A distinct feature: Chinese modernization is the modernization of harmony between humanity and nature

2023-10-16 15:12:27 | Author:Qu Qingshan

General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasizes this issue because respecting, adhering to, and safeguarding nature, while fostering harmony between humans and nature, stands as a “distinct feature” of Chinese modernization. Accurately perceiving and precisely grasping this “distinct feature” is vitally important for effectively propelling Chinese modernization in practical scenarios.

Harmony between humans and nature is an essential choice for humanity’s survival and development. Nature, the mother of life, provides the basic conditions for human development and survival. Humans and nature constitute a community of life; there is no substitute for the eco-environment, the absence of which is felt strongly, but the benefits of which often go unnoticed. The promotion of eco-civilization pertains to humanity’s future. All humans inhabit the same planet, and no country can distance itself or remain immune from such ecological challenges. Engels insightfully explicated the mutual dependency between humans and nature, stating, “Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us.”

Harmony between humans and nature embodies the splendid tradition of the Chinese people and the entire Chinese nation. Historically, the Chinese have esteemed and cherished nature, realizing early on the imperative of respecting and aligning with nature for the sustainability and evolution of human society. Ancient Chinese wisdom professes: “Heaven and I coexist, and all things and I are one.” “Heaven, silent, orchestrates the seasons; Earth, wordless, nurtures myriad beings.” They advocated that all things “find harmony to live and nourishment to thrive” and established philosophical foundations like “Man models Earth; Earth models Heaven; Heaven models the Dao; the Dao models Nature.” In labor and production, people were counselled to “adhere to agricultural seasons,” “restrict overfishing,” “conduct timely harvest in forests,” “align with celestial timing, leverage terrestrial benefits,” and “neither end plants’ lives prematurely nor interrupt their maturation.” The Rites of Zhou record that during the Western Zhou Dynasty, specific officials were designated to manage mountainous regions and royal parks. Regulations were enacted that mandated adherence to seasonal and temporal guidelines for logging, prohibited the killing of young deer and taking bird eggs, and forbade the use of poisonous arrows for hunting, with stringent punishments for violations. Our forebears placed significant emphasis on unifying heaven, earth, and humanity, intertwining natural ecology with human civilization, and acting in alignment with the natural order.

The harmony between humans and nature is also a reflection of the exploration and review of our own experiment. Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, and particularly following the introduction of the reform and opening up policy, our appreciation of the criticality of eco-environmental preservation has progressively deepened. When we witnessed, through development, the repercussions of violating natural laws—such as environmental pollution and ecological damage—which became major and immediate public concerns, we acutely recognized that we must not sacrifice eco-environments for the sake of transient economic development. Eco-environmental conservation is an endeavor benefiting both the contemporary era and thousands of generations to come. Our Party, in the interest of the populace, has manifested the utmost resolution and expended enormous efforts, formulating a slew of policies and measures for the protection and governance of the eco-environment, and vigorously ensuring their thorough implementation. General Secretary Xi Jinping introduced the new philosophy of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development and asserted the philosophy that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable treasures, establishing major principles for ecological governance in the pursuit of Chinese modernization. Through the ceaseless, determined efforts of the nation, China’s eco-civilization has undergone transformative, pivotal, and comprehensive changes both theoretically and practically, effectuating major shifts from targeted rectifications to systematic governance, from reactive responses to proactive initiatives, from being global environmental governance participants to leaders, and from practical explorations to being guided by scientific theories.

On March 2, 2023, bulldozers operate at a high-standard farmland transformation site in Shenming Village, Shibei Town, Pucheng County, Fujian Province. Photo credit: Xinhua News Agency reporter Jiang Kehong.

Harmony between humans and nature distinguishes Chinese modernization from its Western counterparts. Different societal systems and developmental philosophies have led most Western countries down a path of “pollute first, manage later” during their modernization endeavors. While amassing significant material wealth, they have concurrently accelerated the plunder of natural resources, disrupting the intrinsic cycles and balances of Earth’s ecosystems, and generating tension between humans and nature. The Eight Major Global Pollution Incidents in the 20th century, transpiring mainly in Western countries, inflicted substantial ecological and public life damages, incurring massive losses and astounding the world. For instance, the Los Angeles photochemical smog incident resulted in nearly a thousand deaths. The London smog event in December 1952 caused up to 4,000 deaths within a few days, and nearly 8,000 succumbed to respiratory diseases in the subsequent two months, with 12 severe smog incidents reoccurring multiple times in 1956, 1957, and 1962. Japan’s Minamata disease affected nearly a thousand people and threatened up to 20,000.

The “distinct feature” of modernization, embracing the harmony between humans and nature, necessitates our commitment to sustainable development throughout the progression of Chinese modernization. This encompasses adhering to a principle that emphasizes conservation, protection, and a nature recovery-centric approach, safeguarding nature and the ecological environment as vigilantly as one would their eyes, and steadfastly creating a model of sound development featuring increased production, higher living standards, and healthy ecosystems, thereby realizing the perpetual development of the Chinese nation.

Qu Qingshan: President of the Institute of Party History and Literature of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China