Ecological civilization is a new concept proposed by Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), in his report to the just concluded 17th National Congress of the CPC.
It is not a term the Party has coined just to fill a theoretical vacancy in its socialism with Chinese characteristics, but rather a future-oriented guiding principle based on the perception of the extremely high price we have paid for our economic miracle.
This concept reflects an important change in the Party's understanding of development. Rather than emphasizing economic construction as the core of development as it did in the past, the Party authorities have come to realize that development, if sustainable, must entail a list of elements including the right relationship between man and nature.
This concept is proposed at a time when 62 percent of the country's major rivers have been seriously polluted, 90 percent of waterways flowing through urban areas are contaminated, more than 300 million residents are yet to have clean water to drink, and quite a number of localities fail to fulfill the required quotas for pollutant emission reduction and energy saving.
Facing such a reality, the construction of ecological civilization was absolutely not rhetoric for chest thumping by officials in their speeches. It needs to be transformed into tangible measures that will change the way our economy develops.
But it is never enough for the concept to be understood as environmental protection only and neither is it adequate for it to be comprehended as a supporting tool only for balanced economic development. With its definition containing a much broader meaning, the concept emphasizes the cultural dimension of development.
In this dimension, we need to put our relationship with nature in a new perspective: consider nature as part of our life rather than something we can exploit without restraint.
Also in this dimension, social justice and fairness must be of great concern in development. We cannot expect to maintain ecological balance in a political sense unless we can make sure that disadvantaged social groups can fairly enjoy the benefits of development.
From the Outlook on Scientific Development to harmonious development and ecological civilization, we can see where the Party is trying to orientate the country's economic development and social progress.
(China Daily 10/24/2007 page10)