Beautiful China Initiative to Lead Green Transition, with Further Construction of Ecological Civilization

2023-02-08 16:01:26 | Author:National Bureau of Statistics

Beautiful China Initiative to Lead Green Transition, with Further Construction of Ecological Civilization 

—Series Report XV on the Economic and Social Development Achievements since the 18th CPC National Congress 


Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has put forward a series of new ideas, new strategies, and new requirements for the construction of ecological civilization from the all-around and strategic perspective, and promoted the construction of ecological civilization with unprecedented efforts. Reforms in ecological environment advances in depth, the institutional system of ecological civilization is improved day by day, law enforcement on the ecological environment is continuously strengthened, and the ecological environment continues to improve. The ecological and environmental protection in China has undergone historic, turning and overall changes, and it walks on solid steps in implementing beautiful China initiative. 

I. Development Guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization, with Continuous Improvement of Environmental Protection System 

(I) The continuous enhancement of the leading role of Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization 

The 18th CPC National Congress incorporated the construction of ecological civilization into the Five-sphere Integrated Plan of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The 5th Plenary Session of the 18 CPC Central Committee established a new development philosophy of "innovation, coordination, green, opening-up, and sharing". The 19th CPC National Congress made "harmonious coexistence of humanity and nature" one of the 14 basic strategies for upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, and made beautiful China initiative one of the goals of a powerful modern socialist country. Moreover, "strengthen the awareness that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets” was officially written into the CPC constitution, and new development philosophies, ecological civilization, and beautiful China initiative were written into the national constitution. With the introduction of series of new ideas and new strategies, the strategic position of ecological civilization has been significantly improved, and the construction of ecological civilization and the protection of the ecological environment have become important parts of high-quality development. 

At the National Conference on Ecological and Environmental Protection held on May 18, 2018, General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered an important speech, profoundly answering major theoretical and practical issues such as "why to build an ecological civilization, what kind of ecological civilization to build, and how to build an ecological civilization", which officially established Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization, and provided direction guidance and fundamental guidance for promoting the beautiful China initiative and realizing the modernization of harmonious coexistence of humanity and nature. 

(II) Ecological and environmental protection system gradually improved 

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the top-level design of ecological civilization and the construction of institutional systems have been comprehensively promoted. Programmatic documents such as Opinions on Accelerating the Construction of Ecological Civilization and Overall Plan for Ecological Civilization System Reform have been issued successively. More than 30 laws and administrative regulations about ecological environment have been formulated and revised, and a system of laws and regulations covering various environmental elements has been basically established. With in-depth implementation of the function zoning strategy, systems such as the vertical management system of monitoring, supervision and law enforcement by ecological and environmental agencies below the provincial level, the property rights system of natural resource assets, the river (lake, forest) chief system, the pollutant discharge permit system, the ecological protection red line system, the ecological compensation system, and the policy of "assignment of equal responsibilities for environmental protection to Party committees and governments, and charging officials with environmental protection responsibilities in addition to their prescribed duties" have been gradually established and improved, and the institutional pillar system for building an ecological civilization has basically taken shape. The inspection from CPC Central Committee for ecological and environmental protection has advanced further and vigorously promoted the resolution of outstanding ecological and environmental issues, which has become a substantial move to specify the responsibility for ecological and environmental protection. 

(III) Increasing contribution to global environmental governance 

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China has actively participated in and led the global climate change negotiation, promoted the conclusion, signing, entry into force and implementation of the Paris Agreement, and made solemn commitment on its effort to achieve carbon peaking by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060; it actively promoted the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, successfully held the first phase of the 15th meeting of theConference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and issued theKunming Declaration; it successfully bid for and actively prepared for the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands; it has carried out the construction of the green "Belt and Road", advocating the establishment of the "Belt and Road" Green Development International Alliance and the Green "Belt and Road" Big Data Platform and providing Chinese concepts and Chinese contributions to global environmental governance. 

II. Comprehensive Pollution Prevention and Control, with Significant Improvement of Environmental Quality 

Facing the severe and urgent environmental pollution, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council resolutely declared war on pollution, promulgated and implemented action plans for the prevention and control of air, water and soil pollution successively, put forward decision and plans for resolutely fighting the tough battle of pollution prevention and control, and achieved significant improvement on environment. 

(I) Remarkable results achieved in the "Three Great Wars of Defense" 

The defense of the blue sky is strengthened. China has printed and implemented the Action Plan on the Prevention of Air Pollution and Three-Year Action Plan to Fight Air Pollution, continued to implement prevention of air pollution in key areas in autumn and winter, promoted the optimization and adjustment of industrial structure, energy structure, transportation structure, and land use structure, and continuously improved the cooperative mechanism for air pollution prevention in key areas. In 2021, the proportion of national coal in primary energy consumption dropped to 56.0%, a decrease of 12.5 percentage points from 2012, and the proportion of clean energy consumption increased to 25.5%. The installed capacity and power generation of photovoltaic and wind power of China both ranked first in the world; the rate of clean heating in Northern China reached 73.6% in winter; about 680 million tons of crude steel has been completed or is undergoing ultra-low emission transformation, and 1.03 billion kilowatts of coal-fired power units have achieved ultra-low emissions, becoming the world's largest clean coal power system; coal-fired boilers below 35T/h have been basically phased out, and ultra-low emission renovation has been basically completed for boilers of 65 T/h and above. 

Lucid water defense is resolutely carried out. The water pollution prevention action plan has been implemented in depth, and the landmark progress such as water source protection, urban black and odorous water treatment, agricultural and rural pollution control, Yangtze River protection and restoration, and Bohai Sea comprehensive treatment have been promoted with effective protection of lucid water. By 2021, black and odorous water bodies in 295 cities at prefecture-level or above (excluding prefectures and alliances) had been basically eliminated; all 10,638 rural spots in China with a daily water supply of 1,000 tons or capacity of serving more than 10,000 people had been designated as protected spots; the investigation of the sewage outlets along Yangtze River and around Bohai Sea was completed, and the investigation of the sewage outlets in part of the upper and middle reaches of the main stream of the Yellow River was completed as well; a special campaign for the improvement of sewage treatment facilities in industrial parks in the Yangtze River Economic Belt was carried out, and centralized sewage treatment facilities were built in all 1,064 industrial parks. 

Clean land defense is steadily promoted. Detailed surveys of soil pollution on agricultural land and surveys of soil pollution on land used by enterprises in key industries were successfully completed, and all 2,783 agriculture-related county-level governments completed the soil environmental quality classification of cultivated land. The pilot project of "waste-free city" is steadily advancing; since 2018, a special campaign to combat foreign garbage smuggling has been carried out for four consecutive years, and it fully realized zero import of foreign garbage; the "waste removal operation" in the Yangtze River Economic Belt was organized for three consecutive years to clean up 56.76 million tons of solid waste of different kinds. 

(II) Continuous improvement of environmental quality 

Air quality continues to improve. In 2021, the proportion of days with good air quality in 339 cities at the prefectural level and above reached 87.5% on average, an increase of 6.3 percentage points over 2015; 218 cities met the ambient air quality standards, accounting for 64.3%, an increase of 35.0 percentage points. The annual average concentration of the six basic pollutants all decreased on a year-on-year basis. Among them, the annual average concentration of PM2.5 was 30 micrograms per cubic meter, a decrease of 34.8% compared with 2015; the annual average concentration of O3 was 137 μg/m3, a decline for two consecutive years. The air pollution prevention in key areas has improved significantly. The proportion of days with good air quality in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and its surrounding areas and the Yangtze River Delta region has increased by 13.5 and 8.0 percentage points respectively compared with 2015, with improvement rates higher than the national average. 

The water environment continues to improve with quality of surface water greatly improved. In 2021, the proportion of sections with good surface water quality (Class I-III) across China reached 84.9%, an increase of 23.3 percentage points from 2012; the proportion of sections with inferior quality to Class V was 1.2%, a decrease of 9.7 percentage points. The water quality in key river basins and lakes and reservoirs is steadily improving, and the proportion of sections with good surface water quality (Class I-III) in seven major river basins including the Yangtze River, Yellow River, Pearl River, Songhua River, Huaihe River, Haihe River, and Liaoje River, as well as rivers in the Northwestern China, Southwestern China and rivers in Zhejiang and Fujian reached 87.0%, an increase of 18.1 percentage points; among the key lakes and reservoirs, the proportion of lakes and reservoirs with good water quality (Class I-III) was 72.9%, an increase of 11.6 percentage points. The water quality in coastal waters continued to improve, and the proportion of sea areas with good water quality (Class I and II) was 81.3%, an increase of 8.4 percentage points over 2016. 

The increasing of soil pollution has been initially curbed. In 2021, the safe utilization rate of polluted cultivated land across China was stabilized over 90%, and the safe utilization rate of polluted land reached more than 93%. According to the detailed surveys on the soil pollution of agricultural land, the soil environment of agricultural land across China is generally stabilized. 

III. Constantly Intensified Ecological Protection, with Remarkable Results Achieved in Ecological Restoration 

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, all regions and relative authorities have prioritized protection and natural restoration, coordinated the administration of mountains, rivers, forests, fields, lakes, grassland and desert systems, promoted major ecological protection and restoration projects, and advanced large-scale land greening. China has achieved pioneering progress ecological protection and restoration and initially formed a new pattern of ecological restoration. 

(I) Steady improvement in the natural ecological situation 

In 2021, the national ecological quality index (EQI) value was 59.77, and the ecological quality [1] is categorized as Class II, which is basically stable compared with 2020. The area of counties with Class I ecological quality accounts for 27.7% of the national land area, and the area of counties with Class II accounts for 32.1%. 

The forest and grassland wetland ecosystem has been effectively protected. The protection and restoration of important ecosystems has been strengthened such as forests, grasslands, and wetlands, relevant laws, regulations, and policy systems have been improved, and the quantity and quality of forests, grasslands, and wetlands has been effectively improved. In terms of forest resources, the Ninth National Forest Resources Inventory (2014-2018) shows that the national forest coverage rate is 22.96%, the forest area is 220.45 million hectares, and the forest stock is 17.56 billion cubic meters. Compared with the Eighth Inventory (2009-2013), the forest coverage rate has increased by 1.33 percentage points, the forest area has a net increase of 12.76 million hectares, and the forest stock has a net increase of 2.423 billion cubic meters. The forest area and forest stock volume have maintained "quality and quantity growth" for 30 consecutive years. In terms of grassland resources, from 2013 to 2021, a total of more than RMB 170 billion funds from the central government has been invested to implement the subsidy and reward policy for grassland ecological protection, and nearly 4 billion mu (1 mu ≈ 666.67 m2) of grassland has been recuperated. Grassland ecological restoration and management projects have been organized and implemented, 3.8 billion mu land has been designated as fundamental grassland, and the comprehensive vegetation coverage of natural grasslands reaches 56.1%. In terms of wetland resources, from 2013 to 2021, a total of RMB 16.855 billion financial funds from the central government were allocated, more than 3,400 wetland protection projects have been implemented, more than 800,000 hectares of wetlands were newly designated and restored, and 64 internationally important wetlands have been designated. Wetland protection and restoration has stepped onto a new stage of development. 

The system of nature reserves has been continuously improved. Projects have been carried out including 10 national park system pilot projects, the construction of the first batch of national parks, and the integration and optimization of nature reserves. A system of nature reserves with national parks as the mainstay has been gradually established. At present, the total area of nature reserves accounts for about 18% of China's land area. There are 5 national parks and 41 world geological parks, and the number of world geological parks in China ranks first in the world. 

(II) Great progress in ecological protection and restoration 

The integrated protection and restoration of mountains, rivers, forests, fields, lakes, grass and desert is in progress. Since 2016, a total of 25 pilot projects of ecological protection and restoration of mountains, rivers, forests, fields, lakes and grasslands have been implemented. As of 2021, the central government had funded a total of RMB 50 billion in rewards and subsidies, and the ecological protection and restoration pilot projects of about 2 million hectares had been completed including land remediation, mine ecological restoration, river basin water environment governance, pollution and degraded land restoration, forest and grassland vegetation restoration, etc., which effectively improved the quality of the ecosystem in key ecological areas and important ecological nodes. In 2021, 10 projects involving key ecological areas such as "Three Zones and four Belts" were included in the scope of central financial support for the first batch of integrated protection and restoration of mountains, rivers, forests, fields, lakes, grasses and deserts during the "14th Five-Year Plan", and a total of RMB 12.5 billion of central rewards and subsidies was allocated. 

Land greening is in progress. With large-scale land greening launched, and large-scale projects have driven great development. In-depth implementation of key projects was carried out such as the shelterbelt in Northern China, Northeastern China and Northwestern China, natural forest protection, returning farmland to forest and grassland, returning grazing land to grassland, and Beijing-Tianjin sandstorm source control. From 2013 to 2021, the afforestation area reached about 59.44 million hectares, of which the artificial afforestation area reached about 32.22 million hectares, accounting for 54.2% of the total afforestation area. The greening projects have achieved remarkable results. Voluntary tree planting has been widely carried out, and people from various regions and departments have participated in voluntary tree planting in various forms. The quality of forests has been improved in targeted manner, and an annual average of 124 million mu of forest tending has been completed. Coordination of urban and rural greening has been carried out, 152 national forest cities have been built, and a number of national forest villages and forest villages have been constructed. 

There is remarkable effect of desertification prevention and control. Through the implementation of key projects and programs such as the second phase of the Beijing-Tianjin sandstorm source project, the comprehensive control of rocky desertification, the national major ecological system protection and restoration project, and the national sand prevention and control demonstration area, the multi-pronged comprehensive control of agriculture, forestry, water, animal husbandry, and desertification have been carried out. Centralized governance of key areas and weak links in desertification has been strengthened, and remarkable sand prevention and control have been achieved in China. From 2013 to 2021, a total of 259 million mu of sand prevention and control were completed, 1.938 million hectares of afforestation and 66,000 hectares of sand fixation were accomplished in the Beijing-Tianjin sandstorm source control project, and the closed protection area of desertified land reached 1.772 million hectares. 41 sand prevention and control comprehensive demonstration area and 125 national desert (rocky desert) parks were established. 

Remarkable achievements have been made in water and soil erosion control. The comprehensive prevention and control of water and soil loss has been vigorously promoted. With small watersheds taken as units, comprehensive control of water and soil loss in key areas has been carried out, the supervision and management of water and soil conservation has been strengthened in accordance with the law, man-made water and soil loss is under control, and the control of water and soil loss continues to improve. From 2013 to 2021, the accumulatively newly added comprehensive control area of water and soil loss reached about 534,000 square kilometers. In 2020, the national water and soil erosion area totaled 2.693 million square kilometers, of which the water and soil erosion area at moderate level and above was 988,000 square kilometers, accounting for 36.7% of the total area. Compared with the first national water conservancy census (2011), the national water and soil erosion area decreased by 256,000 square kilometers, a decrease of 8.7%, and the proportion of water and soil erosion areas at moderate level and above decreased by 16.4 percentage points, showing "double declines" in both area and intensity trend. 

IV. Continuous Improvement in the Urban and Rural Living Environments, with Green and Low-carbon Lifestyle as a Fashion

People expect to live a better life in a green and beautiful living environment in the new era. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the construction of urban and rural environments has been continuously strengthened, green and low-carbon lifestyles have been advocated and practiced, and beautiful living environments and green lifestyles are gradually taking shape. 

(I) The continuous construction of urban and rural human settlements 

The urban environmental infrastructure is further improved. In 2020, the investment in urban environmental infrastructure construction reached RMB 523.6 billion, an increase of 36.2% over 2012; among it, the investment in sewage treatment and recycling and waste treatment increased rapidly, 2.7 times and 5.4 times respectively. The daily processing capacity of urban sewage treatment plants reached 192.67 million cubic meters, an increase of 64.2% over 2012; the sewage treatment rate reached 97.5%, an increase of 10.2 percentage points; the daily harmless processing capacity of domestic waste reached 963,000 tons, an increase of 115.9%; the harmless disposal rate of garbage reached 99.7%, an increase of 14.9 percentage points; the penetration rate of gas reached 97.9%, an increase of 4.7 percentage points. 

The urban environment has become more beautiful and livable. In 2020, the green coverage rate of urban built-up areas reached 42.1%, an increase of 2.5 percentage points compared with 2012; the green area rate of built-up areas reached 38.2%, an increase of 2.5 percentage points; the per capita park and green land reached 14.8 square meters, an increase of 20.5%; in 2021, 94.2% of cities at or above prefecture level realized centralized drinking water at Class III or above, an increase of 2.9 percentage points compared to 2013. 

The improvement of the rural living environment has been fully carried out. The bottom line of rural drinking water safety is firmly held. By 2021, the penetration rate of tap water in rural areas reached 84%, an increase of 8 percentage points from 2015. Rural toilet revolution has been carried out. Since 2018, toilet in more than 40 million rural households have been renovated; by 2021, the penetration rate of sanitary toilets exceeded 70%. Treatment of rural domestic waste and sewage has been carried out. In 2021, the proportion of natural villages that collect and transport domestic waste stabilized at more than 90%, and the treatment rate of rural domestic sewage reached about 28%, an increase of about 3.5 percentage points compared to 2020. 

(II) Ongoing formation of green lifestyle 

The low-carbon travel becomes more convenient, and the public transportation service system keeps improving. In 2021, the operating length of urban rail transit reached about 8,736 kilometers, an increase of about 3.2 times compared with the end of 2012; the proportion of new energy urban buses exceeded 66%; 318 cities at or above the prefecture level realized the integration of traffic cards; there were more than 19 million shared bicycles in operation with average daily order volume of more than 45 million. New energy vehicles demonstrated explosive growth. By the end of 2021, the number of new energy vehicles reached 7.84 million, an increase of about 5.6 times compared with the end of 2016; the proportion of new energy vehicles reached 2.6%, an increase of 2.0 percentage points; sales of new energy vehicles reached 3.52 million vehicles, an increase of about 5.9 times. 

The philosophy of green life is further and wider advocated and implemented. Waste sorting is progressing in an orderly manner, and the sorting of domestic waste in prefecture-level cities has been fully launched. By the end of 2021, a total of 263,900 residential complexes in 297 cities at the prefecture level and above have carried out domestic waste sorting. The "clean your plate" campaign has been highly promoted. Since the launch of "clean your plate" campaign nationwide in 2013, a trend of food saving and opposition to food waste has gradually formed. The introduction of the Anti-Food Waste Law has provides legal base for the trend. Disposable items are gradually decreasing. Since the implementation of the "Most Strict Plastic Restriction Order", alternatives such as environmentally friendly cloth bags and degradable plastics have been widely promoted. Green and low-carbon behaviors such as paperless office, one-hour light off, one-day less driving, and one-degree higher for air conditioning have gradually changed from slogans to nationwide actions. 

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, different regions and departments have thoroughly studied and implemented Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization, resolutely carried the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee, and made unprecedented efforts to prevent and control pollution. The phased objectives and tasks of the pollution prevention battle have been successfully completed, the quality of the ecological environment has been significantly improved, and people's sense of gain has been significantly enhanced. But at the same time, we should also be soberly aware that the current gradually stabilized foundation of China's ecological environment is not yet solid, and the beautiful China initiative requires more arduous efforts. We should carry on Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization as the fundamental principle, unswervingly implement the new development philosophy, actively practice the concept of "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets", walk on the right direction with unabated efforts, strive for substantial achievement on the quality of the ecological environment, and make new progress in the construction of ecological civilization. 



[1] Beginning in 2021, the basis for ecological quality assessment has been adjusted to the Regional Ecological Quality Assessment Method (Trial). EQI ≥ 70 is Class I, 55 ≤ EQI<70 is Class II, 40 ≤ EQI<55 is Class III, 30 ≤ EQI<40 is Class IV, and EQI<30 is Class V. When compared to 2020, new method is adopted for 2020 assessment. High-level opening-up has achieved remarkable results, and win-win cooperation has demonstrated the responsibility of a major country.