Premier Li Keqiang delivers the government work report at the first session of the 13th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 5, 2018. (Photo: China News Service/Du Yang)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivered a government work report to the first session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) on Monday, outlining achievements made over the past five years and setting out targets for this year.[Special coverage]
As China's national legislature, this year's NPC carries particular significance as it is the first to be held following last year's 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), while also coinciding with the 40th anniversary of China adopting the policy of reform and opening up.
The work report laid out a number of targets, particularly focusing on three critical battles of defusing major risks, fighting poverty and addressing pollution. To achieve these goals, Li emphasized the importance of adhering to CPC's leadership while ensuring that development is of high quality.
Maintaining stable growth, opening up and fighting risk
In 1978, China embarked on an ambitious package of reforms and opening up the economy, which have propelled the country forward at a remarkable pace in the 40 years since.
With China as the world's second largest economy, Li said in the work report that 2018 will see China look to achieve GDP growth of around 6.5 percent, maintaining the same target as 2017.
Li said China's economy was in a pivotal period in the transformation of its growth model, and outlined how the country would continue to develop its ongoing supply-side reform, while reiterating China's commitment to economic globalization.
Thirty million tons of excess steel capacity and 150 million tons of ineffective coal capacity will be cut this year, while taxes on businesses and individuals will be reduced by more than 800 billion yuan (126.4 billion US dollars).
China's general manufacturing sector will be completely opened up, with Li calling for China to provide a world-class business environment as support continues for steady growth in foreign investment.
Li also pointed to the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative in China's opening up, with China set to continue work on building major international corridors in cooperation with other countries.
Li pledged more backing for innovation, announcing the launch of a state financing guaranty fund for the sector, along with support for leading innovative enterprises in going public. Pilot preferential tax policies for venture capital investment and angel investment will be rolled out nationwide.
In terms of international trade, Li spoke out against protectionism and said China would resolutely safeguard its lawful rights, while calling for any disputes over trade to be settled through discussion as equals.
The Economic Work Conference held in December identified forestalling and defusing major risks as one of China's three critical battles.
In his government work report, Li described China's economic risks as manageable, but vowed there would be a serious crackdown on illegal activities. Coordination on financial regulation will be strengthened, while prudent steps to deal with outstanding debt will be taken.
All aspects of governance to be improved
On March 11, NPC deputies are set to vote on amendments to 21 items in China's Constitution, including writing Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and adding a sentence stressing the Party's leadership into the Constitution.
In the work report, Li said that the government will strictly observe the Constitution and speed up work on building a government based on the rule of law.
Initiatives to improve Party conduct and ensure a clean government will be strengthened, with the overwhelming momentum of the anti-corruption campaign to be built on.
Li called on all government employees to keep their hands clean and work hard for the people, while warning that officials who talk big and set ambitious goals but take little action will not be tolerated.
Livelihoods to be improved as poverty fight steps up
At the 19th CPC National Congress, one of the major takeaways was China's commitment to completely eliminating poverty by 2020.
Li looked back on the achievements made in poverty alleviation over the past five years, saying more than 68 million people had been lifted out of poverty since 2013.
Fighting poverty has been called the second critical battle faced by China, and was labeled a "formidable task" in Monday's government work report.
For 2018, Li said China would further reduce the poor rural population by 10 million, with greater financing allocated to poverty reduction funds.
The premier called for measures to be tailor-made towards individuals and individual households, while identifying corruption and misconduct in poverty alleviation as issues that need to be seriously targeted.
Average personal incomes have grown by 7.4 percent in the last five years, creating the largest middle-income group in the world.
For 2018, Li laid out plans for personal income growth to achieve basic parity with economic expansion, while setting a target of creating 11 million new jobs.
For the first time, China is using "surveyed urban unemployment" as an economic indicator, with the aim of giving a more complete picture of employment, covering rural migrant workers as well as permanent urban residents.
Li said that the surveyed urban unemployment rate would be kept within 5.5 percent this year.
Li reiterated the government's stance that houses are for living in, not for speculation, as he announced the launch of a three-year renovation plan that will see 5.8 million urban units rebuilt this year. The public-rental sector will receive greater support, so low-income families will have access to housing.
Greater progress on environmental protection
China's third critical battle is addressing pollution. Li outlined in the work report how China has seen the average density of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) drop by over 30 percent in the last five years, with 71 percent of coal-fired power plants now achieving ultra-low emissions.
Li vowed there would be greater progress in the fight against pollution this year, with the steel sector and other industries earmarked for upgrades to achieve ultra-low emissions. Diesel trucks will be targeted in a special program that will aim to reduce exhaust emissions.
Beyond air pollution, Li described how China would continue work on preventing soil and water pollution, promising comprehensive measures and the strict enforcement of China's environmental laws and regulations.
Stronger armed forces for the new era
Li said China has basically achieved its goal of reducing the armed forces by 300,000 troops, while embarking on a new stage in strengthening and energizing the armed forces.
Li pointed to profound changes in the national security environment as he explained how the country will strengthen its armed forces and advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness.
Calling on all levels of government, Li said more effective measures must be taken to support the reform and development of China's national defense and armed forces.
According to Xinhua, a budget report that will be submitted to the NPC on Monday will include plans for military spending to increase by 8.1 percent to 1.11 trillion yuan (175 billion US dollars), up from 7 percent in 2017.