Balancing ecological conservation with socioeconomic development


The tide was rising in the Yundang Lake in Xiamen, southeast China’s Fujian province. As the floodgate opened, the water flew and fish swam upstream. The egrets descended from the sky and hovered above the lake, ready to dive and catch their prey.

Peng Zhiwei, who was waiting for this scene, immediately pressed the shutter. “The egrets hovering to feed is a distinctive sight of Xiamen,” he said.

Peng, who has photographed birds near the Yundang Lake for nearly 30 years, is a witness to the transformation of the lake.

In the 1970s, when the Yundang Lake was surrounded by embankments, untreated sewage was discharged directly from the surrounding area, causing a rapid deterioration in water quality and a near extinction of fish and shrimp. 

“Your clothes could even become stinky if you walked around the lake at that time,” Peng recalled.

Since 1988, Xiamen has carried out law-based governance of the lake. It halted the discharge of untreated sewage, dredged the lake and built embankments, with an aim to revitalize the water and beautify the environment. 

Relevant authorities have launched a five-phase treatment project on a large scale. After more than 30 years of relentless efforts, everywhere around the lake makes picturesque scenery today.

Zheng Lei, born in the 1990s, graduated from Xiamen University and works near the Yundang Lake. In August 2020, he became one of the first “citizen lake chiefs” in Xiamen. 

The “citizen lake chiefs,” recruited by the Xiamen Yundang Lake Conservation Center, are a group of people with expertise in water ecological protection and management, as well as other related professional knowledge. Their main tasks include carrying out routine inspections of the lake area, and collecting and reflecting citizens’ opinions and suggestions on lake management.

As one who majored in marine ecology at university, Zheng noted that he hopes to leverage his expertise in this area and help make the Yundang Lake a signature of Xiamen.

In fact, the philosophy of green development runs through all aspects of Xiamen’s economic and social development, from the 1.6-square-kilometer Yundang Lake to the 1,699-square-kilometer Xiamen city.

Xiamen follows a principle that restricts access to mountain areas regularly for better afforestation. It has shut down all sand and gravel plants, and conducted ecological restoration in multiple mining areas, which resulted in a continuous decline in the rate of soil erosion. 

“Pocket parks” and “miniature parks” have been built across the city, ensuring that residents can reach a park within a 15-minute walk from any location in the urban area. 

The city is also building footpaths to expand the green recreational spaces for citizens. It is estimated that by 2025, the total length of such footpaths in the city will reach 500 kilometers.

Nowadays, Xiamen ranks among the top in China in terms of comprehensive air quality index, greening coverage of built-up areas, and other environmental indicators. The city has been accelerating energy conservation in key sectors such as industry, transportation, construction, and public institutions, with its comprehensive energy consumption per 10,000 yuan GDP surpassing the national level.

From expediting industrial transformation and upgrading to improving the ecological civilization system, and from optimizing spatial layout to fortifying ecological barriers, the people of Xiamen are carefully preserving the city’s appearance and injecting strong momentum into its development through innovation and entrepreneurship.

Yealink Network Tech is a communications equipment developer based in Xiamen, whose technologies and novel products are truly eye-openers.

Thanks to sophisticated algorithms the company has developed for sound collection and noise reduction, a seemingly ordinary video conferencing device manufactured by the company can offer call audio quality as good as CD players.

The company, established in 2001, holds the global leading market share in the SIP phone market. “Yealink’s rapid development is attributed to years of continuous innovation in the communication field,” said an executive of the company. 

According to the executive, R&D staff account for over 60 percent of the total employees at Yealink, and the company spends over 8 percent of its sales revenue on R&D investment each year.

The Xiamen Torch High-tech Industrial Development Zone, where Yealink Network Tech is located, is home to more than 10,000 enterprises of various types, including over 1,000 national-level high-tech companies. With less than 3 percent of Xiamen’s land area, the zone contributes 43 percent of the city’s industrial output value.

By abandoning extensive industries and focusing on high-end manufacturing and modern services, Xiamen is reshaping its industrial structure during its transition and development. 

Accelerating the digitization of industries and digital industrialization, Xiamen has built a new-generation information technology industry system with a concentration of chips, screens, smart terminals, software, intelligence, and new-gen networks. The new economy is growing rapidly.

Xiamen has a high-value invention patent ownership of 20.8 per 10,000 people, which is 2.2 times the national average. In 2022, the digital economy of the city reached 479 billion yuan ($66.97 billion), accounting for 61.5 percent of its GDP. The city also ranked among the top in China in terms of residents’ satisfaction with digital living.


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