Growth and eco-pro­tec­tion not an­ti­thet­i­cal

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

As the largest man­made for­est, Sai­hanba in Chengde, North China’s He­bei prov­ince, is the best foot­note to Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s phi­los­o­phy of bal­anc­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and eco­nomic growth.

Yet some of­fi­cials still ac­cord pri­or­ity to eco­nomic devel­op­ment at the cost of the en­vi­ron­ment, while oth­ers pur­sue en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion while turn­ing a blind eye to eco­nomic growth, which could com­pro­mise peo­ple’s liveli­hoods.

Since the 18th Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, Xi has been em­pha­siz­ing that the pur­suit of har­mony be­tween hu­mans and na­ture is about hav­ing both “gold moun­tains” and “green moun­tains”. As such, Xi’s phi­los­o­phy is about strik­ing the right balance be­tween en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and eco­nomic growth.

In China’s ex­pe­ri­ences of mod­ern­iza­tion and build­ing an eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and eco­nomic growth are not in­com­pat­i­ble. The key to mak­ing them com­pat­i­ble lies in ide­ol­ogy and the poli­cies to man­age them.

If, for ex­am­ple, some re­gions’ eco­log­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sets are their strength, they should be al­lowed to de­velop eco­a­gri­cul­ture, eco-in­dus­tries and eco-tourism. This way, their green as­sets could fa­cil­i­tate eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

Ef­fec­tively com­bin­ing in­dus­trial devel­op­ment with eco­log­i­cal devel­op­ment, and fol­low­ing the prin­ci­ple of en­vi­ron­ment friendly econ­omy is the best way to build an in­dus­trial struc­ture based on eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems that China faces to­day are partly the re­sult of the coun­try’s im­bal­anced in­dus­trial struc­ture. There­fore, gov­ern­ments at all lev­els should take mea­sures to trans­form the struc­tures of three pil­lar sec­tors — in­dus­try, agri­cul­ture and tourism — fol­low­ing the ecofriendly and re­source-ef­fi­ciency prin­ci­ple. Apart from im­ple­ment­ing a wa­ter-sav­ing pol­icy for the in­dus­trial, agri­cul­tural and tourism sec­tors, China has made great achieve­ments in en­ergy-sav­ing and eco-friendly in­dus­tries — the coun­try ac­counts for 24 per­cent of the global in­stalled ca­pac­ity of re­new­able en­ergy, and is a leader in the use of new and re­new­able sources of en­ergy.

To strike a balance be­tween eco­log­i­cal ben­e­fits and eco­nomic ef­fec­tive­ness means cre­at­ing eco­nomic val­ues while pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. For in­stance, plant­ing sea buck­thorns in the desert re­gions of North China can pre­vent de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion. Be­sides, lo­cal res­i­dents can use the buck­thorns to make hand­i­crafts and other com­mer­cial prod­ucts to im­prove their liveli­hoods, and the shrub­beries in the deserts can be de­vel­oped into tourist at­trac­tions to cre­ate more jobs.

But the au­thor­i­ties and lo­cal res­i­dents have to make sure the frag­ile desert en­vi­ron­ment is not over­ex­ploited lest the area turns into sand again.

Eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion should play a cen­tral role in the three pil­lar in­dus­tries. In agri­cul­ture, for in­stance, China has a splen­did tra­di­tion of “mul­berry fish ponds”, an in­te­grated ecosys­tem that brings into play the pro­duc­tion po­ten­tial of hu­mans and their en­vi­ron­ment through the pro­mo­tion of dif­fer­ent branches of agri­cul­ture, by turn­ing the banks of fish ponds into mul­berry dikes. Avoid­ing prac­tices that dam­age the en­vi­ron­ment and learn­ing from tra­di­tional farm­ing meth­ods can boost agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, not only in terms of quan­tity but also qual­ity.

In man­u­fac­tur­ing, In­dus­try 4.0 and “in­tel­li­gent man­u­fac­tur­ing” are be­com­ing re­al­ity, as China ex­plores new ways of in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion that com­bines high-tech con­tent, good eco­nomic re­turns, low re­source con­sump­tion and lit­tle en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion. There is also a need to give pri­or­ity to eco­log­i­cal tourism.

In other words, Xi’s pledge that “the pur­suit of har­mony be­tween hu­mans and na­ture is about hav­ing both gold moun­tains and green moun­tains” shows the Party’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to build har­mony be­tween hu­man be­ings and na­ture as part of the grand vi­sion of so­cial­ist eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at the School of Marx­ism and a re­search fel­low at the Na­tional Academy of Devel­op­ment and Strat­egy, Ren­min Univer­sity of China.


Zhang Yun­fei

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