4. We fully implemented the innovation-driven development strategy and continued to unlock new enthusiasm for innovation and business startups.
We bolstered the role of innovation as the primary driver of development. Substantive breakthroughs were made in reforming the management system for science and technology, and efficiency was greatly enhanced in the national innovation system. High-tech industries and strategic emerging industries recorded rapid growth, the Internet Plus action plan was further implemented, and much progress was made toward fostering new growth drivers. Innovation and business startups have been elevated to yet higher levels, and new strides have been made in building China into a country of innovators.
1) Our scientific and technological strength and innovation capacity continued to increase.
China's spending on R&D reached 2.18% of GDP, and the contribution of scientific and technological advances to economic growth hit 58.5%. Basic research was further strengthened with a number of firsts being achieved: Chinese scientists demonstrated a toffoli gate in a semiconductor three-qubit system, found evidence for Majorana bound states in an iron-based superconductor, and created a single-chromosome eukaryote. We also saw a constant stream of major scientific and technological advances throughout the year: The Chang'e-4 lunar probe successfully landed on the far side of the moon; China's second homemade aircraft carrier took to the seas for its trial voyage; our homemade large amphibious aircraft completed its first overwater flight; the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System began providing services to the world; and China's 5G system equipment has reached the pre-commercial level.
We ensured faster and better-quality infrastructure construction in major science and technology, civil-space, information, and other fields, and continued improving the management mechanisms and assessment and incentive systems for scientific research. Pilot reforms for comprehensive innovation have made further progress – 123 out of 169 preliminary trials were completed and a second batch of 23 reform measures are currently being replicated and applied on a broader scale. Efforts to see Beijing and Shanghai become global science and technology innovation centers picked up pace, plans on building Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area into an international center for science and technology innovation were issued for implementation, and construction on the three comprehensive national science centers in Beijing's Huairou, Shanghai's Zhangjiang, and Anhui's Hefei advanced smoothly. The Implementation Plan for the Innovation-Driven Development Strategy of Hainan Province was released.
Our state-level new areas, development zones, 20 national innovation demonstration zones, and 168 national new- and high-tech development zones played a stronger role in leading development, and good progress was made in the construction of national technological innovation centers for high-speed trains and NEVs. We unveiled the Guidelines on Building National Industrial Innovation Centers, and stepped up the building of the three national industrial innovation centers for advanced computing, advanced memory technology, and bio-breeding. We continued to enhance the role of enterprises as the principal entities in technological innovation, and certified a further 111 state-level enterprise technology centers.
2) Business startups and innovation initiatives were intensified.
The Guidelines on Promoting High-Quality Development of Innovation and Business Startups and Upgrading the National Business Startups and Innovation Initiative was promulgated. We continued to carry out the Three-Year Action Plan for Developing Business Startups and Innovation Platforms in Manufacturing, and confirmed 150 demonstration projects to pilot these platforms. Over 6,500 maker spaces have served 400,000 entrepreneurial teams, and helped generate over 1.4 million jobs; 1,824 rural maker spaces have filled 49,000 places on training courses and incubated 23,000 enterprises. We encouraged more robust development of business startups and innovation demonstration centers and similar demonstration hubs for small and micro businesses, and set up a sound national information service portal for related policies. We successfully held the 2018 National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Week and the Innovating China Tour. The National Venture Capital Guide Fund for Emerging Industries operated effectively, helpingmore than 1,200 new enterprises receive investment. The number of newly registered businesses in 2018 grew by 10.3%, with an average of 18,400 new businesses daily.
3) Emerging industries enjoyed vigorous development.
The National Development Plan for Strategic Emerging Industries during the 13th Five-Year Plan Period was fully implemented. We promoted the development of strategic industry clusters, and moved faster to advance major projects on the "Internet Plus" model, next-generation information infrastructure, innovation-driven AI development, bio-tech industry, and civil-space infrastructure. The value-added of large high-tech manufacturing enterprises grew 11.7%, much higher than that of large industrial enterprises as a whole. The E-Commerce Law was promulgated, and a number of policies were issued over the course of the year to guide and regulate the development of new forms of business, such as the digital economy and the sharing economy. Accommodative and prudential regulation over new industries and new forms of business was further improved, allowing for the emergence of a stream of new hot innovations such as smart retail and capacity sharing. The online retail sales of goods grew by 25.4%, accounting for 18.4% of total retail sales of consumer goods, an increase of 3.4 percentage points from the previous year. We accelerated the building of eight national comprehensive experimental zones for big data in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, Guizhou, and other areas.
4) The military-civilian integration strategy was implemented to good effect.
Construction began on demonstration zones to promote innovation in military-civilian integration (MCI). Key special MCI projects on science and technology and the platform for military-civilian collaborative innovation in science and technology were launched. Smooth progress was made in major MCI demonstration projects, and strong steps were taken to develop the national MCI information platform. The national MCI industrial investment fund for defense-related science, technology, and industry was put into operation, along with the national-level MCI industrial investment fund. We also broadened investment and financing channels for military-civilian integration, by offering support for qualified MCI enterprises to issue corporate bonds. The third China Dual-Use Technology and Application Contest and the fourth Exhibition of MCI High-Tech Equipment Outcomes were successfully held.
5. We pursued deeper reform and greater opening-up and unlocked more drivers of economic and social development.
Reform of the State Council's institutions progressed as per the arrangements in the Plan on Deepening Reform of Party and State Institutions. A vast array of activities were held to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up, and a host of major measures to promote reform and opening-up were implemented.
1) The business environment consistently improved.
Reforms to streamline administration, delegate powers, improve regulation, and upgrade services continued apace. Fully implementing the Negative List for Market Access, we issued the 2018 version, and took steps to ensure industries, sectors, and commercial activities not on the list could be fairly accessed by all types of market entities in accordance with law. We also abolished a number of items subject to administrative approval including those for automobile investment projects. The time taken to set up a business has been dramatically shortened to within 8.5 working days in cities at and above sub-provincial level and provincial capitals.
The reform separating out the business license from certificates required for starting a business was rolled out nationwide, and the national reform to merge 24 types of certification into one certificate was fully implemented. Reform of the industrial production licensing system picked up speed, and the number of product categories has been cut from 38 to 24. Trial reforms on the approval system for construction projects were started in Beijing and 14 other cities, as well as in Zhejiang Province. In the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ranking (2019), China jumped from 78th to 46th place. We also piloted a business environment evaluation suited to China's conditions in 22 cities, marking the first step toward establishing China's own business environment evaluation system.
Progress was made in promoting the oversight model using randomly selected inspectors to inspect randomly selected entities and requiring the prompt release of results, and full coverage of daily oversight in market regulation was basically realized. We continued building the social credit system. We introduced targeted measures in 19 key sectors against acts in bad faith, including telecom fraud, tax evasion, and tax fraud. The mechanisms of joint incentives for acts of good faith and joint punishment for acts of bad faith produced initial results.
We launched reforms to see that people need only log in to one website or visit one place and make one trip to access a government service. We formulated lists of responsibilities on data sharing for departments under the State Council, and basically established a national unified system of platforms for sharing and exchanging data. This system has so far facilitated data exchanges of 36 billion in number. We worked hard to provide more convenient approval services, and made solid progress in the "less certificates, more convenience" initiative and the campaign to free up 100 bottlenecks preventing people from accessing government services.
2) Reform of state capital and SOEs picked up pace.
The reform to introduce mixed ownership to SOEs moved forward in an active and steady manner. We issued the policies for deepening pilot reforms on mixed ownership, and carried out pilot mixed-ownership reforms sequentially in 50 SOEs in three groups, yielding important results. The Guidelines on Reforming the Salary-Setting Mechanism for SOEs and the Guidelines on Promoting Pilot Reforms in State Capital Investment and Management Companies were published. A system anchored by the Guidelines on Deepening Reform of SOEs as well as other supplementary policies was put in place. The Guidelines on Strengthening Constraints on SOEs' Debt-to-Asset Ratios were promulgated, marking the initial step in setting up a constraint mechanism for SOEs' debt-to-asset ratios. The modern SOE system with Chinese characteristics was further improved, and faster progress was made in establishing a corporate governance structure with effective checks and balances and flexible and efficient market-based operating mechanisms.
3) The private sector received stronger support.
We strengthened the protection of property rights and intellectual property rights (IPR). We set up a robust mechanism to ensure coordinated property rights protection, conducted a review of all regulations and normative documents relating to property rights protection, and carried out extensive campaigns to address failures within government institutions to act in good faith in this area. The Plan for the Internet Plus IPR Protection was unveiled. In line with our efforts to promote entrepreneurship, we repealed the Provisional Regulations for Private Enterprises. We worked to improve the transmission mechanism of monetary policy, and encouraged financial institutions to provide more credit to the real economy and to manufacturing firms, private enterprises, and small and micro businesses in particular. We set up instruments to support private enterprises in debt financing and help them find market-based solutions to financing problems.
4) The reform of the fiscal, tax, and financial systems registered steady progress.
We continued reforms to divide fiscal powers and expenditure responsibilities between central and local governments on a sector by sector basis, and made consistent improvements to performance-based budgetary management. In the area of tax, further progress was made in VAT reform. We revised the Law on Individual Income Tax and its implementation regulations, raised the income tax threshold, introduced six special deductible items, and improved the structure of tax rates. The environmental protection tax came into force.
We published policies on improving regulation of systemically important financial institutions, on strengthening oversight over nonfinancial firms' investment in financial institutions, and on improving the management of state-owned financial capital. The orderly development of private banks was promoted, with approval being granted for the establishment of 17 private banks.
5) The Belt and Road Initiative made new advances.
A symposium was held to mark the fifth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). During the symposium the BRI's future trajectory was outlined with a view to ensuring it continues building momentum and producing concrete outcomes. Focusing on key areas and key countries, we worked to build on the collective desire for cooperation and promoted the coordination of development plans. To date, a total of 171 inter-governmental cooperation documents have been signed with over 150 countries and international organizations.
We steadily increased international industrial-capacity cooperation. The positive effect of industrial concentration in overseas economic and trade cooperation zones was much more noticeable, and third-market cooperation documents were signed with over ten countries, including France, Japan, and Singapore. There was substantial progress in key BRI projects like the China-Laos and China-Thailand rail lines and the China-UAE Industrial Park. Construction is fully underway on the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed line and making smooth progress on key port projects like Gwadar in Pakistan. We made important improvements to the quality and efficiency of the China-Europe freight train services. The services have so far registered over 13,000 trips, and have seen a 20-percentage-point increase in the number of return journeys to China. Marked progress was made in aviation connectivity among BRI countries, with the opening of 106 new air routes.
The BRI International Science Organizations Alliance was established to promote collaboration on building technology transfer platforms between China and ASEAN, Arab states, and countries in south Asia, central Asia, and central and eastern Europe, and to co-establish science and technology parks with the Philippines, Indonesia, and six other countries. We successfully hosted the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which produced many positive outcomes. Work on the Digital Silk Road progressed steadily with the signing of cooperation MOUs with 16 countries, and faster moves were made to promote Silk Road E-Commerce across the globe with the signing of cooperation agreements with 17 countries.
6) China made solid progress in developing as a trader of quality.
We successfully hosted the first China International Import Expo, an event which has shown to the world China's determination to continue opening its market and promote economic globalization. We stepped up negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, signed an upgraded free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore, and completed FTA negotiations with Mauritius. With this, China has further strengthened its bilateral and multilateral economic and trade cooperation, and signed a total of 17 FTAs with 25 countries and regions.
We adopted 53 measures to deepen reform and promote innovation in pilot free trade zones, and applied 30 practices developed from trial reforms in pilot free trade zones across the country. We began work on building China (Hainan) Pilot Free Trade Zone, and carried out exploratory work on setting up free trade ports with Chinese features. We built more integrated experimental zones for cross-border e-commerce, improved retail import supervision and taxation policies on cross-border e-commerce, and expanded the scope of trials on market procurement trade. These steps have helped support the vigorous development of new forms and models of trade such as cross-border e-commerce and market procurement trade. We lowered China's overall tariff level from 9.8% to 7.5% and worked to balance China's foreign trade by actively expanding imports. The diversity of China's market grew continuously. The total value of imported and exported goods for the year stood at 30.51 trillion yuan, an increase of 9.7%.
7) The foreign investment environment was continuously improved.
Restrictions on market access were relaxed across the board. Two editions of the 2018 negative list for foreign investment were published, one for the whole country and the other for pilot free trade zones. The number of special administrative measures applying in each case has been reduced to 48 and 45 respectively. Steady progress was made in opening up the financial sector. We instituted a nationwide policy of allowing foreign-invested enterprises to complete business filing procedures and business registration in one go. We took active steps to promote equal treatment of domestic and foreign enterprises in terms of industrial policy, science and technology policy, government procurement, license applications, and standards-setting. Reform and innovation-driven development in development zones were stepped up, and the business environment for foreign investors continued to improve. China attracted around US$ 135 billion in foreign direct investment over the year, an increase of 3%.
8) Development of outward investment was steady and orderly.
The Management Provisions for Outward Investment by Enterprises and the Interim Measures for Reporting on the Registration (Approval) of Outward Investment were put into force. We enhanced unified supervision over outward investment at all stages and further improved the sectorial composition of outward investments, with the bulk flowing into leasing, business services, and manufacturing. To enhance the awareness of enterprises about compliance, we published the Guide on Compliance Management for Enterprises' Overseas Operations. We provided guidance to see the sound development of outward investment and financing funds, thus expanding the channels through which enterprises can seek financing for their "go-global" efforts. Non-financial outward direct investment reached US$ 120.5 billion in 2018.