in with the other waste materials included in these restrictions.

“The second motivation here is the negative effects upon human wellbeing which have been caused by poorly sorted waste materials and other issues. In the past, when China has imported recycled paper, various other kinds of waste were combined in the same lots, including potentially harmful substances. This gave rise to pollution, which in turn carried health risks.”

While the government policies may lack refinement in their categorisations, Song sees them having been executed for valid reasons, while acknowledging that they have presented challenges to various industry players, particularly those paper mills primarily using recycled fibre as a raw material.

The journey to come

Might the change stimulate the market for fresh fibres? “If you don’t have enough recycled fibre, you use fresh fibre to substitute,” Song points out. “While this is a more expensive route, it also has its hugely positive aspects, including cleaner production processes and, of course, superior end products. This is especially the case, if you look at it from the packaged food safety point of view.”

Already last year, pulp imports into China grew by more than 12%, and Song believes around half of this growth was most likely driven by the shortage of recycled paper. In his wider evaluation of the current Asian pulp market, Song sees strong indications that China will require more and more import pulp for the paper industry. 

“For our industry,” he argues, “both recycled and virgin fibre are the main raw materials. Yet increasing demand for packaging material, tissue or hygiene products, or special applications – will be met primarily by virgin fibre for the future. The growth areas within the business in China look very positive compared to global metrics such as the growth of the economy and private consumption – driven by higher household income –, urbanisation, and the combat for a better environment in general.”

Song concedes that the consumption of newspaper and certain other paper grades has been in decline due to the downturn of print media in China, but all things considered, is confident that pulp demand is geared to grow.

Environmental factors have also weighed heavily in the circumstances leading to this market situation. At only 21%, forest cover is low in China relative to other pulp-producing territories such as the Nordics, and to compound matters, much of this resource is protected for ecological reasons.

As Song explains, wood harvesting in China was once uncontrolled, and replantation neglected or overlooked in the past. This level of deforestation has had severe implications for the environment, and in response, the central government has more recently adopted a strict policy of protection for forest areas, as well as wider harvesting bans. Although the country has invested significantly into new plantations, the supply of wood for local pulp production is still very limited in China.

“I envision this situation continuing for the next 10-20 years at least,” Song concludes. “Naturally, this bodes extremely well for the country’s trusted international suppliers of fresh-fibre pulp.”

Related articles

  • 4/2020/ Metsä Fibre

    Comparing pulp grades can be accomplished with Metsä Fibre’s FIT tool

    ​The FIT tool used by Metsä Fibre's technical customer service can be used to quickly and cost-effectively evaluate and modify paper and board furnishes. Optimisation of the stock furnish results in the best possible final product quality, more efficient production and lower production costs. 

    Read More
  • 4/2020/ Metsä Fibre

    A chair for better school days

    ​While Isku interior's new Prima chair may look like an ordinary plastic chair, it is not. The chair is made from a biocomposite, in which the plastic has been reinforced with wood fibre.

    Read More
  • 3/2020/ Sawn timber

    Metsä Fibre’s sawn timber has a new brand image

    ​The Nordic Timber logo previously printed on the protective plastic packaging is no longer in use and instead the white cover now features the word Metsä in a black font, as well as the elk logo in green, and a forest pattern depicting Finnish nature. We also used this opportunity to harmonise the look of the shipping marks stamped on the ends of the sawn timber.

    Read More
  • Sawn timber

    3/2020/ Sawn timber

    Sawn timber is now sold by Metsä Fibre

    ​Sawn timber sales and customer service have been transferred from Metsä Wood to Metsä Fibre’s organisation. The goal is to create a closer link between production and sales, and improve day-to-day customer service. 

    Read More
  • 3/2020/ Pulp

    Metsä Fibre takes bioproducts to the multi-million tonne markets

    ​Metsä Fibre is complementing its current product range with new bioproducts converted from pulp. The best production model for this is an industrial ecosystem in which the new products are developed and produced by partners. So far, product development is furthest along in the advance of textile fibres and biocomposites.

    Read More
  • 3/2020/ Metsä Fibre

    Metsä Fibre’s services to customers

    ​In addition to traditional pulp sales, Metsä Fibre provides numerous services that enable customers to develop their business operations and cut costs. 

    Read More
  • Vanha-Pälsilä

    2/2020/ Metsä Fibre

    Generations of sustainable forest management

    ​The next generation is taking over the forests of Vanha-Pälsilä farm with the help of Metsä Group’s Forest Management Specialists.

    Read More
  • forest, aerial, lorry

    2/2020/ Metsä Fibre

    FibreOnline gathers the data needed by customers in one location

    ​FibreOnline is an information service for Metsä Fibre’s pulp customers. The service provides customers with information about deliveries, product quality, certifications and statements, as well as for other sustainability matters.

    Read More
  • Pulp sheets

    1/2020/ Pulp

    Pulp lends itself to many things

    ​While we've known how to make pulp for over a hundred years now, its versatility keeps on surprising us. 

    Read More
  • Metsä Aspen fibre

    12/2019/ Pulp

    Accurate pulp refining analysis with Metsä Fibre's renewed FORE tool

    ​Proper pulp refining gives paper or paperboard desired properties and often saves costs as well. Metsä Fibre's Pulp Refining Audit service can be used to determine how you can refine pulp for the best result.

    Read More
  • Sun paper building

    12/2019/ Pulp

    China's cardboard market is changing

    ​Consumers’ demand for the quantity and quality of cardboard will rise as the economy develops. For the Metsä Fibre’s client, Sun Paper Group, this is good news.

    Read More
  • 11/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Sustainable forest management is important to us

    ​Sustainability and responsibility play a key role in Metsä Group’s forest management. Specialists help forest owners manage their forests in a way that safeguards biodiversity and allows the forest to grow well. 

    Read More
  • Sellu, pulp

    11/2019/ Pulp

    The future of the pulp market: these 4 changes are to be expected

    ​The consulting and engineering firm ÅF Pöyry estimates that demand for market pulp will grow by approximately 2.5 per cent a year over the next five years. 

    Read More
  • Forest and sky

    9/2019/ Pulp

    Plastic became a problem – is wood the solution?

    ​Plastic was once considered an irreplaceable material. Now plastic has become a problem to which we are frantically trying to find a solution. There is therefore plenty of demand for a biodegradable, bio-based and sustainably produced material.

    Read More
  • pulp fibre

    9/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    The pre-engineering of the Kemi bioproduct mill is progressing

    ​Metsä Fibre kicked off the pre-engineering project for the Kemi bioproduct mill in the spring of 2019. The project is now proceeding in terms of the environmental permit process, among other things.

    Read More
  • 9/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Finnish forest management made an impression

    ​Metsä Fibre provides its customers with a service that lets them get to know a Finnish commercial forest up close. A Metsä Day visit is not only entertaining, but also educational, as it affords a glimpse into responsible forest management. 

    Read More
  • A sustainable circular economy needs efficient utilisation of side streams

    5/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    A sustainable circular economy needs efficient utilisation of side streams

    ​A comprehensive circular economy is incomplete without the bioeconomy. The bioeconomy can contribute in several ways to the circular economy, and this includes the utilisation of organic side and waste streams from forestry and the converting of these production side streams into value-adding products. Metsä Fibre has world-leading capabilities in this field.

    Read More
  • Our products sequester carbon throughout their life-cycles

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    Our products sequester carbon throughout their life-cycles

    ​The high-quality and sustainable sawn timber we produce is used to a particularly high degree in end uses where the carbon remains sequestered in the wood for a period spanning decades or even a century.  Such end uses include various wood construction solutions and furniture.

    Read More
  • Finnish sawn timber is a sustainable choice

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    Finnish sawn timber is a sustainable choice

    ​Thanks to sound forest management, Finland’s forests are growing by roughly 20 per cent more than they are being used. This is why Finnish sawn timber is a sustainable and resource-smart solution.

    Read More
  • We utilize the properties of northern wood

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    We utilize the properties of northern wood

    ​Metsä Fibre possess solid and long-standing know-how in the conversion of northern softwood. We know our raw material and the opportunities it offers inside out. 

    Read More
  • Premium sawn timber from northern wood

    4/2019/ Sawn timber

    Premium sawn timber from northern wood

    ​Northern sawn softwood offers extremely advantageous strength qualities in relation to weight, due to which it is well-suited for use in load-bearing structures.  In terms of its appearance, northern wood is consistent, and it is easy to process and treat in the preferred manner. 

    Read More
  • Metsä Fibre’s bioproduct concept

    3/2019/ Pulp

    Metsä Fibre’s innovative bioproduct concept

    ​The cornerstone of Metsä Fibre’s operations is continuous improvement, and it is according to the principles of continuous improvement that we develop our products and operations. Renewable wood raw material and innovative solutions offer solutions for future global challenges, such as climate change, population growth and resource efficiency.

    Read More
  • Metsä Fibre acquires biogas plant in Äänekoski

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    Metsä Fibre acquires biogas plant in Äänekoski

    ​The biogas plant located in the mill area of the Äänekoski bioproduct mill was transferred from EcoEnergy SF to Metsä Fibre’s ownership on 10 December 2018. It produces biogas and biopellets from wood-based sludge generated by the bioproduct mill.

    Read More
  • Metsä Fibre awarded with supplier excellence award in China

    3/2019/ Metsä Fibre

    C&S presents Metsä Fibre with supplier excellence award in China

    ​Metsä Fibre has received a Supplier Excellence Award from C&S, one of China’s major tissue producers, for being the company’s Partner in Excellence.

    Read More