Full episode - What kind of ecological civilization does China aspire to build in the new era?
By Robert Lawrence Kuhn
About 15 years ago, a senior minister said that when choosing between economic development and a clean environment, "we will always prioritize development", adding, "While we support a clean environment, China has so many people still living in absolute poverty — we cannot forsake them so that urbanites can have fresher air." That prescription has expired. That way of thinking is history.
Since the beginning of reform and opening up in 1978, and the shift to economic development as the overarching priority of the nation, the Chinese government gradually has come to realize the seriousness of ecological degradation and to recognize the importance of ecological conservation. 
At the 17th CPC National Congress in 2007, the concept of "ecological civilization" was first proposed. At the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, "the building of ecological civilization" was included as a central element of the national "five-pronged overall plan”.
And at the 19th CPC National Congress in 2017, President Xi Jinping stressed the need to speed up reform of the ecological civilization system in order to build a beautiful China.
Cultural tourism in Youyu county, Shanxi province/VCG Photo

Cultural tourism in Youyu county, Shanxi province/VCG Photo

What kind of ecological civilization should China build? What challenges or obstacles lie ahead? 
Faced with the grim realities of devastating environmental pollution and degraded ecosystems, and the practical realities of resource constraints, what real-world policies are being enacted? How should Xi Jinping Thought of Ecological Civilization be understood?  
China has been talking about reducing pollution for a long time. This time seems different. Ecological civilization entered the pantheon of highest national priorities when President Xi Jinping included "Green" as the third of his five development concepts. 
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, China has formulated more than 40 plans for the building of ecological civilization, stressing accountability and supervision. For example, policies enacted include: banning foreign garbage sent to China, strict trash-sorting regulations, and compensation for ecological protection.  
On the whole, China's ecology is improving, but there are interest groups, such as certain industries, which seek to retard if not block anti-pollution measures. That's why achievements thus far have been unstable. 
Best is to recapture how traditional Chinese culture venerates the environment. Today, what works is interplay between theory and practice in building ecological civilization.
"Theory" is Xi Jinping Thought of Ecological Civilization. "Practice", for example, is the spirit of Youyu County's green development, and the "Belt and Road Green Development International Alliance". President Xi's vision of "ecological civilization" is for building a beautiful China. It also sets an example for a community of shared future for mankind.