Some two decades ago, Yan'an City in northwest China's Shaanxi Province used to conjure up the image of a dry yellow loess plateau with barren hills and desolate gullies. Today, however, that image is a thing of the past.
Since 1999, when a major reforestation initiative was launched, the renowned city, which hosted the headquarters of the Communist Party of China (CPC) from 1935 to 1948, has been transformed, becoming not only greener but also more prosperous.
The plateau, which suffered severe ecological degradation in the wake of excessive land reclamation for farming and overgrazing, has seen a remarkable improvement in its environment over the past two decades. Official statistics show that from 1999 to 2017, Yan'an created 1.4 million hectares of forests, of which more than half were restored from farmland. The forest cover reached 46.35 percent, up 12.7 percentage points from 1999. Apart from the visible green cover, the ecological progress of Yan'an can also be seen in the growing rainfall and the decrease of sandstorms.
At the same time, Yan'an has overcome absolute poverty. Villagers have abandoned labor-intensive yet unprofitable grain production on steep slopes and turned to more profitable forms of agriculture such as growing fruits, most notably apples, which are now a signature industry of the city. The development of infrastructure has enhanced accessibility and connectivity in the previously isolated mountainous region. Tourism has also opened up new possibilities to increase farmers' income as they engage in the catering industry.
Going forward, Yan'an is poised to make greater headway as it upgrades local industries for more sustainable development. While pursuing economic growth, it continues to protect its ecosystem with more resources channeled to maintaining and improving its forests.
Behind the city's reforestation and poverty alleviation programs and endeavors of similar magnitude elsewhere in China are dedicated Party members who work on the frontline to make things happen. There are, of course, many factors that underlie China's success story, but the CPC's unifying and leading role is one of the most essential.
Unlike in some countries where political parties largely serve as politicians' short-term tools to win elections, the CPC has a long-term mission. Founding the People's Republic of China 70 years ago was the beginning. With a mandate to seek happiness for the Chinese people and achieve national rejuvenation, the CPC is a driving force for change. Its 90 million members in different sectors of society are committed to advancing these goals despite all hardships and setbacks that they may encounter.
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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