Xi leads China's green development
Shovel in hand, President Xi Jinping planted trees in Beijing on Friday. To many Chinese, this is not an unfamiliar scene.
Every year since 2013, Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has joined the Chinese capital's annual voluntary tree-planting initiative.
It is one way in which he supports afforestation, which he has said plays a significant role in creating an environment where the sky is blue, the land green and the water clean and creates benefits for all the Chinese people.
Xi's hands-on involvement with the tree-planting project illustrates a genuine commitment to ensuring harmonious coexistence between humans and nature -- one he pursues in deeds as well as words. That is not to say this is an isolated event, indeed, throughout his career, he has championed numerous ecological conservation and green development campaigns.
During his time in Fujian, for example, Changting county, a mountainous area in the west of the province, suffered from severe soil and water loss. The area's exposed red earth earned it the name "flaming mountain."
On five separate occasions, Xi traveled to Changting and led work to address soil and water damage. Today, it is one of the greenest counties in Fujian, with 79.8 percent forest coverage.
Not far away from Fujian, in the neighboring province of Zhejiang, cement mills and mines were once the backbone of Yucun village. While these industries provided jobs that were stable and lucrative, the thick dust and waste from the plants created an unbearable living environment for locals. So they decided to close the mines and cement plants.
This decision was made during Xi's tenure as secretary of the CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee, and in August 2005 he visited Yucun. It was during that visit that he first proposed a guiding theory that endures to this day.
"Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets," Xi said.
The 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 was a real turning point, as this significant meeting was the catalyst behind the Beautiful China initiative and the battle for blue skies and clean water and soil.
Building on these successful ventures, the Yangtze River Economic Belt and Xiong'an New Area demonstrate how ecological conservation and green development are fundamental aspects of high-quality development in China.
"Put restoring the ecological environment of the Yangtze River at a dominant position," Xi once said.
During an inspection tour of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in 2019, Xi said a strategy that will have lasting importance for the millennium to come should start from afforestation.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's voluntary tree-planting campaign.
Over the past 40 years, Chinese people's efforts to make their country greener have been ceaseless: China's forest coverage has grown from 12 percent to 23 percent, urban green space coverage from 10 percent to 41 percent, per capita area of park greenery from 3.45 square meters to 14.8 square meters.
Chinese people planted over 360,000 square kilometers of forests in the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020). This is equal to creating a forest the size of Germany in just five years.
In 2019, satellite images showed that China contributed one fourth of the world's gain in greenness between 2000 and 2017, the highest proportion among all countries.
In 2018, China incorporated ecological advancement into its Constitution for the first time. This year, the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 demands all-round green transformation of social and economic development and the building of a Beautiful China.
China has also promised to strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
Green development is already the backbone of efforts driving China toward its goal of becoming a modern socialist country.
"People should live in green shade, and this is what we should strive for. Let's roll up our sleeves and work harder, year after year, generation after generation," Xi once said.