The 2023 National Conference on Ecological and Environmental Protection


The 9th National Conference on Ecological and Environmental Protection took place in July, which is the highest profile environmental conference since 2018. The first one took place in 1973 following the Stockholm Summit on the Human Environment. At this meeting, without giving details, President Xi said that “the Central Committee of the Party and the State Council will soon make systematic deployments for the comprehensive advancement of the construction of a beautiful China”. However, no such announcements were released in August.

President Xi also listed five ‘important relationships’. Among them the relationship between China’s “dual carbon” commitments and its “self-determined actions” caught Western media’s attention because it was perceived as a reply to international demands that China increases its climate ambition and commitments. Xi affirmed that contrary to criticisms, China’s commitment to peaking its carbon emissions and reaching carbon neutrality was not flickering, but also that it would not ploy to international pressure. Less noticed, the first “important relationship” mentioned by Xi was that between “high-quality development and high-level protection”, which resonates with the difficult post-covid economic recovery, and possible challenges to the ruling Party’s ‘output-based’ legitimacy.