Invaluable assets: lush mountains and clear water

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Pictured are the white tea plantations in Huangdu Village, Anji County, which has been dubbed “China’s No. 1 White Tea Village.” Photo: Liu Caiyu/GT

In the past decade, the color green has become a more prominent and bright background for beautiful China, where people and nature coexist in harmony and contribute more to building a clean and beautiful world together.

The decade since the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party has been one in which ecological civilization and environmental protection have made the most rapid progress and the most remarkable results. It’s a world-renowned ecological marvel and a marvel of green development, Minister of Ecology and Environment Huang Runqiu said at a press conference on “Building a Beautiful China” on Thursday.

China has created a civilized development path, characterized by solid manufacturing development, prosperous life and good ecology. Blue skies and white clouds are common, clear water and lush mountains are everywhere, and Chinese people in general possess a growing sense of happiness, gain and security, Huang noted.

During a multi-day stopover in Anji, east China’s Zhejiang Province, known as “China’s first eco-district,” reporters from the Global Times spoke to scores of locals, visitors and officials and were amazed at the district’s stunning surroundings and civilized green development path influenced their everyday life in the last 10 years.

Personal dreams come true

A white-painted house stands out from the rest of the buildings as you stroll through Yucun Village, which used to be the largest limestone quarry in Anji. This is a five-storey house where former miner Ge Yuande and his family live, run their guest house and sell stone sculptures.

Ge Yuande, once a miner in Yucun Village, formerly the largest limestone mining area in Anji County, introduces his beloved stones to reporters from the Global Times.  Photo: Li Jieyi/GT

Ge Yuande, once a miner in Yucun Village, once the largest limestone mining area in Anji County, introduces his beloved stones to reporters from the Global Times. Photo: Li Jieyi/GT

“As a miner, I collected all kinds of weird rocks… and over the last few years I’ve learned to carve and draw. That’s the rock I collected on a mountain when I was still working in the mine,” the 61-year-old said while introducing reporters to the Global Times to some of his favorite works, smiling from ear to ear like a mule Child finally getting a toy they have been longing for.

“I couldn’t dare to dream of today’s lifestyle – waking up every day, breathing fresh air, immersing myself in carving rocks that I collected myself in the mountains, and enjoying the rest of the day at leisure with my family… you.” You see, my earlier daily dream was just to be able to return home alive from the deep, dark mines.

The air in the village at that time was so black with coal dust that even the green bamboo leaves on the mountains were covered with it. Everyone who emerged from the mines looked exactly the same – clad all in black. This situation lasted for decades, but things started to change in 2002 when the village of Yucun started closing the mines.

The momentum of developing green, environmentally friendly industries was high in Yucun and neighboring villages in Anji County after Xi Jinping, then-Zhejiang Party chief, introduced the concept of “two mountains” — clear water and lush mountains are comparable invaluable assets to the gold and silver of the legend – in August 2005 during his visit to the district.

Nowadays, former miners like Ge have been looking for ways to make a living, with many becoming businessmen and running their own hostels, shops and tourism businesses.

Pan Chunlin, also a former miner, is now a local celebrity, frequently visited by officials and media from across the country for being the first person to decide to run a hostel after the local mines closed. “My annual income is now a hundred times higher than before. Now I can earn in a day what I used to earn in a year,” Pan said happily.

In fact, Yu Xiaoping, the Yucun village head, told the Global Times that the villagers’ average annual income is quite high, reaching more than 61,000 yuan ($8,948) last year.

Following the development approach dubbed the “two mountains” concept, in the past decade, Anji has developed into a place known for its beautiful ecology and thriving green industries, which have completely transformed the lives of villagers, Jin Peihua said , head of the “Two Mountains” Concept Research Institute affiliated with Huzhou University.

Proper cycle for green devt

Jin went on to say that the concept of “two mountains” illustrates well how the relationships between “environment and development”, “life and development” and “ecology and prosperity” can be addressed. Proper green transformation of economic and social development involves creating a virtuous cycle that enables villagers to obtain long-term, substantial and guaranteed sources of income, Jin said.

Lujia, a village neighboring Yucun in Anji County, has an even clearer answer. Utilizing Anji’s beautiful ecology, the village has explored a development mode based on “themed family farms” such as: B. traditional Chinese medicine, bamboo, fishing and water rafting.

This form of business generates at least three sources of income for around 2,000 locals in the village. Villagers first rent out their land to family farms for rent and the local government takes the lead in running these farms together with the investors as a collective enterprise. When it generates income, villagers receive annual dividends and they can also work on the farms for a salary, Qiu Liqin, the village director, told the Global Times.

In 2014, the village’s collective wealth was valued at only 375 yuan per stake, but in 2020, each share increased to 32,000 yuan.

Driven by the concept of “two mountains” and with this right cycle of development, Lujia has evolved into a village resembling a large garden, with care centers and amusement facilities scattered among the villagers’ mansions.

Visitors flock to Lujia on a hot summer day. Struck by the spectacular scenery, they can’t wait to get their phones out to take stunning photos with no filters required. Visitors hop on a train that takes them all around the village and spend the whole day here with their families and friends.

Thanks to the achievements of ecology, Anji welcomes a swarm of visitors every year, who come from across the country to glimpse the clear waters and lush mountains and study how the green development model has brought prosperity to local people. Their favorite thing to hear is how Lujia has developed from a poor and backward area into a modern village.

She pointed out that the key to success is having the right people. Without the strong leadership of the CCP village committee, they could not have kept the right cycle of development running steadily.

“I don’t have noble dreams. I want everything to get better in the village every day.” In 2016, days after Qiu underwent surgery for a malignant thyroid tumor, Qiu returned to her post as a village committee member.

Since Lujia has been on the road to prosperity, the local government has won the villagers’ full trust, Qiu told the Global Times. When the local government now seeks further land expropriations in order to further expand the village development, the villagers quickly agree.

The changes that have taken place in Lujia and Yucun epitomize how the concept of “two mountains” has evolved in practice and thrived in Zhejiang province and across the country over the past decade and is a historical and general Change in the country’s construction industry has spurred ecological civilization, Jin noted.

The latest data, released by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment on Thursday, showed that the number of national-level ecological districts across the country has risen to 362, while 136 innovative bases for “clear waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets.” have been set up.

Guided by the concept, these cities and counties have explored their own development path by regarding snow, ice, lakes, grasslands or sea as valuable “clear waters and lush mountains,” Jin said.

Help eachother

“If we get rich, we hope our efforts can help more people,” said Ding Junfang, chief of Huangdu Village in Anji County, which has been dubbed “China’s No. 1 White Tea Village.”

Green tea plantations have increased the villagers’ wallets. Because of this thriving industry, the median income of residents reached 63,800 yuan in 2021.

Despite difficulties such as lack of infrastructure in underdeveloped regions and unsuitable land for tea plantations, Party members together with local officials managed to successfully plant tea seedlings and sent the first batch to three impoverished counties at the national level – Qingchuan County in Sichuan Province, Yanhe County and Pu’an County County in Guizhou Province in 2018.

From raising seedlings and selecting sites as a planting base to planting, management, processing and marketing, Anji has supported these regions throughout the process.

Currently, a total of 22.4 million tea seedlings have found new homes in five districts in five other provinces. The green leaves brought common prosperity to more than 2,600 members of minorities in underdeveloped regions.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped them from achieving their goal of lifting more people out of poverty through tea plantations. Within the next three years, Anji plans to donate at least 30 million more tea seedlings to poorer regions, Ding told the Global Times.

“With a grateful heart, we have been able to grow rich and develop under the leadership of the CCP and the local government’s preferential policies. We just hoped to show our gratitude by giving back to society,” Song said.

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