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China seeks a 'difficult balance' in development

Xinhua, March 6, 2015 Adjust font size:

All countries experience tension between the need to develop resources for the good of all and the responsibility to preserve nature, and this is a "difficult balance", Britain's Prince William said while speaking in China on Wednesday.

Balanced development is a challenge for any country. But with 1.3 billion people whose dreams and demands vary, it is an especially difficult problem for China.

Different Needs

Like many of the country's middle class, Yang Shuo, who drives a BMW sedan and manages an advertisement company in Beijing, hopes the country will close down more steel plants and mines to prevent pollution.

"Health is more important than money. Serious air pollution like smog affects our health and the health of next generations," the 26-year-old said.

In 2014, only eight of 74 major Chinese cities subject to PM 2.5 air quality monitoring met the national standard for clear air, according to data released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Serious air pollution has already become a major social issue in China. But making money seems more important than the pollution problem for Zou Jiagui, a farmer who lives in an impoverished village more than 2,000 km away from Beijing.

Zou, 44, is now recovering from broken ribs in a temporary tent with his parents in Longtoushan Town, Ludian County of southwest China's Yunnan Province. His ribs were broken during a traffic accident after he began commuting to a new job he was forced to take after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake destroyed his hometown last August. In addition to his job, he lost his wife and house in the disaster.

"My biggest wish is to recover as soon as possible and find a job," said Zou, whose two children are attending college in Kunming, capital city of Yunnan. The family is badly in need of money.

His need for income is shared by a majority of farmers in Ludian, who survive on less than one dollar per day, as well as five million plus poor people in the province, which is prone to natural disasters.

"For many villagers struck by the earthquake, the dream of one day escaping poverty has been crushed in the rubble of their homes, and we must first of all give them development opportunities," said Li Shanyun, secretary of the party committee of Longtoushan.

Li said the town found new silver mines and will resume production soon, though he admits the activity may cause pollution.

But as a pillar industry, silver jewelry manufacturing can help solve financial difficulties of the local government and create jobs, he said.

Difficult Balance

Thanks to reform and opening up, the number of middle class has boomed. They are richer, more aware of health and environment, and more willing to pursue a higher-quality life.

The harsh reality and calls by the people have pushed the country to slow down its economy and adopt stricter environmental protection measures. But another problem emerges as more than 70 million poor rural residents still struggle for adequate food and clothing.

As the world's most populous country, China has been seeking a "difficult balance" between development and protection and vowed to do more.

Regardless of how difficult it may be, China must again reduce the poor rural population by more than 10 million this year, Premier Li Keqiang said while delivering the annual government work report Thursday.

Meanwhile, Li said environmental pollution is a blight on people's quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts. "We must fight it with all our might," he said.

The government plans to reduce the energy intensity, or units of energy per unit of GDP, by 3.1 percent in 2015, lower than the 3.9-percent goal in 2014. Li also pledged to continue reducing major pollutants.

Rome was not built in a day. China chose to slow its pace and reduce the wealth gap in exchange for sustainable development, said Yang Fuquan, deputy head with the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences.

The country has carried out structural reforms in the economic, political, cultural, societal and ecological sectors. For conflict between economic development and environmental protection, deepening reforms is the only way out, he said.

Yang Shuo and Zou Jiagui have different aspirations in life. Perhaps,only the country's deepened reforms can give them hope to realize their dreams in the near future.