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Let the Yellow River Serve the Nation

Source: Xi Jinping The Governance of China IV Updated: 2023-09-11

Let the Yellow River Serve the Nation*

October 22, 2021

We should have a clear understanding of major issues of eco-environmental protection and high-quality development in the Yellow River Basin, based on a rational analysis of its current situation. We must be pragmatic and committed to this goal, and make every effort to deliver tangible results during the 14th Five-year Plan period (2021-2025), to ensure the Yellow River always serves the nation.

Since the CPC Central Committee formulated the national strategy for eco-conservation and high-quality development of the Yellow River Basin, we have done a lot of work to address relevant problems, such as putting in place a framework for the protection and governance of the river, tackling eco-environmental problems, and protecting and restoring ecosystems. We have improved the basin’s governance system and made new progress in its high-quality development. However, we must recognize that some prominent problems still exist. We must focus on solving these problems and continue to step up our efforts. 

Provinces and autonomous regions along the Yellow River must fully implement the national strategy, and be committed to a path of modernization that prioritizes eco-environmental conservation and pursues green development.

First, we must have a correct attitude towards assessing officials’ performance and an accurate understanding of the relationship between protection and development. Focusing on well-coordinated environmental conservation, we should improve the eco-environment of the Yellow River Basin by addressing environmental problems, intensifying efforts to conserve water and control water use, and protecting and restoring ecosystems. We must make sure that red lines for ecological conservation are never crossed in our activities of development along the Yellow River, and that utilization of resources, particularly water resources, is within their bearing capacity. Strict measures should be adopted to guarantee high-quality development with greater efficiency.

Second, we should coordinate development and security to improve risk prevention and response. We should give high priority to risks in water security, and advocate water conservation throughout society. We must pay careful attention to the complex and far-reaching influence of global climate change, respond proactively in the interests of security, and improve all-round disaster prevention and control to guarantee the safety of the people.

Third, we should improve strategic thinking and apply systems thinking to the whole process of environmental protection and high-quality development. We should balance the relationship between the whole and the part, always having the broader picture in mind and giving priority to the overall interests on major issues. We should handle the relationship between the present and the future properly, be far-sighted, and avoid the mindset of seeking quick success or instant benefits.

Fourth, we will be committed to green and low-carbon development, and work hard for better quality, higher efficiency, and more robust drivers in economic growth in the Yellow River Basin. Measures should be put into effect, in both supply and demand, for dual control over the volume and intensity of energy use. Strict pre-launch scrutiny should be applied to energy-intensive and high-emission projects. Adjustments to energy production should be made in a timely and orderly manner, and outdated production facilities and technologies with high carbon emissions should be phased out. Efforts should be redoubled to ensure stability in the supply of coal and electricity and the order of the economy and society.

The 14th Five-year Plan period is critical to eco-conservation and high-quality development in the Yellow River Basin. The following tasks must be completed as soon as possible to make new progress.

First, we should move faster to build a defense line against natural disasters. To be prepared for major floods and other serious natural disasters in the future, we must lose no time in strengthening weaknesses in early warning and monitoring exposed by previous experiences, and identify and address any shortcomings in infrastructure. We should ramp up efforts to build urban flood control and drainage systems as well as disaster prevention and mitigation facilities, and bring elements such as urban eco-spaces and spillways under strict protection.

Second, we must make plans for population distribution, land use, and urban and industrial development in accordance with the water resources available. To develop in an economical and efficient way, we will ensure water security, efficient use of water resources, and a tangible improvement in water ecology. We must economize on water resources through strict and refined management, and implement innovative trading measures for water rights and wastewater discharge permits by applying fiscal leverage and pricing mechanisms to improve water conservation.

Third, we should do our best to improve eco-environmental protection and governance. We should focus on maintaining the integrity of the natural ecosystem of headwaters, protect every element of the unique ecosystems of plateaus and alpine regions, and take steps to help nature to recover and regenerate. It is imperative that we stop soil erosion and desertification in the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River, and take comprehensive measures to improve the entire river basin. We should clean up the watercourses and mudflats in the lower reaches, and increase biodiversity in the Yellow River Delta.

Fourth, we should accelerate our effort to build a new framework for the protection and use of land resources. Key eco-environmental functional zones should receive a higher level of transfer payment, so that they can focus their attention on protection and properly develop eco-industries. To develop modern agriculture, we should focus on water conservation, apply advanced technologies, and develop dry farming and high-standard farmland for better economic returns. City clusters and metropolitan areas must seek intensive and efficient development rather than blind expansion.

Fifth, we should take solid steps towards high-quality development. It is important that we stay creative and innovative, and improve coordination between innovation and industrial chains. We will press ahead with the energy revolution to ensure stable supply, strengthen connectivity between the Yellow River regions and coastal areas and regions along the Yangtze River, prioritize new-generation infrastructure, and expand effective investment.

The Central Committee has made overall plans for eco-environmental protection and high-quality development in the Yellow River Basin. It is essential to reach agreement, build up confidence, and take concerted actions. We should continue the working mechanism whereby the central leadership makes overall plans, provincial-level governments take overall responsibility, and city and county governments ensure implementation, with all sides acting proactively and fulfilling their respective duties. It is also necessary to stimulate the enthusiasm of major market players and various social forces.

Since late July, some places in the Yellow River Basin have been hit by unprecedented floods. Local governments in the affected areas must take a serious approach to post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. A particular effort must be directed to helping those affected by floods, to ensure their livelihoods and basic living needs and to get them back to work. The situation dictates that relevant authorities take targeted measures to redress the impact of autumn floods and focus on autumn and winter seed sowing. With winter approaching, all regions concerned must make early preparations and work out contingency plans to ensure stable supplies of electricity and heating, and protect people from cold in the winter.


* Main points of the speech at a forum on further eco-conservation and high-quality development of the Yellow River Basin.

(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)