The Strategy of Prioritizing the Conservation of Resources

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-21 09:21
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 The Proposal of the CPC Central Committee for Formulating the Twelfth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development was passed at the Fifth Plenary Session of the Seventeenth CPC Central Committee. The Proposal made first mention of a strategy to prioritize the conservation of resources, stating that China will take steps to cap the use of resources, regulate supply and demand, and administer resources on a differential basis. This has established both the guiding principles and a strategic framework for the administration of land and resources in China for the period ahead.

 I. Land and resources management during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan 

 Following the beginning of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, China gradually put in place a system to achieve the allocation of land and resources primarily through the market. The development of this system has allowed the administration of land and resources to become further integrated into the macroeconomic regulation.

 1. China’s food security was guaranteed through the strict protection of arable land. The total area of protected primary farmland in China was held steadily above 104 million hectares during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. In addition, more than 1.33 million hectares of additional arable land was supplemented nationwide, exceeding the total area of land occupied for the purpose of construction during that period. This represented the successful implementation of policies requiring the supplementation of all farmland occupied for the purpose of construction. This meant that the amount of land supplemented actually exceeds the amount of land that was occupied. With the exception of certain major national projects, the supplementation of land preceded the occupation of land in over 97% of construction projects. Various funds related to agriculture and land were collected and used to rectify over 4 million hectares of land, which helped to boost the productivity of farmland by 10% to 20% across the board. In addition, we ensured that the minimum area of arable land in China remained safely above the “red line” of 120 million hectares. This laid down solid foundations for seven consecutive years of growth in grain output.

 2. A sufficient supply of resources was ensured to underpin economic and social development. More than 377.3 billion yuan was invested in geological exploration across China during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. This included a 257.3 billion yuan investment in oil and gas exploration, representing a major annual increase compared to previous years. Reserves of oil increased by 5.6 billion tons; gas by 3 trillion cubic meters; coal by 338 billion tons; iron by 7.1 billion tons; copper by 16.56 million tons; lead-zinc by 33.45 million tons; bauxite by 510 million tons; and gold by 2,226 tons. In addition, output from China’s marine economy rose following the rational exploitation of marine resources, accounting for 9.6% of the GDP in 2010. 

 3. Active integration in macroeconomic regulation supported rapid and steady economic development. We carefully implemented rules for the transfer of lands for the industrial and commercial purpose through tendering, auction, and listed sale. This helped to effectively prevent the over-expansion of industrial and commercial land due to low transfer costs. In line with national policies for regional development, land use quotas were appropriately increased in central, western and northeastern regions in order to better balance the development of different regions in China. In addition, plans were also formulated and implemented for the rational exploitation of mineral resources. By optimizing the mix and the layout of exploration and mining operations, we were able to more effectively protect our superior mineral resources.

 4. The scope of land and resource management was expanded to include public safety. Reform trials aimed at identifying a permanent mechanism for the requisition of land and the compensation and relocation of residents were launched during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. From 2006 to 2010, the central government invested 2.55 billion yuan in programs to prevent and control geological disasters, and efforts were made to establish a permanent mechanism for prevention and control. A system for the collection of deposits to ensure environmental restoration and rectification of mining areas has been established in 30 provinces. These regulations effectively promoted the restoration and rectification of geological conditions in areas affected by mining activities.  

 April 21, 2011, an activity named “Cherishing Resources, Living a Low-Carbon Life” was held in a kindergarten in Jiaojiang District of Taizhou City, Zhejiang Province. During the activity, which was organized to coincide with “Earth Day” on April 22, the children and their parents made reusable bags from used pieces of cloth, which helped them to better understand the concepts of protecting the environment, conserving energy, and caring for the Earth.

 5. We strengthened performance in basic initiatives through continued reform and innovation. From 2006 to 2010, we signed more than 6.77 trillion yuan in contracts for the transfer of state-owned construction land. During this period, the development of the land market allowed China to rapidly utilize its land resources as assets, thereby providing a huge source of finance to underpin development in both urban and rural areas. Vigorous efforts were also made to introduce a system for the paid acquisition of mining rights, which served to further enhance market mechanisms for the allocation of resources. The rapid development of legislation regarding the administration of land and resources better enabled us to bring our operations within the framework of the law. 

 II. Prioritizing conservation of resources is an essential means of mitigating resources constraints during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan

 It is essential that we ensure a sufficient supply of resources to underpin China’s economic and social development during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan. To do this, we must develop new resources while conserving and intensifying the use of our existing resources. We should promote the transformation of China’s pattern of economic development by changing the way in which resources are managed and utilized.

 1. The serious resource constraints that China is facing at present are set to continue for a significant period of time to come. This inevitable fact is dictated by China’s basic conditions, its current stage of development, and the natural resources at its disposal. China’s reserves of arable land, forestland, grassland, fresh water, and primary minerals per capita fall significantly short of the world average. Much of its land cannot be utilized due to harsh natural conditions, and only a small proportion is suitable for cultivation. Moreover, the spatial layout of water and land resources in China is also far from ideal, with most resource-rich regions being ecologically fragile. These factors have determined that China must view the rational exploitation and conservation of its resources as a matter of strategic significance that will have a bearing on its overall development.

 2. Sustained rapid economic growth has fueled constant increases in the rigid demand for resources. Under this backdrop, imbalances between supply and demand are becoming increasingly prominent. In the last decade, mineral supply in China expanded 1.5 to 2 times faster than it did the decade before. At the same time, China’s reliance on other countries for the supply of mineral resources is continuing to increase. The increasing pace of industrialization and urbanization is also set to intensify supply and demand conflicts over the provision of construction land.

 3. More must be done to conserve resources if we are to accelerate the transformation of our pattern of economic development. Currently, China has a much higher level of resource and energy consumption per unit of GDP than developed countries. At the same time, the overall recovery rate of mineral resources and the rate of comprehensive utilization of mineral intergrowth and accompanying mineral resources in China are both lower than in developed countries. China’s energy consumption per unit of GDP is three to four times greater than consumption levels in developed countries. Urban construction land per capita in China has reached 133 square meters, higher than the world average, and much higher than other countries and regions in East Asia. In addition, the area of rural residential land per capita has reached 214 square meters, far higher than the limit of 150 square meters stipulated in national standards.

 Therefore, China must comprehensively implement a strategy of prioritizing the conservation of resources during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan.

 1. Arable land must be tightly controlled in order to ensure China’s food security. It is essential that we persist in implementing the most stringent of farmland protection systems and strengthen joint accountability mechanisms for the protection of farmland. We must be more stringent in our supervision of land planning so as to ensure that the occupation of land by non-agricultural construction projects is limited and that all farmland occupied for construction is effectively supplemented elsewhere. On the basis of measures to balance out increases and decreases in the area of construction land between urban and rural areas, we must formulate master plans, raise funds, promote the overall rectification of rural land, and seek to increase the quality of primary farmland. In accordance with requirements to conserve land and protect the rights and interests of farmers, we should proceed to revamp rules for the requisitioning of land by the government. In order to attain these goals, we must narrow the scope of appropriation, increase the level of compensation given, and ensure that uniform compensation standards are employed for land in any given region.

 2. We must step up exploration efforts to ensure an adequate supply of mineral resources. We should increase our efforts to conduct basic geological surveys and evaluations, implement projects to guarantee the supply of geological mineral resources, and invest more in the exploration of metallogenic regions and belts as well as bulk resources in short supply such as oil and natural gas. Through such initiatives, we should seek to establish a number of reserve bases that will guarantee the future supply of important minerals. We will comprehensively implement plans concerning mineral resources, develop stockpiling mechanisms for strategic resources, and promote higher integration in the exploitation of mineral resources. We should press forward with efforts to develop a new mechanism for geological exploration and strive for early breakthroughs in this field.

 3. We need to promote the conservation and intensive use of resources. At the same time, the market should be given a greater role in the allocation of resources. Taking into account the scale and scope of urban construction land as determined in land use plans, we should promptly draw boundaries for urban development and constrain the expansion of land for urban use. We will promptly introduce measures to regulate the sale and transfer of rights over collective construction land in rural areas. We will revamp the system for the paid acquisition of usage rights for state-owned land and improve the methods employed for the paid use of land in the real estate market. We will also improve the system governing the paid acquisition of mining rights, deepen reforms of production factor markets relating to resource products, and develop a resource pricing mechanism which reflects resource scarcity, supply and demand conditions in the market, and the cost of environmental damage.

 4. We need to refine mechanisms for the macro-control of land and resources and improve the various plans that regulate land and resources. We will tie land policies closer to financial, monetary and industrial policies in order to increase the role that land resources play in macroeconomic regulation. We will strengthen administration over the establishment of mining rights, optimize the structure and the distribution of mineral exploitation, and better integrate mineral resources into macroeconomic regulation. We will promptly formulate and implement land planning schemes. By optimizing the layout of land development, we will promote balanced regional development and rational urbanization. We will make efforts to further coordinate the development of resources on land and at sea. Our efforts will include formulating and implementing a marine development strategy, rationally developing and exploiting marine resources, and vigorously promoting the development of China’s marine economy.

 5. We need to vigorously develop a system to prevent and mitigate natural disasters. This will allow us to do more to prevent the loss of life and property. We will intensify efforts to prevent and control geological disasters by launching major prevention and control schemes. We will accelerate the development of survey and evaluation systems, monitoring and warning systems, prevention and control systems, and emergency response systems in areas that are prone to unexpected geological disasters. This will allow us to improve our capacity to respond to geological disasters and carry out stringent risk assessments during the planning of construction projects and urban planning in disaster-prone areas.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.4, 2011)

Note:Author: Minister of Land and Resources of the People’s Republic of China

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 Ministry of Land and Resources of the People’s Republic of China

 The Ministry of Land and Resources was established as a new department in 2008 during the restructuring of the State Council. The basis of its establishment was the Scheme for the Organizational Reform of the State Council as approved by the First Session of the Eleventh National People’s Congress and the Notice of Organizational Setup as issued by the State Council. The Ministry of Land and Resources is a constituent department of the State Council of the PRC. 

 Its main duties are: (1) to be responsible for the protection and rational utilization of natural resources such as land, minerals, and marine resources; (2) to be responsible for the regulation of land and resource administration; (3) to be responsible for optimizing the distribution of land and resources; (4) to be responsible for regulating the management of land and resource rights; (5) to be responsible for protecting arable land on a nationwide basis and ensuring that the total area of arable land and primary farmland as set forth in national plans is sustained; (6) to be responsible for the prompt and accurate provision of various data pertaining to land use; (7) to be responsible for the conservation and intensive use of land resources; (8) to be responsible for regulating land and resource markets; (9) to be responsible for administering the exploitation of mineral resources; (10) to be responsible for administering the geological exploration industry and managing mineral reserves; (11) to be responsible for the protection of geological environments; (12) to be responsible for the prevention and control of geological disasters; (13) to collect revenue from resources in accordance with the law; regulate and oversee the use of funds; and formulate policies and measures for the integration of land and mineral resources in economic regulation; (14) to promote scientific and technological progress concerning land and resources; formulate and implement strategies, guidelines and plans for scientific and technological development and personnel training concerning land and resources; promote the application of IT in the administration of land and resources; and improve public services for the provision of relevant information and data; (15) to carry out foreign cooperation and exchanges; formulate and implement policies on foreign cooperation in the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources; and oversee exploration and exploitation practices in foreign cooperation; (16) to perform other duties assigned by the State Council.

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