Urban-forestry management in China, due to its unique political and social environment, exists in a different legislative and administrative regime. An evaluation of the current statutory and quasistatutory administrative instruments can throw light on the status and prospects of the country's urban-forestry programme. Guangzhou City, the largest municipality in South China, with a high green cover, was chosen for a case study. The assessment includes measures with a bearing on the planning, development, management and protection of urban trees and urban landscapes, at the national, provincial and municipal levels. Four national laws accompany a plethora of administrative documents to define an overall urban-forestry framework, and to demarcate the relevant authority and responsibility at different planes of the government hierarchy. The provincial measures play a secondary role in filling some gaps in the national legislation, with the main contributions being in allocating financial responsibilities and laying down punitive and compensatory legal procedures. Operations-related measures have been developed comprehensively at the municipal level with practical guidelines for their implementation. Special issues related to weaknesses, room for improvement, and general implications for Guangzhou and other cities are discussed. The lack of clearly defined enforcement agents and generally lax enforcement have weakened the otherwise quite comprehensive legislative measures. The widespread illegal use of urban parks for commercial and other activities by government departments has undermined statutory integrity. The continued destruction of trees due largely to government projects signifies that the relevant laws are widely disregarded and ignored by civil servants. The legal vacuum of liability related to hazardous trees needs to be promptly filled. The overwhelming domination of the government with negligible participation by citizens contrasts vividly with urban forestry in other countries and deprives the programme of the necessary popular support. Copyright © 2000 Institute of Chartered Foresters.