Win the Battle Against Pollution

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China III Updated: 2021-12-31

Win the Battle Against Pollution* 

May 18, 2018 

In the report to the 19th CPC National Congress in 2017, I said that we must focus on priorities, address shortcomings, and shore up points of weakness, and emphasized that we must take firm steps to forestall and defuse major risks, carry out targeted poverty alleviation, and prevent and control pollution, so that we build a moderately prosperous society that earns the people's approval and stands the test of time. Now we should concentrate our strengths and enact more effective policy measures to win this tough battle.

First, we should develop a system for creating an eco-civilization. We should resolve environmental problems at this critical juncture of history. For this purpose, we must foster a culture promoting eco-values, an economy highlighting eco-friendly industries and industrialization of environmental protection activities, a responsibility system for achieving the goal of improving the eco-environment, a complete support system for ensuring eco-environmental protection through modernized governance, and a security system prioritizing well-functioning ecosystems and effective control of environmental risks.

By accelerating the pace of this work we can achieve a remarkable improvement in the quality and efficiency of China's economic development. By 2035 we will put in place a land-use planning system, industrial structure, mode of production, and way of life, all of which are resource-saving and environment-friendly. The eco-environment will be much better, the basic modernization of China's eco-environmental governance system and capacity will be achieved, and the goal of building a beautiful China will be generally realized.

By the middle of the century, we will develop China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful. By the end of this stage, we will reach new heights in every dimension of material, political, cultural, social, and eco-environmental progress. A green mode of development and a green way of life will be established, characterized by harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature. Our national eco-environmental governance system and capacity will be fully modernized, and we will complete the task of building a beautiful China.

Second, we should push for green development across the board. Green symbolizes life and nature. A healthy eco-environment is the foundation for the better life that the people are anticipating. Green development is a key component of China's new vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development. These five concepts interact with and complement each other. Green development is a must for profound reform in all respects and for building a high-quality, modern economy. The goal is to change the traditional economic model characterized by massive production, massive consumption and massive emissions, so that resources, production and consumption are in balance. As a result, social and economic development can operate in tandem with environmental protection, and humanity and nature can coexist in harmony.

A green development model is the fundamental solution to pollution. Only by reducing pollutant discharges at source can we make significant improvements to the eco-environment. We should focus on adjusting the economic structure and energy mix, optimizing the industrial and land-use configuration, strengthening industries, and stepping up environmental protection in all respects from production to consumption. A change in the economic structure and energy mix can promote economic growth and reduce pollutant discharges. We should conduct environmental assessments of major economic policies and industrial projects, and make the best use of land and land resources by adjusting industrial development plans in regions and major river basins. We should foster stronger energy-saving and eco-friendly industries, clean production industries, clean energy industries, highly-efficient agriculture, advanced manufacturing, and modern service industries. We should encourage resource conservation and recycling across the board, and adopt circular use of resources in production and in everyday life.

Green ways of life can be applied to food and clothing, housing and transport. We encourage simple, moderate, green and low-carbon ways of life, and oppose extravagance and excessive consumption. We should launch initiatives to make Party and government institutions more conservation-conscious, and develop eco-friendly families, schools, communities and transport services. By embracing green living, we can help make our mode of production more eco-friendly.

Third, we should give top priority to addressing eco-environmental problems in improving people's lives. We shall spare no effort to do the smallest things if they benefit the people, and steer clear of even the smallest things that might harm the people. We must fight a tough battle against pollution and secure major victories, concentrating our efforts on resolving prominent environmental problems that directly affect people's lives. Severe air pollution, black, fetid water bodies, piled-up trash, and a deteriorating rural environment are major and immediate public concerns. These problems, severely disturbing people's work and life, are the source of many public complaints and can even disturb the social order. We must overcome these problems. We should leverage our strengths, rally all possible forces, and get everyone involved. In this tough battle against pollution, we need to gain one success after another with the support of the people.

To improve the air quality is our top priority. It is an earnest expectation of the Chinese people and also a promise we have made to the international community as hosts of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. In curbing air pollution, we should first and foremost target the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and its surrounding area, the Yangtze River Delta, and the Fenhe-Weihe River Plain, focusing particularly on Beijing. A substantial improvement in air quality is an unconditional requirement. We need to reinforce a concerted effort to prevent and control air pollution, putting an end to severe pollution and bringing back blue skies.

We must restructure industries, reducing excess and outdated capacity and creating new growth drivers. We should enforce upgrading in badly-polluting sectors to achieve compliance with environmental standards, and achieve ultra-low emissions in thermal power, steel and other industries. We will tighten up regulation of enterprises that do not comply with national industrial policies or local industrial planning, have not yet acquired the approval of relevant authorities, or do not meet environmental standards. Depending on their respective conditions, some of these enterprises will be closed, some reformed and upgraded, and some moved to industrial parks.

We need to change our energy mix, reducing coal use and developing clean energy. We need to take multiple measures simultaneously in conformity with local conditions. We have resolved to provide winter heating from clean energy sources in northern China, replacing coal with natural gas and/or electricity wherever it is appropriate. We need to establish a system for the production, supply, storage and sale of natural gas as soon as possible, and optimize distribution of the sources of natural gas. We need to enhance connectivity across different gas pipeline networks, and guarantee gas supply. After replacing coal with electricity and natural gas, we need to provide subsidies and favorable prices to ensure they are accessible and affordable. We need to make greater efforts to eliminate individual coal-fired boilers, and suspend operations of outdated coal-fired power plants that are sources of serious pollution and quicken the pace of their transformation and upgrading.

We must restructure transport, reducing the use of road, increasing the use of rail, and cutting down emissions from diesel-powered freight vehicles. In order to improve their performance and efficiency, we need to upgrade, integrate and scale up freight transport businesses, and encourage "chain-store" type operations.

We should continue to implement our action plans for preventing and controlling water pollution. We will give priorities to protecting water sources, cleaning up black, fetid water bodies in urban areas, improving the Bohai Sea water through comprehensive measures, and protecting and restoring the Yangtze River ecosystem. Our goal is to guarantee drinking water safety. In water pollution control, we have many problems to resolve. One of the most pressing tasks is to improve our facilities for the collection and disposal of urban sewage. We have so much to improve in this regard. According to the reports from the Central Environmental Protection Inspection Teams, discharge of untreated sewage is still prevalent in some of the municipalities directly under the central government, in developed coastal provinces, and in special economic zones. To realize full coverage of the piped sewage network, and full collection and disposal of urban sewage, we should set a "must-reach" goal and fulfill it by all possible means. Failing this, our efforts of cleaning up would be wasted.

We should fully enforce the action plan on soil pollution control, and promulgate and implement a law on the prevention and control of soil pollution. We should target key regions, industries and pollutants to enhance soil pollution control and soil restoration and forestall risks effectively, so as to provide safe food and safe residence for the people. We will sharply reduce the variety and quantity of imported solid wastes prior to imposing a total ban on all imports of garbage. Environmental violations concerning hazardous wastes will be harshly punished, and we will stop the illegal transfer, dumping, utilization and disposal of hazardous wastes.

The rural environment has a direct impact on food and water supplies as well as on the urban environment. We should adjust agricultural input, reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, increasing the use of organic fertilizers, and improving the recycling and disposal of plastic mulch waste. We should continue to improve rural living environments of all the villages across the country. Our main tasks are to improve garbage collection and sewage disposal, and build sufficient clean and safe toilets. By doing so, we will build the countryside into a big garden full of birds and flowers.

Eco-environmental conservation and pollution prevention and control are inseparable. The two function like a fraction, with the latter as the numerator, and the former the denominator. To better protect the environment, we must minimize the numerator by reducing pollutant discharges and maximize the denominator by enlarging the environmental carrying capacity. We should ensure that no red lines for protecting the ecosystems are ever crossed, systematically monitor the conservation of mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes and grasslands, and strengthen oversight of environmental issues at every stage. Rather than redeveloping urban land made available after the demolition of illegal structures, we should turn it into green spaces where the people can enjoy their leisure.

Fourth, we should forestall eco-environmental risks effectively. Eco-security is a key element of national security and an important guarantee for sound and sustained social and economic development. "Nip the problem in the bud when it is in the making; prepare yourself for risks yet to emerge."1 We should be highly alert to the accumulation and spread of all kinds of eco-environmental risks, and be prepared to meet the challenges they pose.

We should bring eco-environmental risks under management on a regular basis, and build a multi-tiered risk management system covering the whole process of social and economic development. We need to impose tight controls on waste incineration and paraxylene pollution, prevent and resolve NIMBY ("not in my back yard") problems concerning projects with a significant environmental impact, and improve our emergency response capacity for environmental accidents. We need to enhance nuclear and radiation safety regulation and supervision, and improve our regulatory and supervisory mechanisms and capacity, in order to ensure absolute safety.

Fifth, we should promote eco-environmental progress through further institutional reform. This is an important part of China's deeper comprehensive reform. With the goal of resolving prominent environmental problems, we should ensure the implementation of existing measures and formulate new plans in a timely manner. We must see that our measures concerning institutional reform for eco-environmental progress are put in place and play their role. The Central Environmental Protection Inspection Teams should strengthen their authority, appoint capable personnel, and make further progress. We should explore sustainable ways to realize the value of eco-products under the guidance of the government, with the participation of business and all other sectors of society, and through market-based operation. To this end, we should launch pilot programs first to gather experience. We should improve our systems for assessing the honesty and accuracy of claims about performance in environmental protection, for ensuring mandatory release of environmental information, and for imposing severe punishments on environmental violations.

In the current round of reform involving Party and state institutions, the CPC Central Committee has decided to establish the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. We have two considerations: First, we must integrate government functions in pollution prevention and control to provide effective institutional support for this tough task. Second, in terms of environmental conservation and restoration we must strengthen unified regulation and supervision of all things above and below ground, onshore and in water, on land and at sea, and in urban and rural areas, targeting both carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions, and ensure that red lines for protecting the ecosystems are not crossed.

Relevant authorities must perform their duties, formulate uniform policies, plans and standards, and work concertedly in monitoring and evaluation, in oversight and law enforcement, in inspection and in enforcing accountability. To establish unified law enforcement in environmental protection we need to reorganize law enforcement agencies responsible for environmental protection and streamline their responsibilities, in accordance with the principle of shortening their chains of command and improving their efficiency. We need to improve the mechanisms for managing the eco-environment of regions, river basins and sea bodies, accelerate our pilot programs on establishing transregional environmental protection agencies, and integrate the atmospheric environment management responsibilities of relevant central departments and local governments. We will establish regulatory and law enforcement authorities for river basin environment to achieve better synergy. We need to improve marine environmental management mechanisms by setting up regulatory institutions responsible for different sea bodies.

Sixth, we should improve eco-environmental governance. This is a systematic program that requires multiple combined approaches, involving administration, market, law and technology. We should fully leverage the market to boost environmental protection, and direct more private capital into this area. We should improve resource and environment pricing mechanisms, and include environmental costs into the cost of economic activities. We should use various means to support the cooperation between government and private capital on environmental protection. In protecting the environment, we must pay out every penny required. We must ensure that our investments in pollution control are commensurate with the level of difficulties of the tasks concerned. We should devote more effort to key scientific research projects such as identifying the causes of severe air pollution and curbing such pollution, and the comprehensive environmental governance of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region. We need to carry out specialized and forward-looking research on the control of ozone, volatile organic compounds and new pollutants. We need to conduct countermeasure studies on major environmental issues having a vital bearing on social and economic development, and encourage the application of research results, to support informed and effective decision-making, environmental management, targeted pollution control and public services.

To demonstrate that China is a major and responsible country and to build a global community of shared future, we should actively respond to climate change as a national strategy, and push for the establishment of a fair and rational global climate governance system directed towards cooperation and win-win results.

* Part of the speech at the National Conference on Eco-environmental Protection.


1 Liu Xu et al.: Old Book of Tang (Jiu Tang Shu). Liu Xu (887-946) was an official and historian during the Five Dynasties.

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