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Message from China’s first recipient of ‘Champion of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award’ to the next generation


Deserts can be turned into beautiful homes with green mountains and clear waters.

Dec 6, 2017. China (Source: Bon-Cloud)

On December 5th, the 3rd United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of the United Nations Environment Programme was convened at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, capital city of Kenya. And for the first time, UNEP gave the ‘Champion of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award’ to a Chinese national, Mr Wang Wenbiao, member of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee and chairman of Elion Resources Group. In the interview, Mr Wang sent a message to the new generation of ‘Champions of the Earth’ who are committed to China’s green development: do not focus only on faraway places, we should shift our attention to the deserts around us to turn them into beautiful places to live ion with green mountains and clear waters. The following is the transcript of the interview.

Q: Could you share with us your childhood experiences, and what brought you to the connection with desert?

A: In my teenage years, Kubuqi was an impoverished place. I lived in a small village on the edge of the dessert, and every day ate steamed corn bread. Today eating corn bread is a fashion, but back then, those who had it every day were sallow and emaciated. The memory of my childhood was ‘desert and hunger’. When I was little, I read a speech given by Chairman Mao titled ‘Old Man Yu Gong Moved Away Mountains’. I dreamt to be as persistent as Yu Gong to control the desertification of the Kubuqi desert, to turn it into grassland and oasis, and to ensure that the people there no longer suffered from hunger.

Q: Why are you called ‘Son of the Desert’? Is it because of your experience in controlling desertification over the past three decades? And briefly, what have you done over this period?

A: My surname is Wang, but never have I dared to accept a title such as ‘King’ or ‘Father’. I am only a kid growing up in the desert, so I think I can be called ‘the son of the desert’. As sons of the desert and sons of the earth, we should have responsibility to repair our planet and create a beautiful place to live for all humankind.

Over the past three decades, thanks to the strong support of the government and the unyielding effort of Elion, we have turned the large desert into ‘ an area with mountains and water’ and an ‘an eco-bank’. We have made exemplary contributions to our hometown and our nation. More importantly, we have brought confidence to those living in the deserted areas.

Q: What motivated you to persist over the three decades?

A: Many believe that desertification cannot be controlled. And people should not battle against nature. I believe this is a wrong perception. Originally, many deserts were grassland, but as a result of human destruction, the grasslands were turned into deserts. After strenuous efforts, the deserts can be turned back into oasis. Since we committed a crime, we have full responsibility to atone for our crime and turn the deserts back into green homes. Bearing this responsibility and mission in mind, we have persisted over the years on the control of desertification.

Over the past five years, under the guidelines of the important strategic thinking of China’s ecological civilization, and under the guidance of President Xi’s scientific conclusion that ‘clear waters and mountains are gold and silver mountains’, with the assistance of the UN and international community, our marathon efforts on desert control has extended far to Nairobi and become a world champion, for which I am deeply grateful. The praise of the UN and international community on Kubuqi was a great acknowledgement to the achievement of China’s ecological civilization, and a recognition of the successful practices of “clear waters and mountains are gold and silver mountains’.

Q: How did you turn the uncontrollable desertification into controllable desertification and how did you make it a persistent and commercial endeavor?

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A: The 30-year effort in the control of desertification can be separated into two stages. The first one is desertification control and ecological repair to turn deserts into green mountains and clear waters. The second stage is to turn desert into an eco-bank. Today’s Kubuqi is full of business opportunities. We have solar power and stock raising, what’s more, we also have turned desert into green and arable land. The Kubiqi today is also a tourist resort with beaches, sunshine and a deep blue sky with glittering stars.

Q: Could you explain a bit about Elion Group. Did you think about stepping into the environmental protection industry when you founded the company? What was your vision? What was your plan? And what future you would like to bring to society?

A: Elion Group has enjoyed a history of 30 years, and we founded the company at almost the same time as Huawei. Huawei today has grown into a mega company, but Elion hasn’t grown into that scale. We have chosen a very tough industry to turn deserts into clear waters and mountains, and into gold and silver mountains. This requires long-term and huge investment, together with the unyielding effort. In the beginning 80% of people said we were wrong.

A company was born to make money, and should not do what the government was supposed to do. And desertification control wasn’t a lucrative industry. Today, however, many say that 30 years ago, it was the right decision to step into this industry, as Kubuqi is now glittering with gold and silver mountains, and glittering with finance and capital.

But Elion’s fortune belongs to the society. This year, the UNEP released an assessment report on the eco-fortune of Kubuqi to the world. In the past three decades, we have created an eco-fortune of over 500 billion RMB, and have created jobs for millions of people, of which ecological and social benefit account for 80%.

Over the next 100 years, Elion will stick to the path of green development. From the initial salt chemical methods to today’s method of energy and circular economy, desertification control has always been our mission. We will expand our business to macro-ecology and macro-environment protection, including green finance. In the future we will continue to be committed to repairing the  deserts and cities to create a more beautiful world to live in. We will also become a high-tech supplier and service provider for ecological and environment solutions. This will also be a landmark achievement for 100-year Elion. We strongly believe that we can reach our goal.

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Q: What has been the greatest difficulty that Elion have encountered over the past 30 years?

A: The greatest difficulty has been that there is no mature experience to draw from other countries in desertification control. It is said that the growth of a company is similar to practicing Buddhism, it takes three years to be introduced to the religion, five years to know a bit and thirty years to master the essence of the religion. A company will not be stable forever. The most dangerous time for a company is the period between five and thirty years since its founding. Today, Elion is more than 30 years old, and it still survives and thrives. Now we have better performance, especially over the past few years, during which the growth rates have been 50% to 100%. We are great in our strategy, and are courageous to plan ahead for the next 100 years.

Q: Could you disclose what partnership programs Elion have currently?

A: The UNEP and United Nations Organizations for the prevention of desertification are all very supportive. We have also become partners with many other companies. In Kubuqi Industrial park, we have Wanda Road, Fanhai Road, Zhengtai road, Chuanhua Road, and the names all come from our partners. Now China has many companies that focus on the environmental protection industry, ecological civilization. And on building gold and silver mountains. We are moving towards this goal. I believe this will set a successful example to the rest of the world.

Q: In environmental governance, the government takes a leading role, and enterprises can exert greater roles. What roles do Chinese private companies play in the construction of ecological civilization?

A: The Kubiqi model is a typical example. Under the guidance of government, company investment, together with farmers and herdsmen participation, we have developed into a community with shared interests on sustainable development that integrates desertification control, ecology, economy and people’s livelihood, and a community that involves government, enterprises, farmers and  society. Only in this way can we achieve a sustainable development. Therefore, in the environmental protection industry, we should exert our endeavors driven by shared interests.

Q: As the ‘Champion of the Earth’ for this generation, what would you like to say to champions of the next generation?

A: My only life goal is to combat desertification for a greener world, to have fewer deserts and more oasis, which I always value as silver and gold mountains,and this is a mission for myself. For others, I hope we should not focus only on faraway places for a second planet for living. Deserts can be turned into oasis, and oasis can further be turned into clear waters and mountains, and into gold and silver mountains. Deserts can be turned into beautiful places to live in, and they are all around us.

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