China must find unique way to build ecological civilization

Updated: 2013-12-07 19:49


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BEIJING - China must find a way different from the industrialization in the West to build ecological civilization and realize sustainable development, which concerns the future of both the nation and the world.

After solving the food and clothing problems of its 1.3 billion people, the world's second-largest economy has encountered a bottleneck as its fast growth has led to adverse side effects for the ecological environment.

How to curb environmental pollution is a totally new issue for China, as it has no precedents to follow.

China cannot copy the industrialization in Western countries, who did not turn to environment management until they became rich and transferred their highly polluting sectors to developing countries.

The environmental problems faced by China happened over a short period of 30 years, while it took industrialized countries more than two centuries to resolve the issue.

"China cannot be like developed countries, whose peak carbon emissions appeared when gross domestic product (GDP) per capita hit 40,000 U.S. dollars," said Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission.

He said China started to adopt measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when its GDP per capita reached 3,000 dollars.

Besides, factors such as the international division of labor led to China receiving many polluting industries from developed countries. Few chances remain for China to transfer these sectors abroad.

With the coexistence of insufficient development and accompanying side effects, tackling pollution in China and many other developing countries requires more determination and courage than required of developed countries.

In China, building ecological civilization has been elevated to a high level of state will and strategy.

At the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2007, then Chinese President Hu Jintao advocated ecological progress for the first time in his report.

The 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 incorporated building ecological civilization into the overall development plan, while the just-concluded Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee made clear arrangements for deepening the institutional reform of ecological civilization.

"Tackling pollution has been a priority of the new administration under (Chinese President) Xi Jinping," British paper The Guardian said.

One of China's goals is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

"The Chinese people have to tighten their belts to achieve this target," said Zou Ji, director of Program of Energy and Climate Economics at Renmin University of China.

It is estimated that to realize the goal, China has to invest 78 billion dollars annually, which means every Chinese family has to pay 166 dollars per year.

But it is worth the money. Controlling greenhouse gas emissions, countering environmental pollution and realizing green, low-carbon development are not only burdens for a country, but also preconditions for changing the development mode, breaking the development bottleneck and improving international competitiveness.

What's more, China's pursuit of a new development path has great significance as it will set an example for other developing countries and thus help the world transform traditional industrial civilization into ecological civilization.