6. We put strong focus on implementing the rural revitalization strategy and moved faster to foster new growth drivers for agricultural and rural development.
The Strategic Plan for Rural Revitalization (2018-2022) was issued for implementation. A total of 28 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) have already published complimentary plans. In addition, plans for all others have been basically completed, and work on rolling separate village development plans into one single plan has continued. The institutional framework and policy system for rural revitalization have been gradually established and all major work planned for the current stage has begun.
1) The foundations of agriculture grew stronger.
Total grain output exceeded 650 million metric tons. Efficient water-saving irrigation methods were newly applied to 1.44 million hectares of land. The area of high-standard cropland was increased by over 5.33 million hectares. We have established functional zones for grain production and protective areas for the production of major agricultural products on an area of over 60 million hectares. We stepped up the initiative to upgrade the modern seed industry, ensured high standards were adopted in the building of the Nanfan National Seed Breeding Base, and sped up construction on seed and seedling breeding bases for grain and oil-bearing crops, vegetables, and fruits.
Work has begun on 133 of 172 planned major water conservancy projects, with the total investment in ongoing projects exceeding 1 trillion yuan. A total of 15.6 million hectares of land were afforested throughout the year. The Year of Agricultural Quality campaign was carried out to spur agricultural development by raising quality standards, promoting green development, and building strong brands. The percentage of major agricultural products that passed quality and safety tests remained above 97%, and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides both decreased.
2) Development of the primary, secondary, and tertiary industries was much more integrated in rural areas.
A total of 100 demonstration parks for rural industry integration have so far been certified, and work started on building 62 modern agricultural industrial parks and 254 towns with agricultural strengths. We continued promoting complete mechanization of the production process for major crops. We also concentrated on developing intelligent agriculture, boosting the levels of digitization in agricultural production, operations, management, and services. New industries and new forms of business in rural areas enjoyed rapid development.
3) Agricultural and rural reforms registered steady progress.
We made improvements to the policy on setting minimum purchase prices for wheat and rice and to the mechanism for combining market-based purchases with government subsidies for corn and soybeans. Well-planned steps were taken to push forward with trial reforms on rural land requisition, the marketization of rural collective land designated for business-related construction, and the system for rural land designated for housing. We stepped up work to determine, register, and certify rural home land rights and rural housing property rights, and basically completed the work to determine, register, and certify contracted rural land rights. Rights on 986.7 million hectares of contracted land have been certified, exceeding the cadastral area covered during the second round of household land contracting in rural areas. We have set up robust mechanisms for former rural residents who now hold urban residency to protect their rights on contracted rural land, use rights on rural land designated for housing, and rights toshare in the proceeds from rural collective undertakings, as well as their entitlement to voluntarily transfer these rights in return for compensation. The third batch of trials to reform the rural collective property rights system began in 150 counties in 50 prefectures and cities and in 3 provinces. To date, this reform has been completed by over 150,000 rural collectives nationwide and has involved more than 200 million people. Reform of collective forest tenure was furthered.
4) Work on building a beautiful and livable countryside picked up pace.
The three-year campaign to improve rural living environments got underway across the country. We steadily moved forward pilot demonstration programs to comprehensively address serious environmental problems and demonstrations to treat household wastewater in rural areas. The project to manage household refuse was extended to more rural areas and the Toilet Revolution was actively carried forward. We stepped up efforts to consolidate and build on the progress made in providing safe drinking water, and increased the availability of tap water in rural areas. More rural roads were built. We successfully concluded the projects to provide power to all electric pump sets on rural flatlands, to upgrade power grids in small towns and hub villages, and to provide three-phase power to poor villages. We carried out trials of providing universal telecommunications services and demonstration projects to extend broadband connectivity, and particularly to install 100M fiber optic networks in rural areas, and moved faster tobuild next-generation information infrastructure there. The orderly development of multipurpose cultural service centers in rural areas continued.
7. We took holistic steps to promote coordinated regional development and saw further improvements in spatial development patterns.
We gave play to the comparative advantages of different regions, worked on narrowing regional development disparities, and focused on promoting new urbanization. Stronger levels of coordination, connectivity, and integration were achieved in development between regions.
1) Further strides were made in promoting coordinated regional development.
The Guidelines on Establishing More Effective New Mechanisms for Coordinated Regional Development were released. To promote further development and opening-up in the western region, we launched 28 major projects in transportation, energy, and other fields with a total investment of 482.5 billion yuan. In the northeast, breakthroughs were made in improving the business environment, developing the private sector, and promoting cooperative partnerships with the eastern region; steady progress was made in the transformation of old industrial cities and resource-dependent areas; efforts were continued to rebuild or relocate old industrial districts within cities and independent industrial and mining areas and to implement comprehensive solutions in areas affected by mining-induced subsidence. In the central region, we moved faster to achieve a rational distribution of advanced manufacturing, and began to implement development plans for the Han and Huai river eco-economic belts and the general plan for industrial relocation demonstration zones in southern and western Hunan. The eastern region moved faster to foster and strengthen new growth drivers; in Shandong, work began on a comprehensive experimental zone for replacing old growth drivers with new ones.
Old revolutionary base areas, areas with large ethnic minority populations, border areas, and poor areas all recorded faster development, achieving solid progress in constructing major infrastructure such as transportation, water conservancy, energy, communications, and logistics facilities. We scaled up one-to-one assistance programs, and further improved economic and social policies and measures in Xinjiang, Tibet, and the Tibetan ethnic areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, and Qinghai provinces.
We took faster steps toward building China into a strong maritime country, with construction beginning on demonstration zones for developing the marine economy. Many functional platforms, such as state-level new areas, airport economy demonstration zones, and experimental zones for integrated, complete reform, strengthened their ability to demonstrate and offer guidance on reform practices. Steady progress was made in the construction of experimental zones for development and opening-up in major border areas, giving rise to a set of practices applicable to other areas.
2) Strong progress was recorded in implementing major regional development strategies.
With the focus on relieving Beijing of functions nonessential to its role as the capital, we made marked progress in promoting the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. The Plan for Xiongan New Area in Hebei, the Guidelines on Supporting Xiongan New Area in Comprehensively Deepening Reform and Opening-up, and the General Plan for Xiongan New Area in Hebei (2018-2035) were unveiled for implementation. We sped up the development of the administrative center of Beijing Municipality, began construction on the Beijing-Xiongan Intercity Railway, and made progress on all fronts in building Beijing Daxing International Airport and preparing for its operation.
On the Yangtze Economic Belt, the pattern of close coordination on environmental protection was consolidated. We began formulating a territorial space plan, and made solid progress in employing the three-fold approach of controlling water pollution, restoring water ecosystems, and conserving water resources and in addressing four kinds of behaviors detrimental to environmental protection on rivers and lakes. Rectification work was completed on 1,361 illegal wharves, and the cross-section water quality of the main stream of the Yangtze River improved significantly. Work on the integrated multidimensional transportation corridor was stepped up. We made good progress in planning and building a high-speed railway along the Yangtze River, accelerating work on the unfinished sections of inter-provincial expressways, constructing a deep-water channel on the Yangtze, and installing combined rail-water transportation facilities at ports along its main channel.
We unveiled the Development Plan for Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and initiated major construction projects across the board. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge was officially opened to traffic. Policies and measures to make it easier for Hong Kong and Macao residents to pursue development on the mainland came into effect and are producing positive results. We implemented the Guidelines on Supporting Hainan in Comprehensively Deepening Reform and Opening-Up. Work began on drawing up a plan for integrated regional development of the Yangtze River Delta.
3) The quality of new urbanization was enhanced.
Rural household registration holders living in urban areas can now obtain permanent urban residency with greater ease. Permanent residency policies continued to be loosened in large and medium-sized cities, and the residence card system was basically implemented in all cities. The percentage of permanent urban residents reached 59.58%, while the percentage of registered urban residents reached 43.37%, 1.06 and 1.02 percentage points above the figures at year-end 2017 respectively. A group of plans for trans-provincial city clusters were published, city clusters throughout the country showed strong development, and modern metropolitan areas grew rapidly.
8. We focused on ensuring and improving the people's wellbeing and saw they enjoyed more of the fruits of development in a fairer way.
Upholding our vision of people-centered development, we pushed for detailed and effective implementation of a whole raft of initiatives aimed at benefiting the people and addressing prominent problems of public concern.
1) Well-planned steps were taken to keep employment stable.
The Guidelines on Promoting Employment for the Present and Coming Period and the Guidelines on Implementing the Life-Long Vocational Skills Training System were promulgated. We enhanced public employment and business startup services, stepped up support for enterprises to keep employment stable, and continued the pilot projects to support rural migrant workers and others returning home to set up businesses. Programs to guide college graduates in finding jobs and starting businesses also continued. We formulated and unveiled the Guidelines on Providing Extensive Public Employment Services, and made impressive strides in instituting the Internet Plus Public Employment Services model. We introduced the Provisional Regulations on Human Resource Markets, thus opening the way for the gradual establishment of a robust HR market system.
2) Improvements were made to the social security system on a continuing basis.
The central regulation system for enterprise employees' basic old-age insurance funds formally came into operation. Mechanisms were established to set standards on benefits for rural and non-working urban residents under the basic old-age insurance scheme and to allow for regular adjustment of their basic pension benefits. Steady strides were made in bringing the tasks of collecting and managing social insurance premiums under the remit of a single agency, and regulation in this area was further improved. We continued to make progress in aligning basic medical insurance schemes for rural residents and non-working urban residents. In total, more than 942 million people are now covered by basic old-age insurance schemes, and over 1.344 billion people are covered by basic medical insurance plans.
We improved the national platform for trans-provincial settlement of medical bills through basic medical insurance accounts. We have ensured there are hospitals designated for trans-provincial settlement in all county-level administrative areas, and have seen that rural migrant workers and other workers and business owners without local residency have been incorporated into the platform. The total number of trans-provincial on-the-spot settlements has reached 1.526 million.
Smooth progress was made in the pilot program in integrating maternity insurance and basic medical insurance for urban workers. Unemployment insurance functioned more effectively in terms of ensuring basic living standards, preventing job losses, and promoting employment. Improvements were made to the policies regarding rural migrant workers' participation in workers' compensation schemes. The subsistence allowance system continued to improve as we achieved full coverage for urban and rural residents and ensured continuous improvements in allowance standards.
More was done to assist demobilized military personnel in finding employment, and living allowances were raised for demobilized personnel with illness, for war and nuclear-test veterans, and for other entitled groups. The social welfare services system was strengthened, and trials for integrated reforms in social assistance were pushed forward. Steady progress was made in the construction of government-subsidized housing in urban areas, and renovations began on 6.26 million units of housing in run-down urban areas, and an additional 1 million units of public-rented housing were allocated. The housing rental market developed rapidly in large and medium-sized cities. A total of 1.9 million dilapidated houses in rural areas were renovated.
3) Development of a system of standards for basic public services progressed quickly.
The Guidelines on Establishing a Sound System of Standards for Basic Public Services were unveiled, and all provincial-level governments released basic public service lists. Strong progress was made in the five major public service categories of modernizing education, ensuring a healthy population, elevating culture and tourism, promoting fitness among the public, and providing social services for groups that are most in need. The retention rate of nine-year compulsory education hit 94.2%, and the gross enrollment ratio for senior secondary education reached 88.8%. Government spending on education as a percentage of GDP remained above 4%.
We made rapid progress in developing the Internet Plus Medical and Healthcare model, and stepped up the comprehensive public hospital reform. The national system of essential medicines was improved. Trials for centralizing the procurement and use of medicines made steady progress, and the time it takes to assess and approve new drugs coming into the Chinese market was cut. A zero-tariff policy was applied to all imported cancer treatment drugs, while 17 types of cancer treatment drugs were made available at much lower prices and their costs can now be reimbursed through medical insurance. More measures were quickly taken to address problems pertaining to the safety of vaccines and medicines. The number of beds in medical and healthcare institutions is predicted to have reached 6.05 per 1,000 people.
The Guidelines on the Reform to Better Protect Cultural Relics and Put Them to Better Use were published, and the protection for cultural heritage of all types markedly improved. The Plan for Protecting, Passing On, and Utilizing Grand Canal Culture was drawn up. We continued working to offer free access to more public cultural facilities, unveiled an implementation plan for the initiative to build one million kilometers of fitness walkways, and opened 82,000 new sports venues.
We strengthened social security programs to meet basic needs. A total of 9.4 million people with disabilities facing financial difficulties received living allowances, and 11.64 million people with serious disabilities received nursing care subsidies. Around 398,000 children benefited from the subsistence allowance system for orphans, and medical rehabilitation services were provided to orphaned children with disabilities around the country. Better pre- and post-natal care services were ensured, and the support and care system for women was improved. The public legal service system also continued to improve. A total of 15.23 million babies were born in 2018, bringing the total population at year end to 1.395 billion. The natural population growth rate was 3.81‰.