In his report to the 20th CPC National Congress, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, made comprehensive plans for “pursuing green development and promoting harmony between humanity and nature,” from the strategic height of advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization.
Remarkable ecological progress
Over the past 10 years of the new era, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core focused on China’s overall development, and established Xi Jinping’s Thought on Ecological Civilization, promoting ecological progress with unprecedented efforts, which concerns the sustainable development of the Chinese nation. Under the guidance of Xi Jinping’s Thought on Ecological Civilization, solid steps have been taken to advance the Beautiful China Initiative.
Since the successive promulgation of the Opinions on Accelerating the Construction of Ecological Civilization and the Integrated Reform Plan for Promoting Ecological Progress in 2015, dozens of reform plans regarding ecological conservation have been systematically unveiled.
The World Environment Day, observed each year on June 5, was designated a national environment day for China as the top legislature National People’s Congress adopted an amendment to the Environmental Protection Law. The revised Environmental Protection Law took effect in January 2015 and introduced much heavier punishments for environment-related infractions.
Moreover, a central supervision system for the protection of the ecological environment has been established, and the river, lake, and forest chief systems have been fully implemented.
“We’ve dealt with over 170,000 cases after the new environmental law took effect in 2015. Then we’ve improved the connection between administrative punishment and criminal penalty on environment-related matters,” said Zhai Qing, vice minister of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, at the press conference of the 20th CPC National Congress in October.
In 2021, in cities at and above the prefecture level in China, the annual average concentration of hazardous airborne PM2.5 particles dropped by 34.8% compared with 2015, and the percentage of good air quality days reached 87.5%. The proportion of surface water at or above Grade III in the country’s five-tier water quality system increased to 84.9% and that at or inferior to Grade V dropped to 1.2%. National carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP decreased by 34.4% from 2012, and the share of coal in primary energy consumption fell from 68.5% to 56%. The forest coverage rate increased to 24.02%, and the key control areas of desertified land achieved a historic transformation from “sand advancing and people retreating” to “green advancing and sand retreating.”
Harmony between humanity and nature
“Chinese modernization” is one of the keywords in the report to the 20th CPC National Congress. In this programmatic document, “harmony between humanity and nature” has been ascribed an important position as the essential requirement and basic feature of Chinese modernization.
Liu Yaobin, vice president of Nanchang University, noted that China’s experience is fundamentally different from the modernization of developed Western countries, which was characterized by “control after pollution,” while Chinese modernization values harmony between humanity and nature. Upholding green development, China pays much more attention to overcoming the disadvantages of creating material wealth at the expense of the natural ecological environment through comprehensive economic and social transformations.
Properly handling the relationships between humanity and nature, and between economic and social development and ecological and environmental protection, is consistently one of the core issues in Chinese modernization, said Zhao Jianjun, a professor of philosophy from the Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C. (National Academy of Governance). In the great practice of promoting socialist modernization, the construction of Chinese modernization, in which humanity and nature coexist harmoniously, reflects both the Party’s and the people’s deep understanding of the universal laws of nature, society, and economic development, as well as their acute recognition of the reasonable relationship between humanity and nature.
Yang Kaizhong, Party secretary of the Research Institute for Eco-civilization at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that after 10 years of steady development in the new era, ecological conservation in China has entered a critical period. With carbon reduction as the key strategic direction, focus has been placed on promoting the synergy of pollution and carbon reduction, accelerating comprehensive green economic and social development, transitioning from quantitative to qualitative change in improving the ecological environment, and comprehensively advancing modernization with harmony between humanity and nature. Carbon and pollution reduction, green expansion, and growth are interconnected. Properly coordinating these aspects is critical to promoting green development, ecological conservation, and harmony between humanity and nature on the new journey in the new era, Yang said.
Internationally, China has become an important participant, contributor, and forerunner in global climate governance. The theoretical and practical achievements of Chinese ecological civilization have not only brought landmark changes to China in the new era, but also contributed Chinese insight and input to the world amidst profound changes.
In September 2020, at the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Xi pledged via video to have China’s CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
Liu said that the continuous advancement of China’s ecological progress, especially the formulation of and adherence to its carbon goals, demonstrates China’s responsibility as a major country in global environmental governance.