REPORT ON THE WORK OF THE GOVERNMENT
Second Session of the 13th National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, March 2019
Premier of the State Council
On behalf of the State Council, I will now report to you on the work of the government and ask for your deliberation and approval. I also invite comments from members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
I. 2018 in Review
The year 2018 was the first year for putting the guiding principles of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China fully into effect. It was also this government’s first to perform, in accordance with law, the functions of office. In pursuing development this year, China faced a complicated and challenging domestic and international environment of a kind rarely seen in many years, and its economy came under new downward pressure. Under the firm leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, we, the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, forged ahead and overcame difficulties. The year’s main targets for economic and social development were accomplished, and in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, we made major progress toward a decisive victory.
The main economic indicators were kept within an appropriate range. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6.6 percent, exceeding 90 trillion yuan. Economic growth matched electricity consumption, freight transport, and other indicators. Consumer prices rose by 2.1 percent. In the balance of payments a basic equilibrium was maintained. A further 13.61 million new urban jobs were added, and the surveyed unemployment rate remained stable at a comparatively low level of around 5 percent. As a big developing country with a population close to 1.4 billion, we have attained relatively full employment.
Economic structure was further improved. Consumption continued to play an increasing role in driving economic growth. The service sector’s contribution to growth approached 60 percent. Growth in high-tech industries and equipment manufacturing outstripped that of other industries. Harvests were again good. Energy consumption per unit of GDP fell by 3.1 percent. The quality and returns of growth continued to improve.
New growth drivers grew rapidly. A number of major scientific and technological innovations were made, like the Chang’e-4 lunar probe. Emerging industries thrived and traditional industries saw faster transformation and upgrading. Business startups and innovation continued to surge nationwide, with an average of over 18,000 new businesses opening daily and the total number of market entities passing the 100 million mark. New growth drivers are now profoundly changing our mode of production and way of life, creating new strengths for China’s development.
New breakthroughs were made in reform and opening up. Institutional reforms of both the State Council and local governments were implemented smoothly. New progress was made in reform in key fields. The negative list system for market access was put fully into effect. Reforms to streamline administration and delegate power, improve regulation, and upgrade services were intensified, and our business environment rose significantly in international rankings. Opening up was expanded on all fronts, and joint efforts to pursue the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) made significant headway. The first China International Import Expo was a success. Work began on building the China (Hainan) Pilot Free Trade Zone. China’s total volume of trade in goods exceeded 30 trillion yuan, and its utilized foreign investment totaled US$138.3 billion, ranking China first among developing countries.
The three critical battles got off to a good start. We forestalled and defused major risks. The macro leverage ratio trended toward a stable level; the financial sector was generally stable. Precision poverty alleviation made significant progress, with the rural poor population reduced by 13.86 million, including 2.8 million people assisted through relocation from inhospitable areas. Pollution prevention and control was strengthened, and PM2.5 concentrations continued to fall. Marked achievements were made in ecological conservation.
Living standards continued to improve. Per capita disposable personal income grew by 6.5 percent in real terms. The threshold for individual income tax was raised and six special additional deductions were created. Support for basic elderly care and basic health care was strengthened. Close to 100 million payments were made to assist students from families in financial difficulty, covering all school types. More than 6.2 million housing units were rebuilt in rundown urban areas and 1.9 million dilapidated rural houses were renovated. Urban and rural living standards continued to rise.
We solemnly commemorated the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up, thoroughly reviewed its great achievements and the valuable experience gained in its pursuit, and pledged our resolve to see reform and opening up through in the new era, thus galvanizing the Chinese people of all ethnic groups to continue their hard work to make new historic achievements.
Looking back at the past year, we can see that our achievements did not come easily.What we faced was profound change in our external environment. Setbacks in economic globalization, challenges to multilateralism, shocks in the international financial market, and especially the China-US economic and trade frictions, had an adverse effect on the production and business operations of some companies and on market expectations. What we faced were severe challenges caused by the growing pains of economic transformation. An interlacing of old and new issues and a combination of cyclical and structural problems brought changes in what was a generally stable economic performance, some of which caused concern. What we faced was a complicated terrain of increasing dilemmas. We had multiple targets to attain, like ensuring stable growth and preventing risks; multiple tasks to complete, like promoting economic and social development; and multiple relationships to handle, like that between short-term and long-term interests. And the difficulty of making policy choices and moving work forward increased markedly. With the concerted efforts of the whole country, the Chinese economy, from a larger base, achieved generally stable growth while making further progress; and social stability was ensured. This once again shows that the Chinese people, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, have the courage, vision, and strength to prevail over any difficulty or obstacle. There is no difficulty that cannot be overcome in China’s pursuit of development!
Over the past year, we fully implemented all major policies and plans made by the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core. We followed the general principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, and worked holistically to maintain stable growth, advance reform, make structural adjustments, improve living standards, and guard against risks. We handled economic and trade frictions with the United States appropriately. We worked to ensure stable employment, a stable financial sector, stable foreign trade, stable foreign investment, stable domestic investment, and stable expectations. Our main work of the past year was as follows.
First, we developed new ways to improve macro regulation and ensured a generally stable economic performance. Facing new circumstances and developments, we were firm in choosing not to adopt a deluge of strong stimulus policies, and we maintained the continuity and consistency of macro policies. As we conducted regulation to keep main economic indicators within an appropriate range, we also improved targeted and well-timed regulation, and carried out anticipatory adjustments and fine-tuning.
We continued to pursue a proactive fiscal policy, focusing on cutting taxes and fees, strengthening areas of weakness, and promoting structural adjustment. We reduced VAT rates and expanded the coverage of tax relief for small businesses with low profits, and introduced preferential tax policies to encourage R&D and innovation. Over the year, the tax and fee burden on enterprises and individuals was thus reduced by around 1.3 trillion yuan. We improved the composition of budgetary spending, put idle budgetary funds to use, and ensured spending in key areas. We maintained a prudent monetary policy and encouraged financial support for the real economy. In response to the difficulties and high costs of financing, we reduced required reserve ratios four times, and applied a combination of measures to ease funding shortages faced by private enterprises and small and micro businesses. Initial success was thus made in curbing the rising cost of financing. We promptly responded to abnormal fluctuations in the stock and bond markets, and kept the RMB exchange rate basically stable. China’s foreign exchange reserves were maintained at over US$3 trillion.
Second, we took solid action in the three critical battles and made good progress in carrying out key tasks. We drew up and began the systematic implementation of a three-year action plan for the three critical battles. We made steady progress in structural deleveraging, handled risks in the financial sector prudently and appropriately, prevented and controlled local government debt risks, and reformed and improved mechanisms for conducting regulation over the real estate market. We made further progress in precision poverty alleviation. We strengthened poverty relief capacity, increased budgetary input, and encouraged society to assist poverty alleviation. The self-development capacity of poverty-stricken areas was steadily enhanced. We launched an all-out fight to keep our skies blue, our waters clear, and our land pollution-free. Energy and transportation structures were upgraded. The replacement of coal with natural gas and electricity in North China was steadily advanced. The system of river chiefs and lake chiefs was established across the country. The use of both chemical fertilizers and pesticides was reduced. Inspections and law enforcement for environmental protection were strengthened. And we took active steps to respond to climate change.