By Yang Sheng
An article by President Xi Jinping on building an ecological civilization was published in the flagship magazine of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Friday.
The article, in the third issue of semimonthly Qiushi Journal in 2019, was a speech Xi delivered at a tone-setting meeting on environmental protection on May 18, 2018. The title of the journal is derived from the four-character phrase shi shi qiu shi, which means "seek truth from facts."
In the article, Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, demands the coordination of economic and social development and the building of an ecological civilization, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday.
With the Chinese economy transitioning from high-speed growth to high-quality development, Xi said there will be conventional and unconventional challenges and difficulties.
"We must bite the bullet and overcome them," he said.
Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times that "publishing an article based on a speech the Party's top leader delivered several months ago is not unusual for Qiushi Journal, and another reason for the timing is probably that the two sessions of 2019 are nearing."
Many projects at the level of national strategy, such as the Yangtze River Economic Belt and Xiongan New Area development, will be discussed at the two sessions in early March, Su noted, so the Party wants to reemphasize the importance and the priority of environmental protection and ecological civilization.
China has started to conduct central environmental inspections, implement guidelines to control air, water and soil pollution, has published its own plans to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and is implementing a national plan to tackle climate change, Xinhua reported.
Environmental inspection is a new measure taken by China in recent years to prevent pollution. In 2017, the Ministry of Environmental Protection - which has since been incorporated into the Ministry of Ecology and Environment - sent 5,600 law enforcement officers to 28 cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region to inspect air pollution control work.
In June 2018, about 18,000 law enforcement officers were dispatched to conduct air pollution control inspections, dubbed the "Blue Sky Protection Campaign," in the Yangtze River Delta and the Fenhe and Weihe plains in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces. The campaign is scheduled to last until the end of April.
By June 15, 2018, six inspection groups had finished provincial-level inspections where they warned 126 local officials on environmental protection issues. The inspections brought the effect of deterrence and publicized a series of problems, according to reports from the people on pollution activities, Xinhua said. The next plan is to inspect Chinese cities.
The building of an ecological civilization has entered a critical period that requires more high-quality ecological goods to meet people's ever-growing demand for a beautiful environment, Xi noted. It is also a period when China is capable of addressing prominent ecological and environment issues, according to Xi's speech.
Su said China is a huge country still seeking industrialization: How to build an industrial civilization and ecological civilization at the same time is a challenge that no country has experienced before.
"The Green Party in Western countries emerged after industrialization and their ideology and theory are serving the post-industrial era. Therefore, the CPC theory of building an ecological civilization is an entirely new innovation," Su said.
"If its practice is successful, it would be a great contribution to humanity, especially for those non-industrialized countries struggling between environmental protection and industrialization."
Comprehensive efforts must be taken to implement the plan for prevention and control of soil pollution, while key regions and sectors and major pollutants must be targeted, Xi said. The restoration of polluted soil should be intensified so that people can have peace of mind about the food they eat and the place they live in.
Xi called for effective prevention of ecological and environmental risks, as ecological and environmental security is an important part of national security, as well as an important guarantee to achieve sustainable and healthy development of the Chinese economy and society.
Xi stressed the need to enhance the Party's leadership to win the battle of pollution prevention and control, and asked governments at all levels to thoroughly carry out the decisions and policies made by the CPC Central Committee.
The anti-graft campaign is targeting the "tigers" - senior officials taken down on corruption charges - whose corrupt activities related to environmental pollution. The latest example is the January 1 investigation into former Shaanxi Party chief Zhao Zhengyong.
News of the investigation came a week after China Central Television broadcast a documentary on January 9 detailing how a group of Shaanxi officials were punished for failing to demolish villas built illegally in the Qinling Mountains despite repeated orders from Xi.
The documentary showed that after Xi instructed Shaanxi provincial leaders to pay attention to the illegal villa problems in May 2014, the main leader of CPC Shaanxi Provincial Committee failed to convey the instructions at standing committee meetings or conduct special research on the illegal villa issue.
Major leaders of local party committees and governments shall be held responsible for environmental protection in their own administrative regions, Xi said in the article.
A scientific and reasonable evaluation system will be established to assess the performance of officials and those damaging the environment will be held accountable, it said.