Rising to Challenges and Remedying Shortcomings to Reach the Goal of Moderate Prosperity
Speaking at the fourth meeting of the Central Commission for Financial and Economic Affairs, General Secretary Xi Jinping said that China has already essentially achieved the objectives for building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, but stressed that although our efforts have yielded better results than anticipated, there still remain a number of weak links that need to be fixed. We must therefore go on the offensive, focusing our strength and working with greater intensity to ensure that these shortcomings are addressed quickly.
I. We have made important progress on addressing inadequacies in the push toward moderate prosperity, by focusing on key sectors and challenges.
We have achieved decisive success in the fight against poverty.
We have pioneered new methods of development-oriented poverty alleviation, strengthened poverty alleviation centered on the expansion of employment, consumption, and local industries, increased construction of infrastructure in impoverished areas, improved mechanisms for targeted poverty alleviation and for broad participation in these initiatives, and vigorously advanced efforts such as the provision of designated assistance. By the end of 2019, 7.33 million registered poor households had been provided support for renovating dangerous housing, while 35,000 resettlement zones and more than 2.6 million homes were built, making it possible for 9.47 million registered poor people to be resettled from inhospitable areas. We thus completed essentially all relevant construction tasks laid out in the 13th Five-Year Plan a year ahead of schedule. In deeply impoverished areas such as the "three regions" (the Tibet Autonomous Region, Tibetan ethnic areas in Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces, and the four prefectures of Hotan, Aksu, Kashgar, and Kizilsu in southern Xinjiang) and "three prefectures" (Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan, and Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu), initiatives to assure people of enough food and clothing have markedly improved, while prominent problems in guaranteeing access to compulsory education, basic medical services, and safe housing have generally been resolved. In 2019, net income per capita among registered poor households nationwide reached 9,808 yuan. The rural poor population shrunk by 11.09 million, meaning our objective of lifting people above the current poverty line was 97% complete, and 344 counties were removed from poverty, with this objective 94% complete. Meanwhile, the poverty rate fell to 0.6%, and region-wide poverty was largely eradicated. Since the beginning of 2020, the Covid-19 epidemic has posed a serious challenge to our fight against poverty, but we have worked hard to advance poverty alleviation in coordination with epidemic prevention and control. To be specific, we have accelerated the resumption or start of work on projects including those to build facilities in resettlement zones, set up poverty-alleviation workshops, ensure access to safe drinking water, and provide disaster relief through employment. We have made the most of public-welfare posts in creating jobs, helped people in poverty find jobs in their hometowns or nearby areas, given priority to assisting workers struggling with poverty in returning to their jobs in cities or finding jobs in other places, and quickly enacted measures to provide support and assistance for those who have lapsed or relapsed into poverty as a result of the epidemic.
Winning the fight against poverty is the most important aspect of efforts to fulfill our goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Chamdo is a prefecture-level city in Tibet with one of the highest poverty rates in the region. The extent of poverty there is profound, and the difficulty and costs involved in alleviating it are immense. Since the beginning of the campaign to eradicate poverty, Chamdo has helped poor people escape poverty through multiple measures including relocation. In 2019, Chamdo achieved the anticipated objective of essentially eliminating absolute poverty in all 11 of its counties (districts). Left: A resident stands in front of a building for relocated people in Baxoi County, May 10, 2020. Right: A section of the resettlement complex in Baxoi County. PHOTOS BY XINHUA REPORTER ZHAN YAN
We have picked up the pace of environmental protection and restoration efforts.
Solid progress has been made in developing eco-civilization, and the notion that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets has taken root in the hearts of the people. We have pushed deeper with our campaigns and plans for the prevention and control of air, water, and soil pollution, with our air quality continuing to improve, our mitigation efforts at major rivers including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers showing increasingly noticeable results, and our anti-desertification efforts becoming a model for the world. In 2019, energy consumption per unit of GDP fell 2.6%, the share of surface water classified as fair in quality (Grades I-III) reached 74.9% while the share of poor quality water in the Grade V category fell to 3.4%, PM2.5 concentration in cities at or above the prefecture level that failed to meet PM2.5 standards was 23.1% lower than in 2015, and chemical oxygen demand and total emissions of major pollutants including ammoniacal nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides fell 11.5%, 11.9%, 22.5%, and 16.3%, respectively, compared to 2015. In all of these examples, the targets laid out in the Outline of the 13th Five-Year Plan were reached ahead of schedule. By the end of 2019, forest coverage reached 22.96% and growing stock volume reached 17.56 billion cubic meters, accounting for 25% of net growth in green space globally. Urban living environments have seen further improvement, with the greening rate and green coverage rate for built-up urban areas nationwide reaching 37.3% and 41.1%, respectively, and an average of 14.1 square meters of green park space per urban resident. National solid waste imports were reduced by 40.4%, and close to 87% of dark and fetid bodies of water in cities at the prefecture level or above were cleaned up. The campaign to build a beautiful countryside has yielded striking results, with more than 84% of administrative villages now covered by garbage collection and disposal systems. Institutional development in the environmental domain has been further refined, with implementation of the river and lake chief systems driving deeper and improvement of protections for natural forests. In addition, trials for the No-Waste Cities initiative have been launched successfully and implementation of the waste permit system has accelerated, while steady progress has been made with initiatives for controlling the total amount and intensity of energy consumption, conserving water nationwide, and fostering environmentally friendly lifestyles.
We have made further progress on remedying deficiencies, shoring up weaknesses, and raising quality in public services.
We have moved more quickly to address shortcomings in public education. Government budgetary spending on education has continued to exceed 4% of GDP, with increased funding to remedy weak points in the system and to help areas in financial difficulty. At the end of 2019, the student retention rate over nine years of compulsory education reached 94.8%, the gross enrollment rate in secondary education reached 89.5%, and the gross enrollment rate for higher education exceeded 50%. Moreover, the goal of increasing enrollment in vocational colleges by 1 million was accomplished. Medical and healthcare services continued to improve. We launched the Healthy China initiative, advanced trials for the development of regional medical service centers, and promoted trials for centralizing the procurement and usage of medicines, while also continuing to preserve traditional Chinese medicine and promote innovation and development in this field. Targets set out in the 13th Five-Year Plan for raising the numbers of hospital beds, certified (and assistant) physicians, and registered nurses per thousand people were achieved ahead of schedule. Childcare and eldercare services were also improved. We regulated the organization and management of childcare facilities, supported private entities in running more public-interest childcare services, and boosted care services for children under the age of three. Meanwhile, we further refined policies for developing eldercare services, and guided private entities in providing quality services at reasonable prices through market-based means.
We have significantly enhanced the capacity of our social safety net to meet basic needs.
Adhering to the people-centered development philosophy, we made further improvements to the social security system. At the end of the first quarter of this year, basic old-age insurance covered 968 million people, representing a coverage rate of 89%, while the centrally regulated share of enterprise employees' basic old-age insurance funds was increased from 3% to 3.5%. We have begun transferring a portion of state capital into social security funds, and basic pension payments for retirees have steadily increased. Essentially all urban and rural residents are now covered by basic medical insurance, with more than 1.35 billion people included. Furthermore, the medical insurance and major illness insurance systems have shown continued improvement, and solid strides have been made in guaranteeing medical insurance for poor people. We have stepped up employment assistance for key groups and people having difficulty finding work. We issued refunds totaling 55.2 billion yuan from unemployment insurance funds in order to help 1.15 million enterprises maintain stable employment, benefitting 72.9 million workers, allocated more than 100 billion yuan from the surplus in unemployment insurance funds for upskilling programs, and saw that 4.61 million unemployed people received unemployment benefits for varying durations. Steady progress was made in establishing a unified system for subsistence allowances in rural and urban areas, the system for adjusting subsistence allowance threshold was refined and the system for providing assistance and basic necessities to people in extreme poverty was fully implemented. We further promoted the employment of disabled people, and made continued improvements to the funding system for this purpose. Finally, renovations began on 3.16 million units of housing in run-down urban areas last year.
A view of Hebin Park in Yulin, Shaanxi Province, May 24, 2020. To reach moderate prosperity, it is essential that we move quickly to address prominent shortcomings related to the environment. The city of Yulin, located at the southern edge of the Mu Us Desert, has turned once barren lands completely green, creating a beautiful forest city in this remote part of China, thanks to anti-desertification and afforestation efforts. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER TAO MING
At the same time, we have made solid progress on all other tasks related to the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects; we have made progress while maintaining overall economic stability and constantly improving the structure of the economy; development between regions and urban and rural areas has become noticeably more coordinated; people's democracy has continued to expand; reform and opening up has advanced vigorously; living standards have consistently improved; per capita disposable income has grown essentially in step with GDP; solid progress has been made in building our cultural soft power; the people have become more well-rounded and social-minded; low-carbon, environmentally friendly ways of living and working are increasingly becoming the norm throughout society; and the institutional strengths of socialism with Chinese characteristics are being translated into efficient national governance on a consistent basis.
II. We have accurately perceived new challenges arising from the Covid-19 epidemic, while maintaining strategic resolve.
The sudden emergence of the novel coronavirus has rocked the economy and society in 2020. Downward pressure on the economy has increased, industries and enterprises face numerous operational difficulties, prominent deficiencies remain in our capacity for scientific and technological innovation, reform still needs to be intensified in key areas where risks are clustering to a certain extent, and our efforts to ensure public wellbeing are facing significant challenges. These issues have added new hurdles in our work to remedy shortcomings on the path toward moderate prosperity, and therefore must be taken very seriously.
Stabilizing employment among key groups has become more difficult.
Due to the impact of the epidemic, there were 1.05 million less new urban jobs between January and April 2020 than there were in the same period the previous year, with the surveyed urban unemployment rate rising to 6%. The labor demands of enterprises dropped significantly, with businesses in some areas finding it harder to keep their employees on, and people who lost their jobs have faced greater difficulty finding new employment. After the epidemic passes, there will be more job seekers and more people wanting to move elsewhere for work, further exacerbating employment pressure on areas in the central and western regions that are major sources of migrant labor. Furthermore, another record high for the number of university graduates was set this year, with 8.74 million graduates, and this will also amplify the pressure on employment.
The fight against poverty faces unforeseen hurdles.
There are still 52 counties, 2,707 villages, and 5.51 million people that have not yet emerged from poverty. Though these are relatively small numbers, they represent the poorest portion of society and the most difficult aspect of the fight against poverty. We still face considerable challenges in our efforts to guarantee that people living in deeply impoverished areas have access to compulsory education, basic medical services, and safe housing. As a result of the epidemic, members of many poor families have been prevented from going elsewhere to work, sales of products that are part of poverty alleviation programs have hit a slump, rural tourism and other ways of earning additional income have not been able to function normally, some poverty alleviation projects have been delayed, and wages and business income have shrunk noticeably for the poor population. Furthermore, while the difficulty of pulling people still living in poverty out has increased, some people who have already escaped poverty or who are hovering just above the line are also at risk of falling in. Consolidating our achievements in the fight against poverty has thus become a greater challenge.
Shortcomings in the field of public services have become more pronounced.
The Covid-19 outbreak has exposed quite obvious shortcomings in our public health emergency response systems. Our disease prevention and control systems call for improvement, our capacity for identifying and responding to novel contagious diseases is lacking, our public health infrastructure is relatively weak at the county and township levels, and our national stockpile system for important supplies is not yet complete. There are still shortcomings and bottlenecks in environmental governance, and systems for public services such as eldercare, childcare, and education fall short of the expectations of the public.
III. We will face difficulties courageously and work hard to complete the remaining tasks for building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
Employment is pivotal to people's wellbeing. On May 20, 2020, the city of Hohhot in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region held its first event in the 100-day career fair campaign for 2020 university graduates. Here graduates attending the event are seen looking up information about job positions at a service station. CNS / PHOTO BY DING GENHOU
We will secure a decisive victory against poverty.
In 2020, we will lift all rural residents living below the current poverty line out of poverty; this target is the solemn commitment that the CPC Central Committee has made to the people of China and the basic benchmark for the goal of building a moderately prosperous society, and it must be reached on schedule. By fully implementing the working mechanism whereby the central government is responsible for overall planning, provincial-level governments assume principal responsibility, and city and county governments are responsible for program implementation, we will continue to focus on poverty alleviation efforts in deeply impoverished areas such as the "three regions" and "three prefectures", list all counties and villages that have not yet eliminated poverty in order to oversee their poverty alleviation efforts, and ensure that rural residents living below the current poverty line are lifted out of poverty and the poor counties are removed from the poverty list. We will intensify efforts to alleviate poverty through employment, and give priority to helping impoverished workers return to their posts. We will accelerate the launch or re-launch of poverty reduction programs, encourage enterprises to recruit employees from poor areas and particularly from registered poor households, and provide support to leading enterprises and poverty reduction workshops in creating job opportunities for local people. We will further promote consumption as a means of poverty alleviation, ensure better linkage between production and sales, and address the difficulties some impoverished areas have in selling their agricultural products due to the epidemic. In reducing poverty through developing local industries, we will make good use of assistance funds and microfinance, allow local governments to make appropriate adjustments and improvements to poverty-alleviation funds this year, and increase rewards and subsidies for related programs. We will work quickly to start, reopen and press ahead with final-phase projects to relocate people from inhospitable areas and to ensure safe drinking water for poor rural populations. We will set up detailed follow-up support measures for relocated families, and shore up weaknesses in education and medical care facilities in large resettlement areas. We will carry out work-relief programs in more sectors and more areas for greater numbers of impoverished people. We will see that the entire poor population is covered under basic medical insurance, major illness insurance, and medical assistance subsidies and improve basic support mechanisms for people suffering from major illnesses in order to effectively address the problem of people falling into poverty due to illness or epidemic disease. We will implement targeted preventative measures to help the nearly 3 million people at risk of lapsing into poverty and the nearly 2 million people at risk of relapsing into poverty, and establish long-acting mechanisms for promoting stable exists from poverty and guarding against relapses. We will also strengthen poverty alleviation efforts in targeted impoverished areas, and support old revolutionary base areas in reducing poverty and promoting revitalization and development. We will make solid progress with regard to the rural revitalization strategy and consolidate progress in poverty alleviation, striving toward the goal of common prosperity for people who have exited poverty.
We will make every effort to stabilize employment.
To keep employment stable, we must instill confidence in our more than 100 million market entities, and do our utmost to help businesses, particularly micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and self-employed individuals get through this challenging time. We must enhance the buffering effects of macro-level policy, while fiscal, monetary, and investment policy must work in concert to support the stabilization of employment. All tax and fee reduction policies must be fully implemented for our businesses, so that they can sustain themselves and assure success for the future. We will push forward the reduction of enterprises' production and operating costs, increase financial support, help market entities overcome difficulties and achieve development, provide support for enterprises to keep their employees on, regulate layoffs, and use all means available to us to stabilize and expand employment. We will continue to step up support for enterprises in keeping their employees on and for the provision of vocational skills training with a focus on key groups such as college graduates, rural migrant workers, workers from impoverished areas, and discharged military personnel. We will make full use of unemployment insurance and other assistance mechanisms, boost interconnectivity with social security policy, and increase the provision of public employment services so that they cover both urban and rural permanent residents. We need to promote market-based employment for college graduates, accelerate the implementation of various existing plans for growing college enrollment, push state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to keep expanding recruitment of college graduates, encourage graduates to find employment at the community level, and appropriately expand programs for graduates to provide community-level services in local schools, agro-technical institutions, hospitals, and poverty relief offices in townships. We will leverage the role of business startups in boosting employment, launch the initiative to develop leaders of rural innovation and entrepreneurship, offer support for people to return or move to the countryside to start businesses, and facilitate flexible employment through multiple channels. We will assist people with disabilities, zero-employment families, and other groups facing difficulty in securing work.
We will move faster to remedy shortcomings in public health.
By strengthening our public health emergency response system, we will build a safety net and protective barrier for maintaining public health security and safeguarding people's health. We will improve the public health services system and strengthen legal guarantees in this area, while appropriately increasing government subsidies for basic public health services and stepping up the development of public health personnel and primary level prevention and control capacity. We will improve systems and mechanisms for preventing and controlling major epidemics, refine the national public health emergency response system, boost the capacity of centers for disease control across the board, and strive to ensure that bio-safety level-3 laboratories are available in all provinces. We will put in place a mobilization mechanism whereby specialized infectious disease hospitals as well as the infectious disease and respiratory departments of comprehensive hospitals play the main role and other medical institutions act as the reserve, and make plans for national bases to treat major epidemics. We will accelerate the R&D of vaccines, medicines, and rapid testing technologies, and facilitate the revitalization of traditional Chinese medicine. We will press ahead with the Healthy China initiative, and carry out extensive patriotic health campaigns.
We will effectively address prominent environmental pollution problems in key regions.
Building an eco-civilization is vital for sustaining the development of the Chinese nation, and the public is eagerly awaiting faster improvements in environmental quality. While maintaining the orientation and intensity of our efforts, we will address problems at the source, control pollution in a targeted manner, bring about sustained improvement in the environment, and speed up the establishment of a modern environmental governance system. We will consolidate our successes in the campaigns to keep our skies blue, our waters clear, and our land pollution-free. We will establish long-term mechanisms for clean winter heating in northern China while guaranteeing access to heating, upgrade more steel enterprises so that they meet the ultra-low emissions target, control pollution caused by diesel trucks, build more special-purpose railway lines, and continue to bring about a shift in freight transportation from highways to railways. We will take steps to further enhance treatment of urban sewage, clean up dark and fetid bodies of water in cities, improve the water environment in the Bohai Sea region through comprehensive measures, control pollution in agricultural and rural areas, protect water sources, and advance the implementation of a number of major projects to protect the environment in the Yangtze and Yellow river basins. We will draw up a national plan for undertaking major projects to protect and restore important ecosystems, refine the river chief and lake chief systems, continue our holistic approach to the conservation of mountain, river, lake, forest, farmland, and grassland ecosystems, and work to address groundwater over-abstraction through comprehensive measures. We will improve mechanisms for ecological compensation, draft regulations regarding compensation for ecological conservation efforts, carry out comprehensive ecological compensation trials, and develop ecological civilization pilot zones. We will develop green industries, publish the Green Technology Catalog, and support third-party participation in pollution control in industrial parks. We will step up efforts to shore up weaknesses in environmental infrastructure such as facilities for urban sewage and garbage treatment and for collection and disposal of medical waste and hazardous waste. We will promote waste sorting across the country, look into measures for controlling the pollution created by express delivery packaging and the problem of excessive packaging, and increase the percentage of urban household waste that is disposed of in ways that do not harm the environment.
We will take solid steps to ensure people's wellbeing and satisfy their basic needs.
To reach the goal of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, we must effectively address the issues of greatest concern to the people that impact them most directly in their everyday lives, and see that the people enjoy increasingly strong feelings of fulfillment, security, and happiness. We will develop more equitable and higher-quality education by stepping up the development of boarding schools located in towns and townships and county schools, consolidating efforts to make senior high education universally available, providing quality special needs education and continuing education, increasing the provision of public-interest preschool education through multiple channels, and expanding college enrollment in rural and poor areas, thus ensuring that all families and children have access to educational resources. We will ensure people's basic wellbeing through a combination of measures, including increasing basic pension benefits for retirees, raising minimum basic pension benefits for urban and rural residents, ensuring that benefits are received on time and in full, expanding the coverage of unemployment insurance and subsistence allowances, and providing assistance to anyone who runs into temporary difficulty due to disaster or illness. We will adopt effective measures to control prices, stabilize production, and guarantee supply of major agricultural products at important junctures, implement mechanisms for raising social security assistance and benefit payments in step with price increases, and reduce the impact of price increases on basic quality of life for people in financial difficulty.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 11, 2020)