Living Improves in Rural Beijing
‘Sunshine Catering’ for Safer Food
In the past year, when visiting the city’s rural areas, Beijingers have noticed improvements in its water resources, green spaces, road networks and countryside inns.
At the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in October 2017, pursuing a rural vitalisation strategy was proposed, and written in the Constitution of the CPC, emphasising “issues relating to agriculture, rural areas,
and rural people are fundamental to China as they directly concern its stability and its people’s wellbeing; addressing these issues should have a central place on the work agenda of the Party, and we must prioritise developing agriculture and rural areas; to build rural areas with thriving businesses, suitable living environments, social etiquette and civility, effective governance and prosperity, we need to put in place systems, mechanisms and policies for promoting integrated urbanrural development, and speed up modernisation of agriculture and rural areas.”
From December 28 to 29, 2017, the Central Rural Work Conference outlined major tasks and targets for the rural vitalisation strategy. General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping and other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee attended the conference. According to the conference, pursuing the vitalisation strategy was a basis for addressing issues relating to agriculture, rural areas and villagers. The conference stated a guiding ideology, basic principles and a grand blueprint with three stages of implementing the vitalisation strategy, and its seven ways, with Chinese characteristics.
The CPC Beijing Municipal Committee and the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality consider issues relating to agriculture, rural areas and rural people to be very important. Since the 19th CPC National Congress, Beijing Municipal Commission of Rural Affairs has implemented the rural vitalisation strategy and made plans for Beijing’s countryside.
On November 20, 2017, a programme for making the countryside liveable and beautiful was proposed at the First Plenary Session of the 19th Central Leadership Group for Deepening Overall Reform. On the next day, the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee held a mobilisation meeting for implementing the strategy and furthering the programme. According to Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee Cai Qi, the programme for improving the countryside is a key measure in further integrating development of the city’s urban and rural areas, carrying out requirements of special actions to phase out Beijing’s non- essential functions, and is a concrete way of strengthening the city’s ecology.
At the conference, Suggestions on the Special Action of Implementing the Rural Vitalisation Strategy and Programme of Constructing Beautiful Countryside from 2017 to 2020 were released, specifying its tasks to be completed in Beijing’s rural areas by the end of 2020, as a response to Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and will meet the aspirations of Beijing’s urban and rural residents for reaching a better life.
Blueprint for a Beautiful Countryside
The Suggestions of the Special Action of 2017–2020 specifies one general principle, three stages of its implementation and tasks in five aspects. According to the requirements of the general principle, Beijing implements the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress based on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, developing a strategy centring on the people and Beijing’s positioning as China’s capital according to Xi Jinping’s speeches after his inspections of Beijing and instructions on Beijing’s development; fulfills the rural vitalisation strategy, takes actions to further phase out nonessential functions as China’s capital; arranges 10 projects to maintain a beautiful countryside, enhancing rural social etiquette, increase villager income, narrow the gap between urban and rural areas and revamp rural administration.
According to the three stages of the Suggestion of the Special Action of 2017–2020, in the first stage, Beijing needs to complete environmental improvement and its programme for beautifying the countryside for the first 1,000 villages along major roads, scenic areas and key sites; in the second stage, Beijing continues to complete the construction in the second 1,000 villages, forming an integrated layout with the previous 1,000 villages; in the third stage, by the end of 2020, Beijing will complete all tasks of the programme and showcase a beautiful environment in Beijing’s rural areas.
According to the Suggestion
of the Special Action of 2017– 2020, Beijing needs to execute 10 projects in five aspects: working out plans, improving the environment, focusing on services, strengthening governance and developing administrative systems.
The first is to work out plans for making beautiful countryside. A new round in its construction must accord with the requirements of the Beijing Urban Master Plan ( 2016– 2030) approved by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. The plans will follow three principles: taking a balanced approach in maintaining continuity and stability; asking villagers and people from all walks of life their opinions; ensuring the plan of each village can stand up to the test of history and responses from villagers.
The second is to improve the rural environment, and advance afforestation, low- carbon qualities and a green economy in villages by enhancing sanitation and increasing ecological space. Enhancing sanitation will be achieved by solving issues in garbage disposal, sewage treatment and upgrading toilets. By 2020, Beijing will complete the upgrading of public toilets in its rural area, enable toilets in villagers’ houses to meet the requirement of hazard- free treatment, fulfill waste assortment in 1,500 villages and have rural sewage treatment in villages. Governing orders strengthen control of illegal structures in rural areas, including eliminating structures that have occupied agricultural land. Increasing green spaces is part of adjusting measures to local conditions for afforesting villages and expanding water coverage to enable rural residents to live in a favourable ecological environment and meet the public’s growing needs for a beautiful environment.
The third is to strengthen services and infrastructure in villages, to improve quality of life. Improving infrastructure will mean to develop and renovate roads, power supply, and illumination, gas supply and communications networks, and advance supply heating with clean energy based on “coal to electricity” and “coal to gas” in the winter. Coal hasn’t been used as a fuel in villages in plains south of Beijing. By 2018, coal won’t be used in villages in the plains south of Beijing anymore. Increasing efficiency of public services ensures that 30-minute circles of public services will be formed around key villages by 2020.
The fourth is to strengthen social governance and rural civility. Strengthening CPC leadership improves the city’s rural governance model, which combines selfgovernance, rule of law and rule of virtue. Constructing beautiful countryside is a basis of fulfilling the fundamental purpose of socialist core values. One of the key factors is to improve villagers’ ideas and way of life. Villages with historic and cultural resources should be further preserved also.
The fifth is to develop administrative systems for infrastructure and environmental improvement. Implementing detailed management advances beautiful countryside construction. The government invests in establishing management teams to ensure the results of rural environmental improvement and its long-term goals. Government agencies worked out standards for using administrative funds for infrastructure. The municipal government arranges funds, including providing initial capital and subsidies for construction to district-level governments, which provide corresponding funding to ancillary villages.
A Guarantee System
The construction of beautiful countryside is a comprehensive project, requiring scientific planning and quality supervision, which should closely correspond with the actual situation of the city’s issues relating to agriculture, rural areas and rural people. Respecting the needs of rural residents establishes relevant systems to provide a guarantee for the countryside construction.
First, a coordinating and joint operation system needs to be set up for the construction, which is considered the city’s common task, requiring all social forces to be mobilised according to three principles: defining clear responsibilities and division of responsibility from the government at all levels; specifying schedules according to the requirements of the three stages of the Suggestion of the Special Action of 2017–2020 for government bodies at all levels; establishing rewards and repercussions and strengthening checks.
The second is to adjust measures to local conditions and advance the construction based on classification. In Beijing, there are about 4,000 villages. According to different features of the villages, the construction should comply with the following principles: combining features of each village with construction targets, tangible and intangible resource improvements, improvement of village layout and individual villagers’ dwellings, and tourism development and farmers’ income growth.
Third is focusing on society to benefit villagers. Creating a more beautiful countryside is a project to improve people’s well-being, with villagers as the main beneficiaries and key participants, and should play a role in its construction according to the following principles: in the early stages before construction, collecting and respecting villagers’ proposals; in the course of the construction, encouraging their participation to increase their income; after construction, fostering villagers’ civic enhancement to guide them to participate in maintaining public facilities and the environment, forming a favourable atmosphere of resource sharing and self-management.
An Urgent Task
Since 2006, Beijing has advanced its countryside. Xi Jinping emphasised that to beautify China, it must rely on its villages. At the 19th CPC National Congress and the Central Rural Work Conference held in October and December of 2017, respectively, the rural vitalisation strategy and programme of the construction of beautiful countryside were launched. The third National Work Conference of Improving Human Settlement Environment in Rural Areas held in December 2017 and decisions recently made by the State Council also placed requirements about its construction.
Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, Cai Qi, that reiterated its rural environmental improvement that should centre on beautifying the countryside. Mayor of Beijing Chen Jining, and deputy mayor Lu Yan also instructed to further integrate resources for enhancing the city’s rural areas. The development of the rural area is one of the recent touchstones in Beijing’s social and economic development. Rural environmental improvement and beautifying the countryside aren’t only one of the key works of the municipal government, but also one of its major roles in addressing agriculture, rural areas and the people living there.
Since 2006, Beijing has carried out the construction based on the Central Government’s policy on agricultural production, quality of life, civilised rural areas, clean and tidy environments and democratic management. Projects are underway for enhancing roads, safe drinking water, sewage treatment and toilet renovation, refuse disposal treatment, lighting and heating. Construction has been completed in more than 1,000 villages, new rural communities have been developed in hundreds of villages and the city’s rural living environment has been greatly improved.
However, after several years of development, some of the facilities and technologies used have become outdated or unable to meet new and higher requirements. Beijing’s role as “four centres” (China’s political, cultural, scientific and technological innovation centre and its centre for international exchange), and moving
the city to the status of a world- class harmonious and liveable capital are overarching goals Compared with the city’s urban area, its rural area has weaknesses in infrastructure and public service facilities. Moreover, a gap between Beijing’s rural area and other regions such as Jiangsu Province and Shanghai Municipality has emerged.
Residents in rural areas have longed for a clean, comfortable and convenient environment, and a higher quality of life. A suitable countryside is not only fitting for a farmer’s immediate needs, but also a goal the government wishes to fulfil.
The construction of a beautiful countryside is considered an industry, and a result of integrated development of urban and rural areas, which concerns people’s well- being and ecological improvement, and is an updated version of developing the countryside, and providing new measures to satisfy people’s need for a better life.
Completing the construction in more than 3,000 villages in three years is a large task, demonstrating the firm determination of the government to implement the rural vitalisation strategy. To ensure its progress, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Rural Affairs carries out its work according to four principles.
The first is to establish programmes. The construction needs to consider each village’s actual situation and make comprehensive plans to avoid waste and prevent repetition.
The second is to carry out construction according to classified and coordinated principles. Combining the actual needs of each village with the plan to improve the countryside isn’t necessarily for each village to complete ten projects. For example, Beijing completed construction in more than 1,300 villages, with the main task of these villages being to consolidate and improve.
The third is to focus on the long- term effect of the construction and its maintenance management and supervision. The government at the municipality and district levels set up special funds to encourage villagers to participate in construction so that they can benefit from sustainable projects.
The fourth is to give villagers a major role in the construction work, and strengthen coordinated cooperation between the government
agencies involved. The government agencies at the municipality and district levels formulated standards for the construction such as the Implementation Opinions of the Construction of Beautiful Countryside, the Guidelines of the Construction of Beautiful Countryside, and the Guideline of Village Planning to help villagers work out their programmes and do construction based on the programmes to ensure completion. As time passes, the construction work will be further enhanced. The project is on a good path forward.
Creating a Leading Role
The CPC Central Committee has highly valued issues relating to agriculture, rural areas and rural people. As China’s capital, Beijing has always played a leading role in implementing rural vitalisation strategy in the country.
The release of the Suggestion of the Special Action of 2017–2020 in July 2017 showed Beijing’s move to creating a more beautiful countryside. Leaders, including Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee Cai Qi and Mayor of Beijing Chen Jining, participated in mobilising construction work and made its arrangement on November 21, 2017, showcasing an unprecedented focus on this area.
Beijing proposed three stages in three years to fulfill this work. Achieving full coverage of beautiful countryside in the rural area showcases the capital’s determination in developing a prosperous society, with a desire to include every village.
This round of the construction has great value. The city decided to invest four to five billion yuan to improve rural infrastructure and carry out supervision and maintenance.
Regarding leadership in rural beautification, Su Weidong, deputy secretary of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Rural Affairs, made an example with the “toilet revolution.” Su Weidong pointed out that Xi Jinping is very concerned about the “toilet revolution” in rural areas and reiterated the significance of upgrading toilets: “Toilet revolution” should not only be carried out at tourist attractions and in urban areas but also in rural areas, exemplifying work of the rural vitalisation strategy to enhance quality of life.” Su thought there were weaknesses of the living environment in the city’s countryside, and according to the suggestion, these major issues would be resolved.
Su Weidong said Beijing needs to advance the construction of beautiful countryside in 10 areas, one of which is to upgrade toilets. Issues concerning the “toilet revolution” such as construction standards, supporting facilities and maintenance need to continue to be resolved. Government agencies including the Beijing Municipal Commission of Rural Affairs and Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development will work together to push the “toilet revolution” in rural areas, such as public toilets in villages and scenic areas, and toilets in villagers’ houses. By 2020, all public toilets in the city’s rural area will reach national standards, and toilets in villagers’ houses will meet requirements of harmless treatment. In accordance with standards of 400,000 yuan per public toilet (Class I), 300,000 yuan per public toilet (Class II), 200,000 yuan per public toilet (Class III), government at the municipality and district levels will provide subsidies for construction and renovation, and special funds for maintenance to ensure their longterm operation. The government will also provide a subsidy of 1,000 yuan for renovating toilets for each family.
In his speech for senior officials on January 5, 2018, Xi Jinping pointed out that the CPC should provide answers to the test of the current times and that people will decide how the Party has performed. Su Weidong said the city has begun to launch its rural vitalisation strategy, and welcomes and encourages its residents to participate in beautifying the countryside and review governmental commitment.
Residential buildings at Qiaozi Town in Huairou District
A villager’s dwelling at Huayuan Village in Miyun District
Dwellings in Jiangjuntai Village, Pinggu District
A garden in Dongcun Village, Fangshan District