Host: Hello, everyone. This is China Daily Web Chat. I'm Cai Muyuan. Welcome to Dialogue: Cities on Low-carbon Road. Today we have invited Mr. Liu Zhengdong, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), to talk about low-carbon cities. Mr. Liu is also the Party secretary of Baise city of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Welcome, Mr. Liu.
Host: In the several opinions of further promoting the economic and social development of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, the State Council has decided to build Baise a national aluminum industrial base. So could you introduce the industrial layout of Baise?
Liu: According to several opinions of further promoting the economic and social development of Guangxi autonomous region released by the State Council, Baise is set as an important national base of the aluminum industry and a tourist site of revolutionary history, or say, Red Tourism. As a national aluminum industrial base, we have rich bauxite resources. Our basic strategy is to take advantage of the bauxite resources and turn the resources into an industry. Now the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is, according to the instruction of the central government, making plans to build Baise into a demonstration area for circular economy of the eco-aluminum industry. According to such plans, the capacity of alumina will amount to approximately 6 million tons. We will also form a series of processing businesses and related industrial clusters. These will become the driving forces for the industrial development of Baise.
Host: Our country is also focusing on building low-carbon provinces and cities. As a city supported by such a high energy-consuming industry, how will Baise reach the target of economic restructuring and adjust its industrial structure?
Liu: This is a question of people's concerns. Aluminum is, in the short term, an industry of high-energy consumption. But in the long term, it is a high energy-carrying industry. In other words, for transportation tools like cars, trains and planes, using every kilogram of aluminum materials will reduce a certain amount of consumption of oil. So in a sort of sense, it is not a high energy-consuming industry. Moreover, to some extent, aluminum can be recycled. When the need for aluminum grows to a certain point, it can be continuously recycled. The recycling of aluminum requires very little energy. So at some stage, it might be an industry of high energy consumption, but taking the industry as a whole, it does not require a lot of energy consumption. This is the first thing I want to say.
Second, for Baise, the aluminum industry is still at an early stage. It has to go through a period of high energy consumption. The process is unavoidable. Under such circumstances, how to adapt to the requirements of a low-carbon economy and the restructuring and upgrading of our country's economy is a very tough challenge for us. So first of all, we have to build our aluminum industry on the international level of energy-saving and emissions reduction, to be the number one in China. It's a challenge for us. What I am thinking is aluminum is an indispensable material in the process of urbanization. It is necessary. The problem is over capacity. Just like actors on the stage. If there are too many actors and actresses on the stage, we have to eliminate some through competition. Who will stay? The ones with the best performances, the ones most welcomed by audience, will stay. So we try to be the one most favored and welcomed by people – to be the last one staying on the stage. So we must be very good at saving energy and reducing emissions. Energy consumption must be low; the technology must be advanced, and the products quality must be high. We should rely on the advantages of good management, high quality products and advanced energy saving and the ability to reduce emissions to stay on the stage.
Host: In the past, in people's eyes, Baise is a remote, poverty-stricken area. Now it is facing the central government's requirement to save energy and reduce emissions. How can one balance the relationship between economic development and environmental protection? Is it possible to achieve a model in which economic development and environmental protection co–exist?
Liu: What you have said is the central government's requirement, as well as our choice. We must choose the path while maintaining the economic development and protecting our beautiful environment.
Baise not only has rich resources but also has beautiful views. It's one of China's famous tourist sites and a Red Tourism site. Many people come to the city to cherish those revolutionary heroes. We shouldn't show them only big chimneys, polluted sky and polluted water. Protecting beautiful mountains and rivers is our responsibility. So for us, when developing the industry, it is sort of antinomy. We will choose a development path to include both ways. We will have the cake and eat it, too. So we call it an eco-aluminum industrial base. Eco means our energy consumption and emissions are at an internationally advanced level. It means it protects the environment. For example, when we are developing the bauxite, reclamation is necessary. We will turn the developed land into arable land and return it to farmers. We are the first ones in the country to realize reclamation. For example, we choose a circular economy. We extract iron in the remains of refined bauxite. This will turn waste into treasure. And the remaining waste can be used in producing cement, bricks and other building materials. In this way, we can use the bauxite and reduce the emissions. For instance, we cooperate with Tohoku Institute of Technology. By using their energy-saving technologies, we could save 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity when producing every ton of alumina. This is very advanced energy-saving technology. In many sections of management and production, we will choose the best technology to support the development of the aluminum industry. We choose the kind of development to save energy and create a circular economy. We call it the eco-aluminum industrial base. We put pressure on ourselves to shoulder this historical responsibility.
Host: Just now, you have mentioned Baise is a tourist site of Red Tourism. Could you describe the development of tourism in Baise and explain how to balance the tourism development and environment protection? Are there any specific measures？
Liu: Actually, you questions are in accordance with the previous questions. We are not only developing the aluminum industry alone. Or say, we are not hanging on a single tree, or we are not putting all eggs in a single basket. This is not the case. When we are developing the aluminum industry, we also try to develop trade and logistics, strive to develop eco-business, develop tourism, a low-carbon economy or other non-aluminum industries. Tourism is one option for our economic restructuring. Except for developing the eco-aluminum industry and turning it into a circular economy, we also strive to develop other industries – low-carbon industries and eco-industries – among which tourism not only meets the requirements of a low-carbon economy but also improves people's livelihood. It is a business to improve people's living standards. When developing tourism, the first thing we will do is develop Red Tourism. We will build Baise a destination for Red Tourism. The image of the city features a red hinterland and a Zhuang-themed resort. Baise is where the former leader Deng Xiaoping led the Baise uprising when he was 25 years old. It is the first historical monument in his career. Many people regard it as a propitious place. So many people come to cherish Deng, show their thankfulness and pray for a great future. So we will build it as a red hinterland. We collect historic materials from the Baise uprising and use modern art and technology to reproduce the historic moment, showing the great achievements of those revolutionary leaders and their spirits of sacrifices, for people to cherish. We built a very beautiful tourist site, including a Baise uprising museum, halls, steles of Deng's handwritings and a park of sculptures of the heroes. People spend time at these places. Every year, millions of people come to the Red Tourism site. This is what "red" is about.
Another theme is green. Baise is place of Karst – full of magnificent landscape left by nature. For example, the world's biggest doline group, the greenest original canyon group, and many falls, caves, forests and so on are here. We have six 4-A level scenic spots. These six spots, plus the Red Tourism site and seven minorities, which contain many intangible cultural heritages like their songs, dances, celebration customs and many features, are the only kind in the world. So it constantly attracts many people. This kind of tourism industry made 5 billion yuan in revenue last year. So it has greatly helped the industrial development of the city. It has also improved people's livelihood and upgraded the influence of the city.
Host: What role do you think the local government plays in encouraging enterprises to update their development models, save energy and cut emissions, and pursue a path of low-carbon development? What kind of fiscal and policy support should the government provide in this regard?
Liu: First of all, local enterprises are the major targets of energy-saving and emission-reducing initiatives. We set energy-saving and emission-cutting goals for each of the enterprises to attain voluntarily. To them, pursuing green development not only is a historic responsibility, but it also contributes to creating more wealth. If they do a good job of cutting energy consumption as well as emissions, they can also reduce their operating costs and sharpen their competitive edge to survive on the market.
Besides setting energy-saving and emission-reducing targets, the local government also oversees the enterprises' responsibilites and goals. It also encourages them to make innovations to their technology and management.
In these means, the enterprises which survive the special tests and circumstances will be able to enhance their competitiveness and their ability to create more wealth, as well as accomplish their energy-saving and emission-cutting goals.
Host: Now we often mention the term, "Happiness Index." I'd like to know how the city of Baise plans to raise its people's Happiness Index.
Liu: Baise, no doubt, remains an underdeveloped area. As a matter of fact, I don't think the Happiness Index is simultaneous with the amount of people's wealth. Does more wealth point to a higher Happiness Index? Not necessarily. It is likely that the wider the income gap, the more intense the social conflicts, or the more backward the social management, the poorer the Happiness Index.
I think people's Happiness Index is closely related to many aspects of social management. Of course, to boost the Happiness Index, first of all, we should develop the local economy, improve people's livelihoods and create good conditions to facilitate their daily lives. In this regard, we should strengthen industrial development. For instance, the construction of the eco-friendly aluminum industrial base we just mentioned and the development of low-carbon industries, a greener economy and tourism will all help improve people's living conditions. In the past five years, we reduced the poverty-stricken population by 340,000, which is a measure to improve the Happiness Index.
On the other hand, we made great efforts to help the poor shake off poverty. We launched many campaigns against poverty, such as the one aimed at making people in border areas richer, the one to provide drinking water for people in the Dashi mountainous area, and the one to strengthen infrastructure construction in the five counties of western Guangxi. We also took measures to improve education and provide jobs to migrants as part of the fight against poverty. We took a series of measures to raise people's income, narrow the urban-rural gap, and provide the basic conditions for people's daily lives and work.
Second, we made efforts to improve the infrastructure. In the past five years, we renovated our airport and built new express ways and railways. We improved medical care, education and newspaper-reading conditions for people in both urban and rural areas. The new cooperative medical care system now covers 96 percent of the rural population. We also provided subsidies for low-income families, renovated dilapidated houses and thatched huts, and built affordable housing for low-income families. All these projects are progressing well. Last year, we built more than 10,000 affordable housing units, 10,000 low-rent apartments, and renovated more than 10,000 dilapidated houses and thatched huts of farmers. Highroads now link all villages, and townships all have asphalt or cement roads. All these measures have significantly improved people's Happiness Index.
Third, we've started to improve our services for the people. For instance, one of our innovative ways of serving the people allows a farmer to complete all official procedures related to his daily life within the village where he lives. Another is that disputes among farmers are resolved at the township level.
Farmers now can deal with relevant procedures without having to travel outside their village. We've carried out the township institutional reforms in an innovative way, extending relevant government agencies to the villages – places which are inhabited by a large number of people. Those village-based agencies handle the people's daily affairs which the farmers previously had to deal with by spending a lot of money to travel a long way to downtown. The measure was embraced by the people and became a classic case of the Party building innovation and won first prize nationwide.
Next, we'll reshuffle the township institutions, retaining 40 percent of the staff to form an office and three centers, while the other 60 percent will be sent to villages to handle people's daily affairs, including proceeding with marriage certificates, identity cards, the land use certificate for households, and family planning certificates. They're also responsible for implementing various government measures to benefit the farmers, such as handing out subsidies and providing technical, cultural and medical services to farmers. On the whole, their needs are met without having to go outside the village, so they're extremely satisfied with the measure. By improving our services to the people, we help raise their Happiness Index and reduce their complaints.
Another measure is that we hear opinions from farmers and try to resolve their disputes and conflicts in a timely manner at the township level, thus preventing them from escalating and breaking out. It's also a way to raise the Happiness Index.
We help famers in border areas form village-to-village partnerships at the county, city and provincial levels. In this way, many of the disputes and conflicts among them have been resolved, and the villages have strengthened unity by jointly making plans, developing industries, exploiting resources, forming markets, carrying out the family planning policy and maintaining social stability.
By innovating social management styles and improving our service system, we serve the people better and help raise their Happiness Index. I think it is an all-around, complicated project to raise the people's Happiness Index. So long as the local Party committee and government have the people on their minds, serve the people and depend on the people, they'll make progress in this regard.