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Building a Beautiful China: Promoting Harmony Between Humanity and Nature

Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2024-03-11

Building a Beautiful China: Promoting Harmony Between Humanity and Nature 


The next five years will be crucial to building a Beautiful China. We should thoroughly implement the thinking on promoting ecological progress with Chinese characteristics for a new era, adhere to the people-centered approach, and uphold and act on the principle that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. In our efforts to build a great country and advance national rejuvenation, we will prioritize the Beautiful China Initiative to make notable progress in this regard, and work for substantial improvements in urban and rural living environment. This will enable us to support high-quality development with a high-quality environment.

First, we must intensify the battle against pollution

We must continue to control pollution in a lawful, targeted, and science-based way, and maintain the intensity of our efforts while going deeper and wider in preventing and controlling environmental pollution and improving the quality of the environment.

The blue skies initiative is a priority in the battle against pollution. Focusing on key areas, including the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and its surrounding areas, the Yangtze River Delta, and the Fenhe-Weihe River Plain area, we will optimize the industrial structure, the energy mix, and the composition of the transportation sector, strive for synergy between emissions reduction of pollutants such as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, and further reduce the concentration of fine particulate matter. We will strengthen efforts to address pollution at its source, use clean energy and centralized heating as alternatives according to local conditions, and further control pollution from bulk coal, coal-fired boilers, and industrial furnaces. We will promote high-standard transformation of the steel, concrete, and coking industries to achieve ultra-low emissions, and continue to cut the discharge of pollutants in key industries. We will strive to bring about a shift in freight transportation from highways to railways and waterways, thus increasing the proportion of railway and waterway transportation in order to reduce energy consumption and pollution from transportation. We will make great efforts to respond to people’s concerns by effectively solving their daily problems and difficulties such as noise, cooking fumes, and stench. We will strengthen coordinated pollution prevention and control across regions and take comprehensive measures to speed up the elimination of serious air pollution and protect our beautiful blue skies.


President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at a national conference on ecological and environmental protection, Beijing, July 17-18, 2023. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER RAO AIMIN

The clear waters initiative is aimed at promoting harmony between human and water. We will make concerted efforts to improve aquatic environments, water resources, and aquatic ecosystems, and advance the conservation and restoration of major rivers such as the Yangtze River and the Yellow River and major lakes. We will make solid efforts to regulate the development of water sources and build water reserves to ensure the safety of drinking water in urban and rural areas. We will work faster to improve our inadequate facilities for urban sewage collection and treatment, carry out endogenous pollution control and ecological restoration based on local conditions, and generally eliminate black malodorous water bodies in urban and rural areas while creating a long-term mechanism in this regard. We will establish a mechanism for evaluating water ecosystems, strengthen the protection and restoration of water source conservation areas and ecological buffer zones, and ensure ecological flows in rivers and lakes, so as to keep water ecosystems healthy. We will continue to enforce the 10-year fishing ban on the Yangtze River while strengthening follow-up evaluation. We will continue with comprehensive conservation efforts in key sea areas by launching concerted initiatives on land and in rivers. Taking the bay as the basic unit and adopting specific measures on a per-bay basis, we will coordinate efforts to prevent and control pollution and protect and restore ecosystems in offshore areas, and improve the environment of shores and beaches, while constantly enhancing the quality and stability of key marine ecosystems such as mangroves. We will continue to improve our rivers, lakes, and bays.

The clean lands initiative is focused on better controlling pollution risks. In order to prevent and control soil pollution at its source, we should not only prevent new pollution, but also gradually mitigate serious soil and groundwater pollution that has accumulated over time. It is necessary to strengthen the comprehensive treatment of solid waste, accelerate the construction of zero-waste cities, control plastic pollution in all links involved, and continue with coordinated treatment of new pollutants and control of environmental risks. We will build on the results of our ban on the import of solid waste, and strictly guard against smuggling and disguised imports of solid waste in various forms. We will promote the revitalization of rural ecosystem and the improvement of rural living environment in an integrated manner and vigorously prevent and control agricultural pollution, so as to build a beautiful countryside.

Second, we must accelerate the transition to a green and low-carbon development model

Upholding green and low-carbon development as a fundamental approach to resolving environmental problems, we will work faster to promote eco-friendly ways of production and life, and lay a green foundation for high-quality development.

We must optimize territorial space development. We will strictly guarantee the basic needs for territorial space development and protection, coordinate efforts to enhance spatial planning for agriculture, ecosystems, and urban areas, and improve the functional zoning system. We will strictly enforce ecosystem conservation redlines, strengthening law enforcement and oversight as well as protection and restoration to safeguard the functions of ecosystems and prevent changes in their land use. We must ensure that the total area of China’s farmland does not fall below the redline of 120 million hectares. We must strictly limit the boundaries for urban development and promote intensive, green development of urban space to bring out its full potential. We will strengthen territorial space regulation of the sea and coastline, and establish an exit mechanism for inefficient users of the sea. Except for major national projects, all coastal reclamation activities will be prohibited. We will also improve the system for adopting region-specific approaches to environmental management that covers all areas, clearly delineating the boundaries and regulations for development.

We must accelerate the green transformation and upgrading of industries. We will further integrate efforts to digitalize our industries and make them smarter with initiatives to make them more eco-friendly. We will speed up the modernization of the industrial system supported by the real economy, and make greater efforts to develop strategic emerging industries, high-tech industries, eco-friendly industries, and modern services. Stricter approval rules must be established to curb the development of energy-intensive projects with high emissions and backward production capacity. We will implement a comprehensive conservation strategy to conserve energy, water, land, materials, and minerals. We will move faster to put in place a system for recycling waste and used materials, and make rational use of various types of resources to raise their output rates.

We must foster pacesetters for green development. All localities, especially the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze Economic Belt, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the Yangtze River Delta, and the Yellow River basin, should strengthen regional coordination for green development in accordance with their unique features and the requirements for high-quality development. While implementing major regional development strategies, they need to better plan and implement environmental protection initiatives and build themselves into pioneering zones for the Beautiful China Initiative. Guided by the principle that cities should be built by the people and for the people, the new era should witness the development of wonderful cities that are green, low-carbon, beautiful, habitable, safe, healthy, smart, and efficient.

We must promote eco-friendly lifestyles. We will encourage simple, moderate, green, low-carbon, sound, and healthy lifestyles and consumption patterns, making eco-friendly transportation, conservation of water, electricity, and food, as well as garbage sorting our people’s daily practice. Party and government organizations at all levels, state-owned enterprises, and public institutions must be at the forefront of these campaigns. We will continue to launch a series of activities under the theme of “I’m a Contributor to a Beautiful China” and encourage industrial parks, enterprises, communities, schools, families, and individuals to actively participate, with a view to building a society in which everyone pursues ecological progress all the time, everywhere, and in everything they do.

Third, we must enhance the diversity, stability, and sustainability of our ecosystems

Keeping in mind the significance of safeguarding national ecological security, ensuring the sustainable development of our nation, and fulfilling our responsibility to the whole of human civilization, we will strengthen ecosystem conservation and restoration so as to leave future generations a beautiful environment of green mountains and clear waters.

We must intensify efforts to protect ecosystems. We will accelerate the development of a nature reserve system that is mainly composed of national parks, based on nature reserves, and complemented by nature parks of various types. Doing so will help protect typical natural ecosystems and habitats of rare species. We will carry out major projects to preserve and restore key ecosystems and implement large-scale greening programs in a well-planned way. We will continue to develop shelterbelt networks in northwest, north, and northeast China and control the sources of dust storms that affect Beijing and Tianjin. We will concentrate our efforts on implementing a series of desertification prevention and control projects in key areas, with great energy devoted to winning the three landmark battles in the Yellow River basin, the Horqin and Hunshandake deserts, and the Hexi Corridor-Taklamakan Desert area. Activities will also be launched to consolidate and boost the carbon absorption capacity of ecosystems. We will carry out large-scale biodiversity protection projects to improve biodiversity protection networks, and gradually build up a system of national botanical gardens, in a bid to create beautiful landscapes.

We must take solid steps to bolster supervision over ecosystem protection and restoration. Over these years, activities that damage the environment have not been eliminated completely, highlighting the need for strong external supervision over ecosystem protection and restoration. We need to step up unified supervision over ecosystem protection and restoration, enhance institutional building in this regard, strengthen ecosystem monitoring and evaluation, and intensify inspection and law enforcement related to nature reserves and ecosystem protection redlines. Redundant formalities must be stamped out in ecosystem restoration, and actions that harm the environment in the name of pursuing ecological progress must never be allowed.

We must find new ways to convert natural wealth into material wealth. A healthy environment holds great economic potential. We need to promote the industrialization of our ecological strengths and the green development of our industries. In doing so, we will create a large number of ecosystem goods and bring them to the market, so as to continuously transform our ecological strengths into development strengths. We will promote compensation for ecological conservation with regard to major rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, key ecosystem service zones, ecological conservation redlines, and key ecosystems. Efforts will also be made to improve the mechanism for guaranteeing input into ecosystem protection and restoration, and to strictly implement the compensation system for ecological and environmental damage, thus properly rewarding those who contribute to ecological protection and restoration while making those who damage the environment pay the price.

Fourth, we must actively and prudently work toward the goals of reaching peak carbon emissions and carbon neutrality

We should adhere to the principles of exercising nationwide planning, prioritizing conservation, leveraging the strengths of both the government and the market, coordinating the domestic and international fronts, and guarding against risks, in a bid to effectively implement the “1+N” policy framework for reaching peak carbon emissions and carbon neutrality.


President Xi learns about the protection of the national wetland park for the source of the Raohe River and the critically endangered blue-crowned laughingthrush in the village of Shimen, Wuyuan County, Jiangxi Province, afternoon of October 11, 2023. He toured Jiangxi from October 10 to 13, 2023. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER XIE HUANCHI

We must advance initiatives to reach peak carbon emissions in a well-planned and phased way. We will thoroughly implement the Action Plan for Reaching Peak Carbon Dioxide Emissions before 2030 to ensure safe reduction of carbon emissions. On the basis of controlling the intensity of carbon emissions, we will gradually shift to controlling both the total amount and the intensity of carbon emissions. To further develop the carbon market, we will improve relevant laws, regulations, and policies, take steady steps to cover a wider range of industries, and enrich trading items and methods. We will lower the cost of carbon emissions reduction, make enterprises more aware of the importance of pursuing green and low-carbon development, and launch a trading market for voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reduction. By doing so, we will build a carbon market that is more effective, dynamic, and internationally influential. To forge greater synergy between efforts to reduce pollution and carbon emissions, we will carry out pilot projects for collaborative innovation in multiple fields and at multiple levels, and enhance coordinated control of multiple pollutants and greenhouse gases.

We must build a clean, low-carbon, safe, and efficient energy system. We will focus on the clean and efficient use of coal so as to ensure its role in meeting basic needs and supporting and complementing the development of new energy. We will vigorously develop wind and solar power, coordinate hydropower development and ecological conservation, actively develop nuclear power in a safe and orderly manner, and step up efforts to build a new type of power system. We will also focus on controlling the consumption of fossil fuels, and strengthen the development of energy production, supply, storage, and marketing systems, with a view to enhancing the country’s ability to ensure oil and gas security.

Fifth, we must provide the security guarantees for the Beautiful China Initiative

We must adopt a holistic approach to national security, and respond actively and effectively to various risks and challenges, so that the natural environment and conditions, upon which our survival and development depend, are not damaged or threatened.

We must safeguard ecological security. We will further improve the coordination mechanisms for national ecological security work, refine relevant law-based, strategy, and policy systems and response management systems, and enhance our capacity for research, assessment, monitoring, early warning, and emergency response in this regard. To rigorously prevent and control environmental risks, we will strengthen efforts to identify environmental hazards and prevent and control risks in key areas such as hazardous waste, mine tailings, and heavy metals. We will also improve the accountability system for responding to environmental emergencies in which governments at different levels assume their responsibilities with local governments playing the leading role and different departments coordinating with each other, in a bid to handle various types of environmental emergencies in a timely, appropriate, and rational manner. We will strengthen biosafety and biosecurity management, and make efforts to prevent and treat harm caused by invasions of exotic species. We will boost our capacity to adapt to climate change.

We must ensure nuclear and radiation safety. We will adopt a reasonable, coordinated, and balanced approach to nuclear safety, and develop a rigorous nuclear safety accountability system that strengthens oversight and management. By doing so, we will comprehensively enhance our capacity for nuclear safety supervision, and build a modern nuclear safety supervision system commensurate with China’s nuclear development, thus promoting high-quality development of nuclear safety. We will also actively participate in international cooperation on nuclear safety.

Sixth, we must improve the system for guaranteeing the Beautiful China Initiative

We will coordinate resources in various fields and combine the strengths of various sectors to create synergy between the rule of law, the market, science, technology, and policies, thereby providing basic support and strong guarantee for the Beautiful China Initiative.

We must strengthen legal guarantees. We will make coordinated efforts to formulate and revise laws related to the environment, resources, and energy, so that good laws are made to ensure good governance. We will improve public interest litigation and strengthen environment-related judicial protection. We will implement the strictest possible system for environmental governance above and below ground, on land and at sea, and among regions, and enforce a pollutant discharge permit system across the board. We will improve the systems for managing natural resource assets and for regulating the use of territorial space.

We must improve economic policies for green and low-carbon development. In strengthening fiscal support, we will optimize the allocation of fiscal resources for ecological conservation to ensure that the scale of investment meets the demand of conservation tasks. In strengthening tax policy support, we will strictly implement the environmental protection tax law, improve the tax collection system, and step up efforts to levy tax on volatile organic compounds. In strengthening financial support, we will vigorously develop green finance, promote the creation of environment-oriented development, investment, and financing modes, and explore modes of financial support for regional environmental protection projects, so as to attract investment from various types of financial institutions and nongovernmental capital. In strengthening pricing policy support, we will fully consider enterprises’ energy consumption levels and their environmental protection performance, and improve the system of tiered electricity pricing for energy-intensive industries.

We must promote both an efficient market and an effective government. Rights to carbon emissions, energy use, water use, and pollution discharge, as well as other resources and environmental factors, will be incorporated into the overall reform for market-based allocation of production factors, and relevant market transactions, such as selling or transferring such rights as well as using them as collateral or obtaining an equity stake, will be supported. We will expeditiously establish an oversight system for environmental protection-related credibility, further standardize the environmental governance market, and promote the healthy development of the environmental protection industry and the environmental service industry.

We must strengthen scientific and technological support. We will work to build our self-reliance and strength in green and low-carbon science and technology, making response to climate change and treatment of new pollutants key areas of national basic research and technological innovation, and striving to make breakthroughs in core technologies in key fields. In launching a major initiative for innovation in environmental science and technology, we will build large scientific facilities in the environmental field, foster high-caliber personnel in environmental science and technology, and support the industrial application of scientific and technological advances. We will accelerate the establishment of a modern environmental monitoring system, and develop an integrated monitoring network covering the sky, space, land, and sea. We will also promote the application of artificial intelligence and other digital technologies, build a digital governance system for the Beautiful China Initiative, and promote digital ecological progress that is green and smart.

This is part of a speech delivered by Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, at a national conference on ecological and environmental protection on July 17, 2023.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 1, 2024)