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Working for the People’s Well-being

2024-03-08 10:41:00 Source:China Today Author:CHRIS NASH
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As someone with a British background who has happily lived and worked in China for ten years, I would like to focus positively on the area of well-being which was expressed in the Report on the Work of the Government delivered by Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the second session of the 14th National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China on March 5, 2024. I deeply admire and respect the ties mentioned in the Report between the well-being of the environment and the well-being of the people. I have been fortunate to see first-hand evidence of the profound benefits this feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics has achieved during my travels across China. 

The opening meeting of the second session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) is held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2024. (Xinhua/Lu Ye)

We know that we live in a world that is threatened by the devastating impacts of climate change and habitat destruction. In this context a sentence such as “we will make concerted efforts to cut carbon emissions, reduce pollution, pursue green development, and boost economic growth so as to build a Beautiful China featuring harmony between humanity and nature" is a lucid statement of the Chinese path towards an ecological civilization.

The Report refers to the Green Rural Revival Program in east China’s Zhejiang Province. I travelled in the mountains near Lishui in Zhejiang during this Spring Festival holiday and saw evidence of this "beautiful China" strategy for myself. In the remote village where I home-stayed, I was inspired by the way in which the well-being of local people was being advanced alongside that of the environment. There was an eco-tourism project being implemented which combined the restoration and enhancement of the local habitat for people and wildlife alike with the revitalization of communities. At the heart of the project was an artist who was teaching her skills to elderly people in the village and supporting them to produce artwork which portrayed the exquisite details of the local environment and utilized organic materials from the area in their artwork. What I saw was the dual revitalization of an environment together with the inhabitants that lived there. 

In addition to this, I am inspired by the vision and ambition of the following statement:

"We will promote the ecological conservation and improvement of important rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, continue to enforce the 10-year fishing ban on the Yangtze River, and carry out major biodiversity conservation programs. We will improve the mechanisms for realizing the market value of ecosystem goods and services and the systems of compensation for ecological conservation to motivate everyone to get involved in environmental conservation and protection."


This photo taken on Oct. 18, 2022 shows white-naped cranes at the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve in east China's Shandong Province. (Photo by Yang Bin/Xinhua)


Anyone who like me has had the privilege of travelling in rural areas in provinces like Yunnan or Guizhou in southwest China will have noticed evidence of this commitment and the dedication of everyone involved to the creation of environments where biodiversity is protected and where every effort is made to empower local people to develop in harmony with their environment, rather than through its exploitation. In Tengchong, the westernmost edge of Yunnan Province, I visited the Beihai Wetland, or North Sea Marsh, which is a national wetland reserve and one of China’s 33 key conservation wetlands. Beihai Wetland is a physical statement of China’s capacity to transform policy into practice. Not only does the wetland park preserve a vital natural eco-system where wild birds and plants thrive, it also offers employment and income to the local people employed there or who have created businesses that cater to the increasing numbers of tourists. China is creating these environmentally based win-win solutions across the whole country.  

Meanwhile, the government work report also sets great store by promoting human development in harmony with local environments, trying to give Chinese people a growing sense of fulfilment, happiness, and security.

I have also been privileged to see projects which give meaning to these ambitions. I visited the area of Pu’er in Yunnan which is of course famous for its tea culture. My two young and enthusiastic guides belonged to the local Wa ethnic group. Their extensive knowledge of tea cultivation, tea history, and tea preparation was deeply impressive. As an educationalist I could not refrain from asking them how they became so well informed. They proudly told me they were studying at a local "tea university" which had been set up to enable young people like them to preserve the culture and traditions of the Wa people while at the same time introduce them to modern scientific agricultural and business techniques. I am confident this Report will give rise to countless innovative projects like this that bring real tangible and intangible benefits to communities across China. 

Overall, what I see in this Report is a furthering and deepening of the principle for building a moderately prosperous society (xiaokang shehui) in all aspects, which China has completed, which we might call "the common good" in English, but a common good which inspirationally includes the natural world as well as the human. Now China is on its way to realize Chinese modernization. For me, this emphasis on delivering social and environmental equality stands out in stark contrast with the imbalance in the West towards private profit and societies and environments blighted by inequality. Furthermore, this road to Chinese modernization will help to realize the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and therefore deliver sustainable benefits for common humanity and wildlife across the planet. As well as unifying the Chinese people with a common purpose, I hope the principles eloquently expressed in this Report may bring greater cooperation and partnerships to a divided world. 


CHRIS NASH is chairman of the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, a London-based non-profit organization with the aim of promoting understanding and friendship between the British and Chinese people.


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