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Two Outcomes of Implementing the “Belt and Road” Initiative: Economic Growth and Ecological Protection

Submit Time:04-08-2017 | Zoom In | Zoom Out

Author:Chen Zongxing | Source:People’s Daily


  The “Belt and Road” initiative rides on the trend of time, confirms to the law of development, and accords with interests of peoples from all countries, thus projecting a bright prospect. There are many countries and regions that have got involved with the “Belt and Road” initiative. They greatly vary in natural environment, industry base and other areas. Therefore, a host of challenges that merit thorough thoughts have emerged, including how to carry out projects in line with local conditions, ensure green, low-carbon development, and achieve economic growth and ecological protection at the same time. Currently, we should proceed from the coordinated development in different regions, optimization of industry structure, application of science and technology, etc, so as to arrive at effective solutions to the complementary development of economic growth and ecological protection as well as scientific paths towards a green silk road with joint efforts.  

  Build the eco-corridor for coordinated growth. 

  The “Belt and Road” initiative stands as a creative idea proposed by China for building the human destiny community and also an important innovation in developing regional economies. When developing regional economies has become a major trend, it means that we should base our growth on the regional growth poles and rely on the comprehensive transport corridor to build clusters or belts of cities, thus promoting the development of regional economies and societies as a whole. For instance, the Chinese section of the New Eurasian Land Bridge has given rise to the Zhongyuan City Cluster, Guanzhong City Cluster, Hexi Corridor City Cluster, and Tianshan Mountain North Foot City Cluster where Zhengzhou, Xi’an, Lanzhou, and Urumqi remain at the center, respectively. All these city clusters or belts have played a leading role in promoting the coordinated development of the regions where they are located. As the modern transport network develops, the internet technology is accessible to more people, and industries move towards digitalized and smart operation, regional economies are extending linearly and growing continuously. The implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative will indisputably further promote regions towards coordinated development.  

  While carrying out the “Belt and Road” initiative, regions need to plan their overall development following the principle of ecological orientation and environmental protection, with a view to coordinating population, resources and environment, unifying economic, social and ecological benefits together, exerting proper control over development intensity and adjusting spatial structure, creating the intensively efficient production space, the moderately comfortable living space, and the picturesque ecological space, and turning the “Belt and Road” an ecological corridor. A three-dimensional transport corridor should keep to green, low-carbon construction, operation and management, and give full consideration to the impact arising from climate changes and the protection of biodiversity. While developing trading markets, building industry parks, and selecting sites for cities and towns, we should take into full account geographic, geomorphic, climatic, environmental and other factors, so as to make scientific, reasonable plans and stand fast the bottom line. For example, most areas to the west of the Hu Line in China receive an annual rainfall of below 400mm. As a result, prairies, desserts and snow-covered plateaus make up the lion’s share of these areas. Only the thinly scattered oases are fit for developing into cities where economy grows and population gathers. But most of them seek for growth separately. Thanks to the development of modern transport, these regions have the chance to grow rapidly. However, as the nearly seven-decade demographic census holds that the regions to the east of the Hu Line still see their population growing in a very limited size. On the whole, restricted by ecological conditions, the western regions of China demonstrate low ecological carrying capacity and poor ability in gathering industries and population at a large scale. Considering this fact, the Chinese government, while zoning its major functions, has allocated the majority of functional zones engaged in ecological restoration and protection in the western regions.  

  While promoting the development of “Belt and Road” initiative, countries and regions should take into full account their respective natural and environmental conditions, study the uneven distribution of industries and cities/towns, and make plans for developing cities/towns of different functions and sizes by giving priority considerations to sustainable development and comprehensive carrying capacity in line with their respective specific natural, economic, historical spatial and other conditions. The favorably located and well-potential cities are encouraged to develop into regional centers. By relying on these central cities, cities clusters or belts that have an impact over a large area will emerge to promote regions towards balanced, coordinated development.  

  Forge ecological industries to realize sustainable development.  

  Whether economic development remains coordinated and unified with ecological progress mainly depends on contents to be produced, modes of production, and industry distribution. The optimized industry structure and reasonably designed industry distribution will enable the “Belt and Road” initiative to promote sustainable development.  

  The course for developing and utilizing the ancient Silk Road leaves us many inspirations and reflections on sustainable development. According to the historical records, the Loess Plateau located in the middle reaches of the Yellow River was covered by lush vegetation, extensive prairies and high-proportioned forests from the pre-Qin period to the Han and Tang dynasties. The well-developed farmland was concentrated in the valley plains. The sections of the ancient Silk Road to the west of the Hexi Corridor received an annual waterfall of less than 400mm. The more western it went, the less the rainfall became. But with the snow-ice melting water from the Qilian Mountain, the renowned Four Prefectures in Hexi were developed as early as the Han dynasty. The areas to the west of Serindia most had an annual rainfall of 50mm-200mm. The oases of different sizes were formed from the melting water of the alpine glaciers, and became the settlements of nomads, which made up the lion’s share of local population. But as more troops were stationed there to reclaim more farmland, the local population exploded, and large areas of forests and prairies were turned into cropland, resulting in serious desertification. Besides, the agricultural irritation ran out of water resources. In turn, the shrink of resources aggravated the fights between different tribes, upper and lower researches, and regions, which finally vanished oases, dried lakes, and disappeared cities/towns. As a matter of fact, the regions with sound ecological conditions will cause severe consequences if their development oversteps the red line of ecology. Time has proven this over and over again.  

  As the history has revealed that the industry development and city planning at the ecologically fragile arid regions were obviously related with the sources of water. In some sense, water used to determine the sale of oases, the development of agriculture, and the rise and fall of cities. At present, even though the science and technologies have achieved the unprecedented progresses, and mankind has done much better in transforming and utilizing nature, capable of allocating resources, developing economies, innovating in modes of productions, and optimizing industry structure in wider areas than ever before, we still need to stand fast the bottom line for ecological protection, act on the convictions that men are an integral part of nature and have their behaviors in line of its laws, and seek for ecological progress by respecting, following and protecting nature. Therefore, while promoting the “Belt and Road” initiative, we should work hard to forge ecological industries as a means to attain sustainable development.  

  Ecological industries are the sectors that are created to have efficient ecological processes and harmonious ecological functions with ecological technologies and circular economy-related technologies based on the ecological carrying capacity and resource reserve. These industries vertically combine production, circulation, consumption, recycling, environmental protection and other aspects together, horizontally link production processes applicable to different industries, and include production bases and their surroundings into the entire ecology for centralized management, in a bid to use resources efficiently and discharge no hazardous waste externally. For instance, ecological agriculture means a comprehensive system engaged in agricultural production that is created with system engineering and modern technologies. Many high and new technologies in terms of waste treatment, soilless planting, integrated pest controlling, biological pesticide R&D and application, formula fertilization, selective breeding and other fields are used to develop traditional agriculture with less pollution and consumption of chemical energy, ensure the security and stability of agricultural ecology, and bring agricultural production into a virtuous cycle. For another example, ecological industry is a comprehensive industrial production system that is created and developed with high and new technologies and involves multiple layers, structures and functions. It aims to turn wastes into resources and products and waste heat/gas into energy for recycling production and intensive operation/management. At present, more countries in the world begin building eco-industrial parks. We could learn from different parties, work hard to study and apply what has been learned comprehensively in building eco-industrial parks and instituting green industry. The implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative should be geared to the local plans for economic and social development as well as spatial strategies. With the ecological industry at the core, all other sectors should have their distributed coordinated on the whole, in an effort to combine production factors together, and foster industry clusters that coexist for synergy. As a result, such forms of ecological industry will develop greatly including circular agriculture, biomass engineering, energy-saving and environmental protection, emerging information technology, and new energy.  

  While planning and building eco-industrial parks, we should work hard to do well in the following aspects. Firstly, mid-and-long term action plans need to be worked out. In the plans, objectives, priorities and steps for development should be made clear so that efforts may focus on improving the quality of regional economic development, utilize various resources including energy efficiently, and realize the goal of pollution reduction and ecological protection. Secondly, a green innovation system is yet to be introduced. To be specific, efforts are made to actively carry out the strategy of promoting industry parks for innovative development, keep to innovative concepts, technologies, and management, gather pace in forming a vigorous green technology-driven working mechanism as well as a knowledge innovation mechanism that integrates R&D with personnel training closely, and facilitate the application of technological achievements into more practical fields. At the same time, more individuals and entities will be encouraged to invest in green technologies, get involved in the R&D and promotion of green products, and create an entrepreneurship system where companies, colleges/universities and research institutes get involved. Thirdly, management rules, laws, policies need to be improved. In particular, such aspects as modern enterprise policies, green finance mechanism, personnel introduction and training policies require a complete set of auxiliary policies and systems in a bid to promote the development of ecological industries.  

  Strengthen technological innovation and realize green development.  

  As means and methods, science and technology have aggravated ecological degradation in the era of traditional industrial civilization when rapid economic growth was emphasized excessively. But when mankind has established the concept on green development, science and technology may be used to reasonably use various resources including energy, substantially reduce environmental pollution, restore ecological balance, and greatly support green development. While implementing the “Belt and Road” initiative, we should pay particular attention to the promotion and application of applicable advanced technologies, so as to realize green development.  

  For example, energy-saving and eco-friendly new technologies may be developed and applied to build eco-livable cities and towns. If developed improperly, industries and cities/towns many trigger environmental crises at the ecological fragile areas along the Belt and Road. Therefore, these regions should be encouraged to use energy-saving, eco-friendly and other new technologies to plan and build their cities and towns in accordance with the eco-livable standards. Specifically, they should work hard to promote technologies and measures designed to save the consumption of domestic water, agricultural water and industrial water, enhance their ability in reclaiming sewage and developing unconventional sources of water through multiple channels, supply water of different quality for correspondent purposes, and use the reclaimed water for farmland irrigation, greenbelt maintenance, and river feeding in near places. All of these efforts are aimed to recycle water to the maximum. Energy-saving concepts are advocated with great efforts so that energy-efficient technologies and products can be used in buildings extensively. Energy-efficient materials are applied to achieve such purposes as heat insulation, natural ventilation, and day lighting, for example.  

  At the same time, new energy technologies are promoted widely to improve the utilization efficiency of traditional energies and encourage the development of new energies. The countries and regions along the “Belt and Road” are rich in the reserve of coal, petroleum, natural gas, and other energy as the important production bases of traditional energies. They are expected to develop and promote the new energy technologies conducive to improving the coal exploration efficiency and the oil and gas extraction efficiency so as not to embark the old road of waste resources and damaging ecology. In the meantime, they are in a position to bring their abundant wind and solar power reserve into full play, develop and apply the relevant advanced technologies, and operate wind and PV power generation commercially.  

  Ecological treatment and restoration technologies are used to protect ecology. Ecologically fragile, some countries and regions along the Belt and Road that receive rare rainfall and even are covered with deserts provide strong demands for ecological treatment and restoration. Against such a backdrop, a host of ecological restoration technologies like water and oil conservation, sand storm prevention and control, saline-alkali soil improvement, emergency water replenishment may be promoted comprehensively so as to maintain ecological stability. Additionally, scientific research into biodiversity will be carried out to develop and promote such core technologies as bio-security supporting technologies, ecological restoration technology, and ecological monitoring technology, with a view to protecting the biodiversity along the “Belt and Road”.  

  (The author is Vice Chairman of the 11th CPPCC National Committee and President of Chinese Ecological Civilization Research and Promotion Association.) 

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