A group of foreign guests had a four-day tour of Beijing last week to explore the city’s cultural charm and innovative energy under the Belt & Road Initiative.

The event was entitled China Now: Silk Road Rediscovery Tour of Beijing upon the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. It was hosted by the Information Office of the Beijing government and China Radio International Online. Guests included celebrities, think-tank members, senior journalists and noted writers from 13 countries involved in the Belt & Road. They included Kenya, Germany, Cambodia and Thailand.

The tour started at the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition, or the Expo 2019 Beijing, in the city’s northern Yanqing district on Aug 20.

Xu Hejian, Director of the Information Office of the Beijing government, said at the launch that the event was a vivid example of stronger exchanges and mutual learning between China and other countries in the BRI.

The tour helped the participants discover a new Beijing. This was done not only with the most innovative entrepreneurs and a premier business environment but with green and humanistic development concepts, Xu added.

The Expo 2019 Beijing opened to the public on April 29 and closes Oct 7. It is one of the highest-ranking and largest international expositions held in China to showcase the country’s ecological construction.

Ye Dahua, Deputy Head of the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition Coordination Bureau, said that the expo promotes horticultural exchanges between China and other countries. It also shares the latest achievements in green development among countries.

Hans d’Orville is a Chief Adviser to the International Center for Creativity and Sustainable Development under the auspices of UNESCO. After looking around, he said that it is no doubt a world-class horticultural expo. He added that it shows that biodiversity is the basis for the survival and development of human society.

On a visit to a small courtyard at the expo, which demonstrates Yanqing’s environmental changes over the past 70 years, the visitors were impressed by the district’s achievements in ecological construction.

Before the 1990s, Yanqing residents were exposed to deserted land, stripped ground and sparse vegetation. The adverse environment and severe sandstorms endangered the survival of locals and limited the economic development of the district.

With the environmental efforts of governments and locals for almost 70 years, the desert in Yanqing has been repelled. The forest coverage rate in the district has increased from less 7 percent to more than 60 percent.

Yanqing has stepped up efforts to promote the development of three key industries: modern horticulture, tourism and ice-and-snow sports.

Smiljana Vlajic is a director of the Cultural Center in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, Serbia. She said: “It’s unbelievable to see the changes that have happened in Yanqing district. I can’t imagine what kind of energy pushed the residents to plant trees for so many years.”