People may recognize the blue skies, clear waters, and lush bamboo forests of Anji County in Zhejiang, from the Oscar-winning movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." However, the stunning natural beauty of this environment was once at considerable risk of irreversible damage from human activities.
Yucun is a typical village of Anji. "Yucun once relied on cement factories and mines. At that time, the village environment was abysmal, and the river was full of sewage," said villager Hu Jiaxing. Fed up with the dusty air and fatal accidents, villagers resolved to shut down the mines and cement plants and explore alternate ways to generate money and opportunities.
In August 2005, Xi Jinping, then Party chief of Zhejiang, visited Yucun. With changes already well and truly underway, he was impressed by what the community had achieved. It was here that he brought up a concept that has exerted a far-reaching impact on China's development.
"Don't think about the old routes or be preoccupied with past development models. As you mentioned earlier, you are determined to shut some mines. This is a wise move," Xi said.
"Clear waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. We talked about it in the past. Green mountains and lucid waters are needed, so is gold and silver. In fact, these waters and mountains are priceless assets," he added.
This idea of the value of the natural environment would evolve into a decisive concept that Xi implemented initially across Zhejiang, and then the country.
In 2003, Xi initiated a program that saw Zhejiang select 1,000 principal villages to take the lead in a new approach that balanced growth and rural green restoration. These villages were exemplars for the province's 10,000 villages. In 2018, the project won the Champions of the Earth award, the United Nations' highest environmental honor.
Anji was also the first county in China to win the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honor. Yucun is a paragon of beautiful countryside. And its residents have benefited too, with increased incomes thanks to environmentally-friendly agriculture and eco-tourism.
On March 30, 2020, Xi revisited Yucun. He said the building of beautiful villages is now a reality in Yucun.
"Your achievements prove that our path is correct. We are now more confident of this path, the path of sustainable development. Economic development cannot be achieved at the cost of destroying the environment. The ecological environment itself is the economy. All environmental protection efforts will be rewarded," he said.
Throughout China's development journey, there have been wrong turns and detours in the understanding and handling of the relationship between environmental protection and economic development. However, since ecological civilization was incorporated into China's integrated development plan in 2012 when Xi became China's top leader, there is no longer any question of the country's resolve or direction.
China has made remarkable progress in building an ecological civilization, and will continue to advance ecological progress, Xi said while addressing the leaders' summit of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity via video link in Beijing. Enditem