Keynote Speech at the 7th Annual High-level Dialogue of the China-EU Water Platform (CEWP)
His Excellency Minister E Jingping
Ministry of Water Resources
People’s Republic of China
(Guimaraes, Portugal, 8 November 2019)
Your Excellency Minister Fernandes,
Your Excellency Minister Mizzi,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to gather with you today in Guimaraes, a famous European cultural city with a history of over one thousand years. We are here to discuss with our friends, both old and new, the issue of good water governance policies under the theme “innovation in water conservancy”. On behalf of the Ministry of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China, I would like to extend my warm congratulations on the convening of the 7th annual high-level dialogue of the China-EU Water Platform (CEWP) and our heart-felt gratitude to our colleagues from the Portuguese Ministry of Environment and Climate Actions for such meticulous preparation of the event.
At present, China and the EU are deepening bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields with the Belt and Road Initiative serving as a powerful link. In last December and in March this year, President Xi Jinping paid two visits to Europe, voicing powerful support to the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. Water exchange and cooperation has been an integral part of the China-EU partnership. European practices such as the EU Water Framework Directive, river ecological treatment in Portugal, flood management in the Netherlands, groundwater development and protection in Denmark, lake management in Finland, watershed management in France, green hydropower development in Austria and the circular economy in Sweden have become the role models of global water governance. The EU Technical Guide to Ecological Flows, to be published soon in China, will also provide a new reference to China’s practices on water governance. In addition, the outcome documents of the previous China-EU summits, all reaffirming the importance of bilateral water cooperation, have created broad space for in-depth and friendly cooperation in water governance. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. We are taking a deep review of China’s lessons and experiences in water management and water governance over the past 7 decades and are participating in and advancing global water governance with a more open attitude. Therefore, it is of paramount historical and practical significance that we sit down together, exchanging views on water governance policies and China-EU water cooperation and later on jointly signing the Guimaraes Statement.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Over the recent years, climate change and population growth have led to frequent floods and droughts, shortage of water resources, deterioration of the water environment and degradation of water ecology worldwide. These have become common challenges worldwide. According to the United Nations’ World Water Development Report, about 2.5 billion people live in water-scarce areas, and more than 2 billion people drink polluted water. The increasingly acute water problems have affected global food security, biodiversity protection and stability of the ecological system, threatening the survival and development of the human society.
The complexity of the water challenges in China is nowhere else to be seen, so is the formidable task of river management and water governance. Throughout its long history that extends thousands of years, the Chinese have relentlessly fought against floods and droughts. 70 years after the new People’s Republic of China was founded, China has succeeded in putting in place the most comprehensive water infrastructure system in the world, which significantly enhances our resilience against floods and droughts, relieving us of being devastated by water disasters, and being hamstrung by water inaccessibility. It has thereby provided a reliable support for economic, social and wellbeing improvement in China. This is a hard-won battle for a developing country of nearly 1.4 billion people.
In the new era, as China shifts its focus from high-speed growth to high-quality development, logic follows that we must seek harmonious development between man and nature. Consequently, Chinese President Xi Jinping explicitly put forward the guiding philosophy for water governance in China, i.e., “prioritize water conservation, balance development with geographical distribution of water resources, practice systematic governance and achieve government-market synergy”, emphasizing that instead of trying to change or conquer nature, we must adjust and rectify our own approach to nature. More recently, President Xi made special deployment for the ecological protection and high-quality development of the Yellow River (the Mother River of the Chinese nation) Basin, i.e., prioritize protection and sound governance so as to turn the Yellow River into a “River of Happiness” that will benefit the people. As a manifestation of such evolving and progressive water governance philosophy, the Ministry of Water Resources of China establishes its overarching working principle as “to make up the shortfall in water works and strengthen supervision of the water sector”. The protection and treatment of rivers is an important component of “strengthening supervision of the water sector”. We have put forward a number of innovative policies focusing on the core principle of “making decisions and taking actions in accordance with available water” to comprehensively reinforce the supervision over the development, utilization, conservation, protection, allocation and scheduling of water resources in rivers, and gradually enable the historical transformation toward more fine-tuned supervision.
Specifically , we will adhere to the following five priority areas.
First, we regard benefiting the people as the core goal. The mission of river treatment in China is to deliver benefits to the people. Commensurate with higher socioeconomic development and stronger water governance capabilities, the focal point of river governance in China has changed fundamentally. River treatment is aimed at meeting the emerging public expectations for quality water resources, healthy water ecology and habitable water environment while continuously ensuring flood control security. As such, making Chinese rivers the “rivers of happiness” is both the starting point and ultimate goal of river/basin protection and governance in China.
Second, we regard water saving as a primary principle. Water saving is upheld as the fundamental strategy for addressing water shortage in China. In this regard, we have implemented the national water saving action, strictly controlled both the total quantity and the intensity of water consumption, developed stringent water-saving standards for different industries and different regions, improved the water use quota system, established the water-saving assessment systems, elevated water saving to an enforceable precondition for the development, utilization, protection, allocation and scheduling of water resources. China aims to raise the efficiency of water use in all walks of life, and embed water-saving into every link of production and living. These efforts help boost high-quality development in China.
Third, the rational allocation of water resources underlies water management. The determination of ecological flows is a basic task in the conservation of water resources. In this regard, we have formulated site-specific policy measures, accelerated nationwide determination of ecological flows, and reinforced the management and control of ecological flows. Water flows of rivers are allocated in consideration of local and regional population, arable land, GDP and industrial output, and quota and indicators are set out on regional water use quantity, river basin water flow allocation and water development intensity.
Fourth, we regard water resources as the paramount constraint. We determine urban planning, land use, population size and production scale in accordance with the available quantities of water, implement the most stringent water resources management system, curb reckless demand for water, enforce project pre-assessment on the basis of water availability and management of water withdrawal licenses, build all-time water use monitoring system, and prevent and rectify excessive development of water resources and disorderly water withdrawal and water use. Such efforts have in turn prompted optimization of the scale, structure and layout of development, and thereby prevented economic and social development from going beyond the carrying capacity of water resources, water ecology and the water environment.
Fifth, we regard river/lake treatment as a key task. China innovatively introduces the river/lake chief system whereby chief executives of local governments at the provincial, municipal, county and township levels act as chiefs of rivers and lakes, in an effort to remedy such actions as the invasion and destruction of rivers and lakes and to comprehensively regulate and supervise both the river/lake external environment and the water resources. In addition, we have intensified our efforts to restore the ecology. Specifically, we insist upon comprehensive systematic governance of mountains, water, forests, farmland and grassland, emphasize source management, strengthen prevention and control of water and soil erosion, restore the ecology of ecologically fragile rivers and key lakes, and control excessive groundwater extraction in an all-round manner. These efforts have effectively guaranteed ecological security of key river basins and regions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Chinese president Xi Jinping, while addressing the conference celebrating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in October, emphasized that China will continue to pursue a win-win and mutually beneficial strategy of opening up, and continue to work with peoples around the world to build a community of shared future for humankind. China and Europe are two major powers, markets and civilizations in the world, and therefore constitute two indispensable players in addressing the global water challenges The effective water governance practices and rich experiences of both China and the EU can provide valuable references to all countries. Therefore it is safe to say that China-EU water cooperation is a responsibility entrusted by the times and a crucial component in building a community of a shared future for humankind. As such, this partnership will surely play a positive role in advancing the global cause of water governance.
Availing myself of this opportunity, I would like to put forward four suggestions for our future cooperation:
First, we must enable dialogues on water governance concepts and improving water governance policies. To this end, I suggest we give full play to the leading role of the China-EU water policy dialogue mechanism and the China-EU Water Platform (CEWP), focusing on in-depth exchanges in water resources, water ecology and the water environment; and at the same time step up policy dialogue on water-saving standards and mechanisms, ecological flow management, water flow allocation, water withdrawal and water use supervision, major water transfer projects and promotion of the water-related goals of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. We must also innovate on water management philosophies and improve the policies. Through these efforts, we hope to advance the global water governance in a collective manner.
Second, we must expand cooperation in science & technology to enhance the capacity of innovation. I suggest we strengthen communication and contact with the EU Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, ride on the opportunities given by the inclusion of water resources into the priority areas of China-EU science and technology cooperation, so that we could enable China-EU partnership projects in water science & technology. We hope that the EU side establish a powerful research team as soon as possible, that will ally with its Chinese research partners to jointly apply for research and innovation projects. To give full play to the leading role of sci-tech innovation, we particularly hope that the two sides will join hands to work for scientific and technological breakthroughs in ecological protection and restoration of rivers and lakes, groundwater management and protection, control of excessive groundwater extraction, water withdrawal and use monitoring and smart water conservancy. These efforts will help promote high-quality development of the water sector.
Third, we must boost personnel exchanges and mutual learning. I suggest that China and the EU further open up to each other, learn from each other, exchange with each other in various forms, carry out more in-depth personnel exchanges on a larger scale and at a higher level, and actively align with the Belt and Road Initiative in the exchange of on-job personnel, such as bi-directional internship opportunities for government departments and research institutes and facilitation of in-depth bilateral exchanges of technical and managerial talents in water conservancy. In addition, Chinese research institutes and education institutions such as the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research offer scholarships to international students including from the EU. We look forward to more young Europeans coming to study and exchange in China and becoming ambassadors of the China-EU water partnership.
Fourth, we must promote business cooperation to achieve mutual benefit and win-win. Together on this visit is me are the representatives of over 30 Chinese enterprises, universities and research institutes. I hope we can avail ourselves of the CEWP to innovate the ways and means of cooperation and facilitate the mega-alliance of competitive Chinese and European enterprises, focusing on stronger partnerships in practical technologies such as water-saving technologies and appliances, monitoring of water resources and water ecology, water supply services, flood forecasting and early warning systems and data analysis and deficiency monitoring and analysis of water works; I also hope that we could leverage the respective industrial advantages of China and the EU to promote cooperation at third-country markets; and promote sharing and win-win business cooperation between China and the EU.
Ladies and gentlemen,
A robust China-EU partnership via water cooperation and exchanges is of great practical significance to enabling an effective response to the global water crises. I am confident that through in-depth exchanges and sharing of insights among the participants present at this meeting, China-EU water cooperation will bear more fruits and make new contributions to the deepening of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.
Last but not least, I would like to wish this high-level dialogue a complete success!