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Speech by Premier Li Peng during His Meeting with the International Members of CCICED


  The Fifth Meeting of CCICED in Shanghai war a great success. On behalf of the Chinese Government, and on my own behalf, I would like to extend a warm welcome to our international friends as well as our Chinese colleagues, and congratulate you on the success of the meeting.

  I well remember that when we met last year after the Council's fourth meeting, you offered a number of valuable recommendations to the Chinese Government. To our delight, some of those recommendations have already been carried out, some are currently being studied and discussed. In March of this year, the National People's Congress approved the Ninth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development, and the Outline of the Long-Term Target for the Year 2010, in which we explicitly put forward the strategy of revitalizing the country through science and education and the strategy of sustainable development. In the next fifteen year, China's economic development is expected to maintain a high speed. But it is our deep concern that rapid development should not be obtained at the cost of the environment. The Chinese Government, or this generation, is not only held responsible for China's prosperity at present, but should also create a good environment for sustainable development for later generations. Earlier this year, we convened the Fourth National Conference on Environmental Protection. We have also intensified our efforts in certain areas of environmental control and management. It cannot yet be said that we have done everything satisfactorily, but we have made progress, especially in raising the awareness of the public. Now I would like to have you comments.

  (After hearing the comments by CCICED members, Premier Li Peng continues)

  I should thank the three of you (Dr. Labelle, Sir Crispin, and H. E. Law Hieng Ding) for your excellent statements. Up to now, the Council has existed for five years. As to the question whether the Council should continue, I can give you a positive answer: I hope it will carry on. The continuation of the Council does not depend on whether sufficient funds can be acquired or not, but on the fact that the environmental problems currently facing China are very serious and that China needs to learn from the useful experience of other countries. Concerning the question of Dr. Song Jian continuing to serve the Council as the Chairman, I think he can, at least at the first stage of the second phase.

  Sir Crispin and Mr. Law Hieng Ding have just offered some concrete recommendations, which, in my view, are very good indeed. I hope that the Environmental Protection Committee under the State Council, the National Environmental Protection Agency and the Environment and Resources Protection Committee under the National People's Congress will give them serious consideration and implement these recommendations in light of the situation of the country. The squandering of some resource products primarily stems from their low prices. For instance, many cities have water deficiency problems, but the price of water is far too low. The generation of electricity grows at an annual rate of 15 million kilowatts, yet it seems there is never enough electricity in some places. Electricity prices in China are much lower than in the U. S. and some European countries. The Chinese Government is preparing to gradually raise the prices of resource products to a level close to those in the international market in order to ensure the necessary profits. China has been working on this ever since it adopted the reform and open-do or policy, but has not fulfilled the task. If the price is raised too quickly then inflation will result. We will not follow the practice of the former Soviet Union to try to settle everything within "500 days". Instead, We will do it step by step. For instance, our grain prices are already close to the international level.

  As to the make-up of fuels, China has coal, petroleum, natural gas, hydropower and other fuels, among which coal is the most important and accounts for over 70% of the total picture. We have adopted a series of coal saving measures. In recent year, the elasticity coefficient of coal growth is around 0.3. That is to say, with every percent of national economic growth, coal growth is 0.3 percent. More strict measures are to be adopted for the future. The majority of coal will be converted into electricity. Therefore, high technologies should be applied to electricity generation. For example, coal beneficiation should be more widely practiced in order to reduce dust; power stations should also install sulfur-removing facilities for high sulfur content coal. Just as Mr. Law mentioned, this is just at the primary stage in China and is very costly.

  Transportation is another object of study for China. The past five years saw the most rapid development of China's road transportation. We had no highway some years ago. Yet in the past five years, highways have been built in many provinces. Judging from the experience of both developed and developing countries, we feel that it is imperative to develop road transportation. In cities, especially large cities, we are now faced with a choice between giving priority to public transportation or to private cars. You may have noticed differences in Beijing between this year and last year; I suppose on of the differences is our over-crowded traffic situation. We will go all out for public transportation. The development of cars and mini-buses should also take the form of taxi. In rural areas, there is great potential for the development of passenger-cargo vehicles and small family-sue vehicles. Of course, the ideal means of transportation in large cities is subway, but it is too costly.

  Recently, we have adopted a number of measures to shut down facilities or at lost stop the production of pollution by merging or transforming those heavily polluting township and village enterprises (TVEs) with some effect. China has a population of 1.2 billion, among which 900 million live in the rural areas. There is abundant surplus labor in rural areas because of the relatively limited land resources. TVEs have absorbed about 100 million of the labor force, preventing them from pouring into the cities. They are expected to absorb another 30 to 40 million rural people in the next 5 years. So TVEs play a very important part in the Chinese economy, especially in raising rural people's living standard. They also help relieve urban pollution. However, during their development, some of them, such as small paper mills, cement plants, fertilizer plants, tanneries and chemical plants, also cause serious pollution due to insufficient funds and backward technologies. Now we think it is time that control measures were taken against these heavy polluters. Closing down is the only option for those who have failed to control and manage pollution. A typical example is the paper mills. Small paper mills cause the most serious pollution. It often happens that a small paper mill pollutes an entire river. According to experts' calculation, pollution control measures will not be worthwhile if the annual pulp production of a paper mill is below 5,000 tons. We have decided that small paper mills with an annual capacity of below 5,000 tons must be closed down, and that the bigger ones cannot resume production unless pollution control measures have been taken. So far, more than 1,000 mills have been shut down or forced to stop their production lines. I am just citing an example here. As to more details, I am sure that officials in charge of environmental protection will give you help.

  I won't take up more of your time. Thank you again for your work. I hope you will continue your efforts.

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