1.China must promote green growth in B&R initiative
By Li Qiaoyi
China has made considerable progress in fostering green industrial development in a number of cities along the route of the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative, testifying to the country's commitment to green growth and laying the groundwork for greening the B&R initiative.
It's fair to say that many of the countries and regions along the route can draw on China's experience in various areas related to environmental protection, notably governance of water resources and control of desertification.
At a recent seminar in Dunhuang, Northwest China's Gansu Province, Si Jianhua, a research fellow at the Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), stated that the Silk Road Economic Belt, one of B&R's two main prongs, traverses four major inland rivers where China has proved its capacity for preventing flooding and fighting desertification, as well as making it clear that China is more technologically advanced than most countries along the route of the B&R in this aspect.
In fact, China has already been providing certain countries along the route of the B&R with cistern and water purification facilities, according to Si.
It's noteworthy that the push for ecological protection is not just top-down, given that some privately owned businesses have shown an unusual zeal for investing in green growth that is not likely to produce rapid gains.
In a typical case, He Yanzhong, a noted entrepreneur in Gansu who made a fortune by investing in rainbow trout farming, founded a water conservation project in Dunhuang, a major trading post on the ancient Silk Road and now a city in a desert that's also plagued by floods.
The 17-year-old project involves an investment of 890 million yuan ($135.77 million) and has helped in taming local flooding and translating that into an effective resource for curbing desertification.
The project has yet to become commercially profitable, but it has become a hotbed of ecological preservation, and its R&D partnership with Si's institute has borne fruit in terms of enabling water conservation in inland waterways.
The project has attracted US conglomerate Honeywell to contribute to tree planting in the ecological park where the project is located. It also shows the country's potential for implementing the B&R initiative in a way that not only benefits B&R economies but also protects local ecology.
That said, the country needs to provide more impetus for domestic businesses to invest in green growth. This means Chinese companies seeking a foothold in countries and regions along the B&R route should be encouraged to attach particular importance to protecting the local environment. There has already been increased awareness among Chinese businesses of the importance of fitting into the local market. But so far that has focused mostly on catering to local culture and market needs, while understanding of and conforming to local environmental laws and regulations have, in many cases, not yet been prioritized. The implementation of an environmentally friendly B&R initiative will require more efforts to fit Chinese investment along the route into the local framework for environmental protection, which varies by country and region.
On top of that, and perhaps more importantly, domestic research institutes and businesses with expertise in ecological protection should be encouraged to invest in B&R markets where there's a pressing need for ecological restoration.
Given that it is hard to make efforts such as the water conservation project in Dunhuang commercially viable, the government should play a more active role in financing these efforts and offer more preferential policies such as tax relief to encourage businesses to bear more social responsibility.
Only by doing so can the country manifest its prowess in becoming a leader for sustainability and a trendsetter in decoupling economic growth from ecological damage along the B&R route.
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