I. People's Rights to Subsistence and Development
In 2004, China's economy developed steadily and relatively rapidly, and people's rights to subsistence and development were improved considerably. China's gross domestic product (GDP) reached 13,650 billion yuan, an increase of 9.5 percent over the previous year. Total grain output in 2004 reached 469.5 billion kg, an increase of 9 percent over the previous year.
The people's overall living standard and quality of life were improved considerably, and the consumption pattern of the society continued its shift from one of basic living to one of modern living. In 2004, the per-capita net income for rural residents was 2,936 yuan, an increase of 6.8 percent in real terms and the biggest increase since 1997. The per-capita disposable income of urban residents was 9,422 yuan, an increase of 7.7 percent in real terms. Retail sales of consumer goods totaled 5,400 billion yuan, an increase of 13.3 percent. The Engel coefficient (i.e., the proportion of food expenditure in the total consumption spending) per rural and urban household was 47.2 and 37.7 percent, respectively. The number of private cars kept increasing, reaching 6 million at the year's end, making China a market with the quickest increase in the number of private cars in the world. Over the past four years, China has witnessed an addition of 90 million telephone users annually, and in 2004 some 14.5 million new Internet users were recorded in China. At present, there are more than 650 million telephone users and over 94 million Internet users in China.
The state adopts effective measures to increase input into agriculture
and spares no pains to increase farmers' incomes and improve their lives.
In February 2004, the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council
jointly promulgated document No. 1, known as "Opinions on Several
Policies to Promote Increase of Farmers' Incomes," which explicitly
stated that China must adhere to the strategy of comprehensive development
of urban and rural areas and the principle of "giving more, taking
less, and being flexible," and that it is a basic task to realize,
safeguard and develop farmers' material interests and protect their rights
and interests. Within a year, the state formulated a series of policies
that were well endorsed by the farmers, directly contributing to the increase
of their incomes. At the beginning of 2005, the Central Committee of the
CPC and the State Council again promulgated, in the form of document No.
1, "Opinions on Several Policies on Further Strengthening Agricultural
Work and Enhancing the Comprehensive Agricultural Productive Capability,"
deciding to further intensify efforts in implementing the policies of
cancellation of special agricultural product tax, reduction or exemption
of agricultural tax, providing direct subsidies to grain growing farmers,
for quality seeds for four grain crops, and for those who buy large or
medium-sized agricultural vehicles or equipment (abbreviated as "two
reductions and exemptions" and "three subsidies") so as
to further guarantee the rights and interests of the farmers. The state
greatly increased its input into agriculture, rural construction and other
undertakings that would help increase farmers' incomes. In 2004, the central
government appropriated funds worth 262.6 billion yuan for these purposes,
an increase of 22.5 percent over the previous year. Statistics show that
11.6 billion yuan was used as direct subsidies for grain growing farmers
in major grain-producing areas; 2.8 billion yuan was used as subsidies
for quality rice, corn, soybean and wheat seeds; 500 million yuan was
allocated as special subsidies to appropriately assist farmers who bought
large agricultural vehicles or equipment. Meanwhile, greater efforts were
made to reduce or exempt agricultural taxes. In 2004, the amount of agricultural
taxes that were reduced or exempted came to 23.3 billion yuan, and 6.8
billion yuan in special agricultural product tax was cancelled. The farmers
were relieved of tax burdens, which totaled 30.1 billion yuan. Throughout
the country, 150 million farmers no longer pay agricultural tax, the rate
of agricultural tax for 540 million farmers was reduced by three percentage
points, and the agricultural tax rate was reduced by one percentage point
for the rest of the farmers.
The Chinese government continues to take effective measures to help the rural poor shake off poverty. In 2004, the central government earmarked 12.2 billion yuan as funds to aid the poor. By adopting effective measures such as improving production and living conditions in the poor areas, and enhancing the comprehensive quality of poor rural farmers, the government has greatly reduced the number of poor farmers without adequate food and clothing throughout the country. The population of poor farmers in the countryside was 2.9 million fewer than in the previous year. The International Aid-the-Poor Conference convened in Shanghai in May 2004 spoke highly of the achievements China had made in helping the poor, declaring, "The achievements China has made in helping the poor is a good example. It has proved that it is not an unreachable goal for mankind to eliminate poverty. The example of China will reverse the pessimistic sentiment surrounding the argument on poverty elimination."
The Chinese government considers the safety of life of the people above everything else. In recent years, the state has taken a series of measures to enhance production safety and check the occurrence of all sorts of accidents. In 2004, the state promulgated one administrative law, 15 departmental regulations, five industrial standards on production safety and more than 70 regulatory documents to tackle the problem of industrial hazards. Small coal mines and other industrial enterprises which did not meet the requirements for production safety were resolutely shut down. The total number of accidents of the whole year somewhat decreased. The number of accidents and deaths throughout the country were reduced by 16.22 and 0.23 percent, respectively, compared with the previous year. The state made great efforts to guarantee safety in coal mines, including preventing gas explosions. It strengthened the establishment of safety production systems and mechanisms and exerted concentrated efforts to tackle gas-related accidents in coal mines. As a result, the number of gas-related accidents in coal mines dropped by 15.6 percent, and that of deaths by 7.8 percent.
The state attaches great importance to combating natural disasters and carrying out related relief work, making sure that people hit by natural disasters are able to subsist. In 2004, natural disasters caused great damage throughout China. Serious flooding occurred in some medium and small river basins, coastal areas in Zhejiang Province were devastated by the strongest typhoon since 1956, and in some regions mountain torrents, mud-rock flows and landslides happened frequently. Because the government had improved its early-warning systems, exercised scientific command and effective administration, people in the disaster-stricken areas were evacuated and resettled promptly, and the injured received timely treatment. The Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Finance jointly appropriated 4 billion yuan in relief funds, plus 4.89 million yuan in donated funds, and dispatched 31,000 tents to the disaster-stricken areas. The government helped evacuate and resettle 6.11 million disaster victims, and rebuilt more than 1.4 million houses that had been destroyed in the disasters. During the spring and winter of 2004, when crops were not harvested, some 90 million people received relief aid, and their fundamental needs for food, clothing, lodging, water and medical treatment were met.
The state continues to provide special aid to minimum-income urban families whose members either suffer from critical illness or are seriously handicapped and without any financial income. To carry out the "Measures for Assisting and Managing Urban Vagrants and Beggars with No Means of Livelihood," in 2004 a total of 550,000 vagrants and beggars received much-needed assistance from the government. Now there are 909 assistance and management centers across the country and 130 assistance and protection centers for vagrant children. A system of guaranteeing the minimum standard of living for rural residents has been established in 1,206 counties (cities), with 4,960,000 beneficiaries.
China attaches great importance to the health conditions of the people. The national public medical care network has been strengthened further. In 2004, China had 296,000 health care institutions, 3,047,000 hospital and clinic beds, 4,390,000 medical personnel, and 3,586 disease prevention and control centers (including anti-epidemic stations) with 160,000 medical personnel. Moreover, there were 1,279 health care supervision and examination institutions with 26,000 medical personnel, and 42,000 township clinics with 669,000 beds and 881,000 medical personnel. A new rural cooperative medical service system has been tried out in 333 counties (cities) across the country. It covers about 100 million rural residents so far, including 80.4 million farmers.
The state has strengthened its overall supervision over food and drugs. It cracks down heavily on such illegal and criminal acts as the manufacture and sale of counterfeit and inferior foodstuffs and drugs, and poisonous and harmful foodstuffs in order to ensure the safety of consumers. Meanwhile, it has adopted effective measures to prevent, treat and control serious epidemics. It quickly brought under control and eventually eliminated the SARS epidemic that occurred in Guangdong, Beijing and part of Anhui Province. The State Council has issued the "Notice on Enhancing the Prevention and Treatment of AIDS." A working committee on the prevention and treatment of AIDS was set up, and a national conference on the prevention and treatment of AIDS was held. The state has provided free anti-AIDS medicine to patients among farmers and to other patients in straitened circumstances. In AIDS-prevalent areas, people receive anonymous examinations free of charge, and pregnant women with the HIV virus receive free medical screening to prevent them from spreading the virus to their babies. Orphans of AIDS patients are exempted from paying school fees, and financial support is given to needy AIDS patients. President Hu Jintao has visited AIDS patients in hospitals, showing that the state attaches great importance to the prevention and treatment of AIDS and that it cares about AIDS patients.
To ensure the people's health and safety, and to protect their interests and right to enjoy a wholesome environment, the state revised the "Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste," issued the "Measures on the Licensed Management of Dangerous Waste," "Measures Regarding Administrative Penalties for and Management of Medical Waste" and the "National Plan for the Construction of Installations for the Disposal of Dangerous and Medical Waste." In order to ensure the people's health and protect the environment, the government launched a special campaign to rectify and punish enterprises which illegally discharged pollution. In the campaign, it dealt with 3,365 severe cases of environmental pollution that seriously harmed people's rights and interests, and closed down 6,462 enterprises that seriously polluted the environment. With this effective crackdown, the environmental quality of some areas was improved noticeably.
At present, the general health of the Chinese people is better than that of the average level of middle-income countries, and ranks among the top of the developing countries in this respect. The average life expectancy has increased from 35 years before the birth of New China in 1949 to the present 71.4 years. The mortality rate of women in childbirth has dropped from 1,500 out of 100,000 in 1949 to 51.3 out of 100,000 in 2003, and the infant mortality rate from 200‰ before the birth of New China to 25.5‰ in 2003.