The first session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) opened at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. Over two weeks of policy discussions and planning will follow, setting the tone and goals for 2018.[Special coverage]
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is delivering the Report on the Work of the Government to lawmakers.
Reviewing the government's work for the past five years, Premier Li said China's gross domestic product (GDP) has risen from 54 trillion to 82.7 trillion yuan, registering an average annual growth of 7.1 percent.
China has continued to follow a proactive fiscal policy and a prudent monetary policy, said the premier, adding that the government has extended the value added tax (VAT) system to all sectors, replacing the 66-year-old business tax scheme.
"All in all, our market entities have seen savings of more than three trillion yuan," he added.
China has supported Beijing and Shanghai in building themselves into centers for innovation in science and technology, and set up 14 new national innovation demonstration zones, according to Li.
The performance of SOEs has been greatly improved, with profits last year growing by 23.5 percent.
"We have pursued reform to separate rural land ownership rights, contract rights, and use rights, and already seen that over 80 percent of contracted rural land have been covered by this reform," said Li.
On foreign investment, the country has intensified efforts to attract talents, and the number of foreign experts working in China has grown by 40 percent, said Li.
Poverty relief efforts
Talking about people's livelihood, Li noted that living standards have been continuously improving, saying that more than 68 million people have been lifted out of poverty.
People's life expectancy in China has reached 76.7 years, according to Li, social pension schemes for the elderly now cover more than 900 million people, and basic health insurance plans cover 1.35 billion people, forming the largest social safety net in the world.
Over the past five years, China has committed to opening-up and focused on promoting win-win cooperation with other countries, said Li.
The premier listed a series of China's economic accomplishments in recent years, including establishing 11 pilot free trade zones.
In its war against air pollution, China has achieved a drop of over 30 percent in the average density of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in key areas in the past five years, said Li.
According to Li, 71 percent of coal-fired power plants now achieve ultra-low emissions. The country has improved its energy mix, cutting the share of coal consumption by 8.1 percentage points and increasing the share of clean energy consumption by 6.3 percentage points. In addition, China has taken over 20 million vehicles with high emissions off the roads.
China has basically completed the task of reducing the armed forces by 300,000 troops, Li said.
Over the past five years, under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and the Central Military Commission, China has embarked on a new stage in strengthening and energizing the armed forces, added Li.
Premier Li also laid out the country's overall requirements and policy direction for economic and social development in 2018. The government has set the following projected targets for development this year:
- GDP growth of around 6.5 percent; CPI increase of around 3 percent
- Over 11 million new urban jobs, the surveyed urban unemployment rate within 5.5 percent, and the registered urban jobless rate within 4.5 percent
- Basic parity in personal income growth and economic growth
- A steady rise in import and export volumes, and a basic equilibrium in the balance of payments
- A drop of at least 3 percent in energy consumption per unit of GDP, and continued reductions in the release of major pollutants
- Substantive progress in supply-side structural reform, basically stable macro leverage, and systematic and effective prevention and control of risk
Proposals for gov't work in 2018
Addressing the lawmakers, Li also put forward proposals for the work of the government in 2018.
Li has called for speeding up work to build China into a leader in manufacturing and taking steps in all sectors to improve quality of domestically made goods.
"China will encourage the spirit of craftsmanship, and ignite a revolution in the quality of Chinese-made goods," said Li.
Meanwhile, Li has also called to further ease the tax burden and slash non-tax burdens on businesses, setting the goal to reduce taxes on businesses and individuals by more than 800 billion yuan and lower non-tax burden on market entities by over 300 billion yuan this year.
To step up targeted poverty alleviation efforts, the government will further reduce the poor rural population by over 10 million, including the relocation of 2.8 million people from inhospitable areas.
In 2018, the Chinese government will implement the policy of extending second round rural land contracts by another 30 years upon their expiration, said Li.
As part of the country's overall direction for economic and social development in 2018, Li vowed that "all types of infringements on property rights will be rigorously dealt with in accordance with law."
To better address people's housing needs, Li noted that the country will launch a new three-year renovation plan to address housing in rundown urban areas, starting with construction this year on 5.8 million units.
The Chinese premier also pledged to boost employment and business startups, increase people's incomes, raise personal income tax threshold, and develop fair and high-quality education.
The country will continue to implement the principle of "One Country, Two Systems," and the principles and policies on the work related to Taiwan, uphold the one-China principle, and promote the peaceful growth of cross-Strait relations on the basis of the 1992 Consensus.
"We will expand cross-Strait economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation, and ensure that over time, people from Taiwan come to enjoy the same treatment as mainlanders when they pursue study, do business, work or live on the mainland," Li said.