During an inspection tour in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, President Xi Jinping on Monday afternoon visited the city of Wuzhong where he learned about environmental protection of the Yellow River.
The 5,464-kilometer river is known as China's "mother river" and the cradle of Chinese civilization. It winds through Ningxia for about 400 kilometers and is also the main source of regional irrigation.
A decade ago, the Yellow River was one of the world's most polluted rivers. Water shortages, floods and deteriorating ecosystems threatened the entire basin.
But in recent years, the water quality of the river has significantly improved and the environment has become much more livable.
Fourth over the past year
Monday's tour marked President Xi’s fourth visit to the Yellow River in less than a year. In fact, President Xi has repeatedly underscored efforts to protect the environment.
In August last year he visited a Yellow River management point in Gansu Province to learn about protection and construction of a flood control project.
President Xi Jinping walks beside the Yellow River in Lanzhou, Northwest China's Gansu Province, on August 21, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)
In September 2019, he inspected environmental protection of the Yellow River at a museum and a national geopark in Henan Province.
President Xi Jinping inspects Zhengzhou in Central China's Henan Province on September 17, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)
In May, Xi checked out environmental protection work in Shanxi Province on the Fenhe River, the Yellow River's second-largest tributary.
President Xi Jinping inspects the Yellow River in Northwest China's Shanxi Province on May 12, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
Originating in remote Qinghai Province, the Yellow River runs through nine provinces and autonomous regions before emptying into the Bohai Sea in eastern China's Shandong Province.
The “mother river” serves 12 percent of China's population and 15 percent of the nation's agricultural acreage.
Residents along the river rely heavily on its water for consumption, agriculture and industrial use. Protecting the Yellow River and restoring its ecology remain pressing tasks.
In the past year, President Xi has inspected six of the river’s nine provinces. The frequency of these visits underscores the importance President Xi attaches to protecting the river.
In September, President Xi called for concerted efforts to “promote ecological protection and high-quality development of the Yellow River” at a symposium when he was on an inspection tour of the river.
President Xi Jinping chairs and addresses a symposium on the environmental protection and high-quality development of the Yellow River in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan Province, September 18, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)
"The protection of the Yellow River is critical to the great rejuvenation and sustainable development of the Chinese nation," President Xi said at the meeting, in a strong signal to attending government officials.
Senior Communist Party of China (CPC) officials, state ministers, and CPC chiefs from the provinces and autonomous regions along the Yellow River all attended the symposium. The protection of the river has become a major national strategy.
Since then, the authorities disclosed that they are busy formulating an overall plan for environmental protection and high-quality development in the Yellow River basin, which was also written in the government work report delivered in late May.
At a meeting in January, President Xi underlined such a formulation and full implementation of that plan, stressing conservation of the Yellow River basin.
Since April, President Xi has inspected Shaanxi, Shanxi and Ningxia. During his tours of Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces, Xi put forward concrete requirements for Yellow River management and conservation.
‘Ecology comes first’
In President Xi’s philosophy, ecology comes first, then development. He prioritizes green development.
“Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets,” Xi said.
But Yellow River management remains a complex issue with problems including flooding, water shortages, soil erosion and pollution.
President Xi Jinping learns about efforts to strengthen environmental protection of the Yellow River at a section of the river in Wuzhong, Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, June 8, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
“The control of the Yellow River should focus on protection and management”was a guideline Xi set for environmental protection and development of the basin.
He has pointed out that the Yellow River ecosystem is an organic whole requiring planned, systematic, diverse and integrated management.
In his previous tours of Gansu, Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi, Xi gave different instructions according to the local conditions and urged locals to strictly observe ecological red lines.
Red lines do not necessarily mean no development.
The Yellow River basin is not only an ecological barrier, but also an economic zone and an important battlefield against extreme poverty in China.
As of 2018, the basin had a population of 420 million, or 30.3 percent of the country’s total.
Regional GDP has reached 23.9 trillion yuan, 26.5 percent of China’s total. But many places along the Yellow River still yearn for development.
We should explore new paths of high-quality development according to specific conditions and local strengths, Xi said.
President Xi has chartered a course for the future development of the basin and on this map, different regions must set different development priorities.
(Source: Xinhua; Compiled by Liu Xiaochi)