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Speech at the Opening of the Third Meeting of the Third Phase of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (Liu Jiang)


  Respectable Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan,

  Respectable Council Members,

  Ladies and Gentlemen:

  This meeting will focus on the sustainable development of agriculture and rural areas, an issue that bears upon China's national economic and social development. The Chinese Government has always attached great importance to the development of agriculture and rural areas. In the 55 years since the founding of New China, particularly since the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, China has achieved great achievements in the development of agriculture and rural areas that catch the attention of the world. Agricultural production growths, the rural economy prospers and farmers' living keeps improving.

  First, overall agricultural production capacity has been lifted substantially. For many years China has remained the world's largest producer of grain, cotton, vegetable oils, vegetable, fruits, meat, egg and aquatic product. A historic change has taken place in the supply of agricultural products in China, from chronic shortage to aggregate balance of supply and demand and even supply surplus in harvest years. China feeds 22% of the world population with less than 9% of the world's tilled land.

  Second, the mix of agriculture and rural economy has been optimized gradually. The contributions of crop farming, animal husbandry and aquaculture to the gross output of agriculture tend to be more reasonable. The proportion of high-quality agricultural products has been increased markedly. Main agricultural products are increasingly concentrated on competitive production areas, leading to the formation of crop belts and product zones that have their own characteristics or competitive edge and optimizing the layout of agricultural production.

  Third, farmers' income grows and their living standard improves. In 2003, the net income per capita of farmers reached 2622 RMB nationwide, the Engel co-efficient of rural residents slid to 45.6% and rural population living under poverty line declined to 29 million. Farmers' living has been improved notably and reached the well-off level on the whole.

  Dear Council Members,

  Since the beginning of the new century, China has embarked on a new development phase to build a well-off society with a holistic approach and accelerate the modernization drive. At present, prominent problems still stand out in the development of agriculture and rural economy, including, among others, employment pressure, slow increase of farmers' income and environmental and ecological degradation. To realize the sustainable development of agriculture and rural areas in China at the beginning of the 21st century, efforts should be made to implement the strategy of vitalizing agriculture through science and education and accelerate agricultural modernization; to carry out agricultural restructuring and promote agricultural industrialization and county economy; to implement the urbanization strategy and transfer the surplus labor in rural areas; to execute the strategy of agricultural sustainable development and strengthen the protection of arable land, water and eco-system.

  Dear Council Members,

  Ecological improvement is an important component in the sustainable development of agriculture and rural areas in China. Since 1998, the Chinese Government has intensified its financial and policy support to ecological improvement, leading to great achievements. In the past six years, total artificial forestation amounted to 32 million hectares nationwide, total aero-seeding forestation 4.67 million hectares and new forestation by closing mountains 52.7 million hectares, along with the rapid recovery and increase of forestry and grassland, strengthened management of natural reserves and improved protection of biological diversity. Further ecological improvement should stick to the following principles:

  First, proceed in light of local conditions and focus on comprehensive treatment. In line with the principle of giving priority to protection and prevention and combing prevention and treatment, more emphasis should be given to consolidating the achievements of ecological improvement, strengthening ecological protection and putting a complete end to the scenario of ecological destruction in parallel with construction in some areas.

  Second, make a full play of the underpinning role of science and technology and increase technological content in environmental protection and ecological improvement.

  Third, combine ecological improvement with economic development and promote the development of local economy. Along with ecological improvement, great importance should be attached to the increase of farmers' income, grain production and local economic development.

  Fourth, protect and mobilize the enthusiasm of local farmers and officials for environmental protection and ecological improvement. The responsibilities, obligations and beneficiary rights related to ecological improvement must be clearly defined to make sure that it will be those who improve, manage and protect the eco-system that should benefit. The property rights of forestry and grassland owners should be protected, so as to mobilize farmers and herdsmen to participate in ecological improvement.

  Fifth, combine ecological improvement with poverty reduction. More importance should be attached to ecological projects in poverty-stricken areas, including slope to terrace conversion, small drainage basin harness and pasture recovery. More efforts should be made to carry out immigration for poverty reduction and ecological improvement for those poverty-stricken people living areas unfit for human survival, with a view to meeting both poverty reduction and ecological objectives.

  Finally, I sincerely wish this meeting a complete success.

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