Leaning on the rail of a wooden bridge, Min Yongle watched the limpid river and saw a fleet of canoes drifting over in a single file.
He and his girl friend were passing by one of the 66 bridges on the web of canals in Giethoorn, known as Holland's Venice. Holding his girl friend's hand, Min cherished this tranquil moment and wondered if he would feel anything like this again when they go back to China.
Rapid development and urbanization in China posed daunting social and environmental challenges. In the past three decades alone, China has urbanized more people than the entire population of the United States, and by 2030 it is expected to have over a billion urban dwellers.
After years of wild expanding, China has realized the great importance to develop green urban spaces to provide better living environment for residents. China has begun to make its cities more eco-friendly.
China is learning from the world, at the same time, contributing to the world.
Early September, delegates from 20 countries gathered for a global forum on canal city development in Yangzhou, a historical city at the lower reach of the Grand Canal.
The Grand Canal spans over 2,000 km between Beijing and Hangzhou, and was listed as a world heritage site in 2014.
The forum, organized by the World Historic and Cultural Canal Cities Cooperation Organization (WCCO), released an initiative calling for canal cities around the world to work together in ecological and cultural preservation.
Samuel Cazenave, vice mayor of France's Angouleme, is impressed by the combination of scenery, museums and cultural businesses along the canal in Yangzhou. "The cultural and scenic attractions extend from the river so naturally," he said.
Mustafa Abu Hadid from Egypt's Ismailia visited Yangzhou several times. Each time he came, he found the city greener and more beautiful. "It is truly amazing how quickly and effectively China improves the environment of its cities," he said.
China has become a key hub of world ecological development, Hadid said.
Witnessing Chinese people's enthusiasm for a tranquil, idyllic escape from fast-paced modern life in overcrowded cities, Geesje Esselbrugge from The Netherlands sensed great opportunity in China, therefore she took a ride in the trend and built her own eco-resort in Yancheng, Jiangsu.
At the forum, Esselbrugge reaffirmed her business hunch about China becoming a hub of world eco-resorts.
Esselbrugge, who represented Giethoorn in the forum, said investment in ecology is not the fastest way to rake in profit. "But in the long run, it benefits everyone living in the city, improving life, bringing income through tourism and making locals proud of their hometown," she said.
Giampiero Mura, speaker of Italy's Olbia city council, hoped his hometown can become as beautiful as Yangzhou someday.