8. We worked to safeguard and improve the people’s wellbeing, ensuring that our people lead happier, more satisfying, and more secure lives. Remaining committed to a people-centered philosophy of development, we worked to ensure that basic living needs are met, especially for those most in need, and that the policies for improving living standards are implemented in full.
1) We stepped up efforts to keep employment stable and promote growth in incomes. We implemented the employment-first policy, and issued guidelines on further ensuring stable employment. We provided stronger support for key groups and people having difficulties finding jobs, improved public employment services in a comprehensive manner, and facilitated the free flow of employees so that they have more job opportunities. In 2019, 55.2 billion yuan from unemployment insurance funds was refunded in order to help 1.15 million enterprises maintain stable employment, benefiting 72.9 million employees. A total of 2 billion yuan of upskilling subsidies in 1.26 million payments from the unemployment insurance funds was distributed to insured workers, while over 100 billion yuan from the surplus in unemployment insurance funds was spent on upskilling programs, and the yearly target of providing 15 million training places was surpassed. We also rolled out a system for life-long vocational skills training, and continued to augment the development of public vocational training centers. We used a combination of measures to increase personal incomes, strived to increase the salaries of workers, especially those working on the front lines of production, and carried out oversight and inspections on the resolution of the wage arrears problem. Per capita disposable personal income exceeded 30,000 yuan.
2) The social security system was further improved. A total of 968 million people are now covered by basic old-age insurance schemes. We raised the centrally-regulated share of enterprise employees’ basic old-age insurance funds from 3% to 3.5%, and steadily increased basic pension benefits for enterprise retirees. We carried out the work to transfer a portion of state capital into social security funds nationwide. We further improved the basic medical insurance and serious disease insurance systems for rural and non-working urban residents, and made solid strides in guaranteeing medical insurance for poor people and in adjusting the catalog of medicines covered by medical insurance. Worker’s compensation benefits were paid out to 1.94 million employees who have suffered work-related injuries and their dependents. We increased unemployment insurance benefits steadily. In 2019, 4.612 million unemployed people received unemployment benefits for varying durations, totaling 1,393 yuan per person per month on average. We made steady progress in establishing a unified system for subsistence allowances in rural and urban areas, improved the dynamic adjustment mechanism for subsistence allowance standards, and ensured that the system for providing assistance and basic necessities to people in extreme poverty was fully implemented. We promoted the renovation of old residential communities in cities and towns, began renovations on 3.16 million units of housing in run-down urban areas, and rapidly developed the housing rental market in large and medium-sized cities.
3) Significant progress was made in addressing inadequacies in public services, shoring up points of weakness, and enhancing the quality of service. Government budgetary spending on education continued to exceed 4% of GDP. We continued to increase funding for education in poor areas and weak sectors. The retention rate in nine-year compulsory education hit 94.8%, while the gross enrollment ratio for senior secondary education reached 89.5%, and the gross enrollment ratio for higher education exceeded 50%, with the goal of increasing student enrollments in vocational colleges by 1 million being achieved. We launched trials of a national initiative for integrating industry and vocational education of different types at different levels. We launched the Healthy China initiative, advanced trials for the development of regional medical service centers, and promoted trials for centralizing the procurement and use of medicines. We published the Guidelines on Preserving, Innovating, and Developing Traditional Chinese Medicine. We further refined policies for developing elderly care services. We continued to strengthen the protection of the rights and interests of women and children, regulated the establishment and management of childcare and early childhood education agencies, and promoted the development of care services for children under the age of three. We continued to strengthen regulation in key areas such as the food and drug sectors. Access to basic public cultural services became more equitable, and the development of the Great Wall, Grand Canal, and Long March national cultural parks was pushed forward in a coordinated manner. We offered greater support for building public fitness centers. Construction of stadiums and gymnasiums for the 2022 Winter Olympics proceeded in an orderly way. The National Medium- and Long-Term Plan on Population Aging was published. The country’s total population at the end of 2019 reached 1.40005 billion, with a natural population growth rate of 3.34‰.
In assessing economic and social development in 2019, major targets for economic growth, employment, CPI, and the balance of payments, as well as targets concerning innovation, resource conservation, environmental protection, and people’s wellbeing were satisfactorily met. Due to the rapid growth of steel, building materials, non-ferrous metals, chemicals, and the service sector, one of the obligatory targets—energy consumption per unit of GDP saw an actual reduction of only 2.6%, falling short of the projected target of around 3%. However, the total reduction from 2016 to 2019 achieved a completion rate of 87.1% for the target set in the 13th Five-Year Plan period, and thus was in line with the scheduled reduction for this period. Of the anticipatory targets, the value-added of primary industry, total retail sales of consumer goods, general government revenue, and urban per capita disposable income all fell short of expectations. The projected growth in value-added of primary industry was around 3.5%, but the actual increase was only 3.1%. The main reason for this was the sharp decline in the output of pork and some other agricultural products, with a 21.3% reduction in pork output. The expected growth for total retail sales of consumer goods was approximately 9.0%, but actual growth was only 8.0%. This was mainly due to the fact that there was a slowdown in the growth of traditional forms of consumption like automobiles and home appliances. Other new growth areas in consumer spending are still awaiting development. General government revenue was projected to grow by 5.0%, but actually grew by only 3.8%, due to the larger-than-expected tax and fee cuts made to support the development of the real economy. Urban per capita disposable income was set to grow essentially in step with economic growth, but the actual growth rate was 5.0%, which was lower than the 6.1% growth in GDP. This was mainly due to a slowdown in the growth of urban residents’ net incomes from business and property as well as larger price rises compared to the previous year.
This year, the sudden outbreak of covid-19 has heavily impacted China’s economic and social development. This epidemic is the fastest-spreading, largest in scale, and most challenging public health emergency China has faced since the founding of the People’s Republic. In the face of this serious challenge, General Secretary Xi Jinping has personally taken charge and planned our response. A Central Committee leading group for responding to the epidemic was quickly established and a central guidance team was dispatched to Hubei Province. The role of joint prevention and control mechanism under the State Council was given full play. The health and safety of the people have, right from the beginning, been our top priority in fighting the epidemic. Under the firm leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, all regions and departments conscientiously implemented the decisions and plans of the Party Central Committee and the State Council, and the whole country was united as one and ready to assist those in need. In accordance with the general requirement to stay confident, come together in solidarity, adopt a science-based approach, and take targeted measures, China quickly declared an all-out people’s war against the epidemic.
An all-out effort was made to control the epidemic and treat patients. The efforts of the entire nation were marshaled in support of Wuhan and the rest of Hubei, the country’s main battleground: more than 40,000 medical personnel were sent to help; specialized hospitals like Huoshenshan and Leishenshan and temporary hospitals for centralized treatment were completed with extraordinary speed; and vigorous efforts were made to raise the hospital admission and cure rates and bring down the infection and mortality rates. A joint mechanism and an all-of-society framework for prevention and control were set up. One after another, provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities activated level-one responses to this major public health emergency. Officials were dispatched to communities to ensure effective epidemic control there, while social organizations of all kinds, specialized social workers, and volunteers received the guidance they required to provide epidemic control and social services in accordance with law and in an orderly manner. We worked solidly to ensure the adequate supply of medical materials and stabilize the supply and prices of daily necessities. We quickly ramped up the production of facemasks and other medical protective materials and medical equipment, and added more hospital beds, thereby basically meeting epidemic control needs. We did everything possible to ensure the supply and stable prices of grain, cooking oil, and other foods such as meat, eggs, vegetables, and milk. With the intensification of scientific research into epidemic prevention and control, rapid testing kits were quickly developed and employed on a wide-scale basis. Both traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine were utilized and patients, experts and resources were concentrated in designated facilities to provide treatment, in an attempt to save as many lives as possible. Responding to the rapid spread of the epidemic around the world and guarding against imported risks, the Chinese government provided care and support for overseas Chinese nationals and arranged temporary flights to bring back to China in an orderly fashion those individuals facing difficulties abroad. In promoting international epidemic control cooperation, China strengthened cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), and has provided as much assistance as it can to countries and regions hit by the epidemic.
Coordinated efforts were made to curb the spread of the epidemic and promote economic and social development. Resumption of business and production was carried out in an orderly manner in different regions according to local conditions. With the precondition of the epidemic under effective control, active assistance was provided to enterprises to help them solve the problems they faced with regard to labor, logistics, funding, and the supply of raw materials and spare parts. Every effort was made to ensure the operation of urban and rural roads and public transportation services, and emergency assistance was provided to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises and to self-employed individuals. These measures have helped enterprises of all sizes both up- and down-stream resume business and production in a coordinated manner. By the end of April, 99.4% of large industrial enterprises had resumed production, and 94.3% of their employees had returned to work. We strengthened online approval of investment projects, ensured support for these projects in terms of labor, land use, funding, energy use, and environmental impact assessment, and acted promptly to help solve the problems major projects faced in resuming construction. A range of policies were rolled out in a timely manner to offset the impact of the epidemic. In addition to the 1.29 trillion yuan of local government special bonds to be issued in 2020 that the central government had already approved in advance last year, a further 1 trillion yuan was approved. In scaling up tax and fee cuts, we reduced or exempted VAT on small-scale taxpayers on a time-limited basis, reduced or waived enterprises’ social insurance premiums and allowed them to delay their contributions to the housing provident fund at the current stage, and lowered both power and gas costs for enterprises. These measures resulted in more than 700 billion yuan of tax and fee reductions in the first quarter of 2020. We made three general and targeted cuts to required reserve ratios, increased quotas for relending and rediscounts by 1.8 trillion yuan, and strengthened inclusive financial support for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. Delayed repayment was allowed for the loans of micro, small, and medium-sized businesses. We introduced policies and measures to expand and upgrade consumption and to boost a robust domestic market, and further extended the policies on purchase subsidies and purchase tax exemption for new-energy vehicles. We took prompt steps to explain the situation and our policies, actively responded to public concerns, and maintained the confidence of market entities. Agricultural production proceeded smoothly in the spring. With sufficient production and supply of seeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and agricultural machinery, plowing and sowing progressed smoothly. The area that will be sown with early rice is predicted to total 4.73 million hectares and the winter wheat and winter canola crops are growing well. We worked hard to resolve inadequate supply of feed required for livestock and aquaculture farming and difficulties faced in the sale of some agricultural products that were having difficulties finding buyers. Concerted efforts were made in poverty reduction. We moved quickly to ensure the resumption or start of work on poverty reduction projects, such as those to develop infrastructure in resettlement areas for people relocated from inhospitable areas, poverty-reduction workshops, projects to ensure safe drinking water in rural areas, and work-relief programs. We made the most of public-welfare posts in creating jobs, helped people in poverty find jobs in their hometowns or nearby areas, gave 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 sink back or fall into poverty due to the epidemic. Efforts were redoubled to help stabilize employment and ensure people’s basic living needs were met. We made full use of the unemployment insurance funds to support enterprises in keeping employment stable. Recruitment into SOEs, enrollment of graduate students, admission of junior college graduates into undergraduate education, and enlistment of undergraduates into the military were scaled up. Home-to-work transportation services were provided to help rural migrant workers return to their posts, and schools and colleges were organized to carry out online teaching throughout the country, both in an orderly fashion. In providing assistance to people facing financial difficulties due to the epidemic, we continued the practice of increasing social security assistance and benefit payments in step with price rises, and increased benefits and expanded assistance coverage for the current period.
Through the arduous efforts of the entire Party and the whole nation, our country has secured a decisive victory in the battle to protect Wuhan and Hubei Province, achieved a major strategic result in containing the epidemic, and made positive progress in coordinating continued prevention and control efforts with economic and social activities. These achievements once again fully demonstrate the strong vitality and great strengths of the CPC’s leadership, of our system of socialism, and of our state governance system, which will enable us to surmount any difficulty and make a significant contribution to human civilization and progress.
At the same time, we must be keenly aware that although the epidemic has been brought under effective control at home, it is still spreading rapidly in other countries. The world economy is heading toward a serious recession, and instabilities and uncertainties are clearly increasing, while China has major challenges to address in pursuing economic development. Internationally, covid-19 is severely impacting the global industrial and supply chains, while the international financial market is experiencing growing volatility. Unilateralism and protectionism are increasing, international economic and trade rules are being challenged, and geopolitical risks remain relatively high. All this will increase external risks to China’s development. Domestically, China is under great pressure in preventing covid-19 from entering from other countries and has new challenges to overcome before its economy and industrial and supply chains can recover. First, decline in domestic and foreign demand has led to impeded flows in the economy. Consumption of non-necessities was squeezed due to the impact of the epidemic, and the consumption of automobiles and other big-ticket items fell sharply. In short, growth in consumer spending has been checked. Businesses are experiencing growing difficulties in operations and receiving fewer orders. Added to this are the limitations on investments by local governments, and the result is great difficulty in increasing investment. Due to the sluggish foreign demand and the broken global supply chains, we are under increasing pressure to ensure stable foreign trade and stable foreign investment. Second, the situation is challenging for some enterprises and industries. The value-added of corporate profits dropped sharply. Consumer services were worst-affected. Many micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises are experiencing breaks in their capital chains and have therefore had to suspend or shut down production, and it is likely that more such enterprises in some localities and industries will have no choice but to declare bankruptcy. Third, there are pronounced weaknesses in our public health and emergency response systems. Our management institutions for disease prevention and control need to be further improved. Our capacity for the monitoring over, early warning of, and response to new infectious diseases needs to be enhanced. Public health infrastructure in counties, towns, and villages needs to be strengthened. Our national reserve system for important supplies also needs to be further improved. Fourth, our capacity for scientific and technological innovation is still not robust. Our R&D spending falls short of what is required to turn China into a country of innovators, while deep-seated institutional barriers to scientific and technological innovation have yet to be removed, and our country still has to depend on others for core technologies in key fields. Fifth, reforms in key sectors need to be strengthened. Mechanisms still need to be improved so that factors of production are priced by the market. Continued efforts will be made to overcome challenges with regard to key reforms such as those involving SOEs and state-owned assets, the fiscal, tax, and financial systems, the business environment, the private sector, the expansion of domestic demand, and integrated urban-rural development. Sixth, risks are accumulating in some key sectors. Externally-generated risks are on the rise, credit default risks may increase, and risks for some small and medium-sized financial institutions are relatively high. Government at all levels face higher prevention and control expenditures and smaller tax revenues due to the covid-19 outbreak, and some county-level governments are even facing difficulties in their financial operations. Seventh, there are prominent problems that need to be addressed to ensure people’s wellbeing. It has become more challenging to stabilize employment, and we are facing mounting pressure to generate employment for college graduates and other key groups and increasing difficulties with regard to creating jobs for unemployed people in some places. It has also become more difficult to increase incomes, and some workers find their salary incomes decreasing. We face a formidable task in lifting those still living below the poverty line out of poverty. Areas of extreme poverty face new challenges in ensuring compulsory education, basic medical services, and safe housing for residents living below the poverty line. There are also weak areas and deficiencies to address in ecological conservation and environmental governance. Public service systems, such as those for old-age services, childcare, and education, fall short of the expectations of the general public. In addition, there are still areas of improvement in our work. For instance, our policies on epidemic control need to be better coordinated, with some still functioning in a fragmented or isolated manner. Some policies need to be better implemented. Our methods of governance and capacity in some areas need to be improved and strengthened. Pointless formalities and bureaucratism still exist in the performance of our work.
While noting these difficulties and challenges, we must recognize that the shocks and impacts of covid-19 on China are short-term and manageable, and that the fundamentals of the Chinese economy, with its strong potential and great resilience, remain favorable for long-term growth. With challenges also come opportunities, and challenges can turn into opportunities if dealt with well. Under the firm leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, with the manifest strengths of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, along with our strong ability to mobilize all sectors of society, China’s formidable comprehensive strength, and the concerted efforts of the Party, the military, and the people of all our ethnic groups, we will be able to defeat this epidemic, and we are also certain to maintain good momentum in our country’s economic and social development, realize the goal of eradicating poverty, and achieve moderate prosperity.