China's Xi orders better protection of cultural heritage

China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - China needs to step up its efforts to protect its cultural heritage, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday, warning it remained an arduous task for the world’s second-largest economy.

Officials have repeatedly warned that China’s cultural sites are being threatened by breakneck development, theft, damage from a booming tourism industry and poor regulation.

Xi told a meeting on cultural protection that a country’s cultural heritage is a precious treasure handed down from its ancestors, state news agency Xinhua reported.

While much progress had been made, problems remain, he said.

“We must be sober-minded in saying that we are a country of great culture and are in period of rapid urbanization, so cultural protection work remains an arduous task,” Xi said.

All levels of government must be in “a state of awe” when it comes to increasing their commitment to protecting culture, he said.

The treasures of China’s thousands of years of culture face being plundered, sometimes violently, or disappearing under bulldozers as authorities either do not care or do not have the resources to look after them, China’s culture chief said in September.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel