New leaders target environment

Updated: 2013-03-07 07:19

By He Na, Wu Wencong and Tang Yue (China Daily)

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The fact that Li and some of the other new members of the Politburo Standing Committee placed great importance on environmental protection during their rise through the ranks meant that the inclusion of a concept known as "Beautiful China" in the national development plan came as little surprise, said Guo.

New Party chief Xi Jinping, who spent 17 years working in the southeastern province of Fujian, also came up with the idea of developing the environment as a means of attracting more investment and fostering the growth of green-related industries.

'Ecological provinces'

To cope with serious soil erosion, Xi proposed an "ecological province" strategy in 2002. That saw Fujian become one of the first in a number of pilot provinces for ecological construction. After more than a decade of effort, countless previously barren mountains have been clothed in greenery and Fujian has become one of the top-ranked provinces in terms of the quality of its water and air and ecological environment.

New leaders target environment

Volunteers in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province, take part in a campaign to clean the Minjiang River. Luo Wenxuan / for China Daily

The idea was extended to Zhejiang when Xi was assigned to work there in the mid-1980s. As Party chief, he established a system to supervise the work of 11 subordinate cities and districts.

Under Xi, Zhejiang's ecological environment index was ranked number one among China's provinces and cities.

Zhang Dejiang, one of the new members of the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, was Party secretary of three provinces - Zhejiang, Guangdong and Jilin - and also of Chongqing, a huge urban sprawl in southwest China.

During Zhang's time in Guangdong, the Environment Protection Plan for the Pearl River Delta became the country's first green initiative formulated through cooperation between a province and the Environmental Protection Ministry, according to a 2006 report in People's Daily. It was also the first regional environmental planning project to win legislative approval.

Zhang proposed the plan to the ministry in 2003 as a means of fundamentally changing and improving the environmental quality of Guangdong. In the three years that followed, Zhang accorded greater importance to the prevention of pollution and the supervision of environmental issues. As a guarantee to the authorities that the plan would work as efficiently as possible, Zhang invited academics and environmental experts to participate in drawing up the blueprint.

In 2004, Zhang's provincial administration submitted a proposal called The Environmental Protection Plan for the Pearl River Delta for review by the National People's Congress, attracting great interest among committee members and sometimes prompting heated discussions.

Although they have experience of life in the provinces, China's new leaders face a daunting task. In November, the 18th National Party Congress emphasized the importance of ecological progress and advocated the building of a "Beautiful China", but the general environment is deteriorating and pollution is increasing.

"The inauguration of the new government comes shortly after heavy smog and haze shrouded Beijing and several other large cities," said Guo from the PLA National Defense University. "That will serve to remind the leaders of the severity of the problem and the urgent need to solve it."