II. Great Improvement in the Rights to Subsistence and Development,
and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

In the past 50 years since the founding of New China, especially since the initiation of reform and opening to the outside world some 20 years ago, the Chinese government has always put the people's rights to subsistence and development first, focused on economic construction, and made efforts to develop social productivity. Consequently, China's economy and society have advanced by leaps and bounds, its comprehensive national strength has been raised, and the people's livelihood has improved by a large margin thereby realizing two historic leaps -- bringing the people from poverty to having enough to eat and wear, and then to living a better-off life.

In 1952, China's GDP was only 67.9 billion RMB yuan, a figure which rose to 7,939.6 billion RMB yuan in 1998, with an average annual growth rate of 7.7 percent allowing for price rises, or over 2.5 times the average world growth rate in the same period. From 1952 to 1998, the industrial added value increased by 159 times calculated according to the constant prices, with an average annual growth rate of 11.6 percent; the agricultural added value increased by 4.5 times, with an average annual growth rate of 3.3 percent; and the total foreign trade volume increased from US$ 1.13 billion in 1950 to US$ 323.9 billion in 1998, or an increase of 287 times, with an average annual growth rate of 12.5 percent. According to a United Nations estimate, China ranks seventh in the world in terms of the size of its economy; 11th in total foreign trade volume; second in foreign exchange reserves; and ninth in comprehensive national strength. At present, the GNP created by China within 12 days is equivalent to the GNP of the whole year of 1952. Now China leads the world in the output of steel, coal, cement, chemical fertilizer, TV, crops, meat, cotton, peanuts, rapeseed, fruit and other important industrial and agricultural products. China's total grain output increased from 110 million tons in 1949 to 510 million tons in 1998, or an increase of over 4.5 times, with an average annual growth rate of 3.1 percent, higher than the world growth rate during the same period. Meanwhile, the proportion of China's grain output in the world's total increased from 17 percent to 25 percent. At present, China ranks first in the world in terms of total grain output, and the average per-capita amount of grain, meat, eggs and aquatic products exceeds the world level. Hence China has thoroughly changed the situation which prevailed in old China in which the majority of the Chinese population lived in a state of starvation or semi-starvation, and has created the miracle of supporting 22 percent of the total population of the world on only 7 percent of the world's total cultivated land.

The livelihoods of both urban and rural people have leaped several stages in succession, and the consumption level has improved remarkably. In 1949, the average annual income per urban resident was less than 100 RMB yuan, and that per rural resident, less than 50 RMB yuan. In 1978, the average annual income per urban resident came to 343 RMB yuan, and that per rural resident, 134 RMB yuan. Between 1978 and 1998, the average annual income per urban resident increased to 5,425 RMB yuan, or an increase of 3.3 times allowing for price rises, with an average annual growth rate of 6.1 percent, and that per rural resident, to 2,162 RMB yuan, or an increase of 4.6 times allowing for price rises, with an average annual growth rate of 7.9 percent. The annual net consumption level of the people increased from 80 RMB yuan per capita in 1952 to 2,972 RMB yuan in 1998, and the savings deposits of both urban and rural residents grew from 860 million RMB yuan to 5,340.8 billion RMB yuan. In the early days of New China, 80 percent of urban residents' income was used to buy food and clothes, and 90 percent in rural areas, which dropped to 55.6 percent and 59.6 percent, respectively, in 1998.

The Engel coefficient (the proportion of food expenditure in consumer expenditure) of urban residents was always over 57 percent before the policy of reform and opening to the outside world was introduced, a figure which dropped to 44.5 percent in 1998, and consumption has reached the well-off level as a whole. In 1954, the Engel coefficient of rural residents was as high as 69 percent. By 1998, the consumption structure of rural residents had been greatly improved, with the Engel coefficient decreasing to 53.4 percent; their cultural, recreational and service expenditures had risen to 25.4 percent; and the proportions of accommodation and clothing expenditures were 15.1 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively. This indicates that in consumption the proportion dedicated to mere means of subsistence has remarkably decreased, and that dedicated to development and enjoyment has greatly risen. At present, over 95 percent of rural people in China have enough to eat and wear, and about 25 percent of them live well-off lives.

While making great efforts to develop the economy and improve the living standards of the people throughout the country, China has spared no effort to help poverty-stricken people have enough to eat and wear. Especially since the adoption of the policy of reform and opening to the outside world, the Chinese government has regarded it as a most urgent task to help poverty-stricken people have sufficient food and clothing. According to the government's unified plan and arrangements, a large-scale help-the-poor drive has been started throughout the country in a planned way. Over the past 20 years, the Chinese government has helped more than 200 million rural people get enough food and clothes, and has reduced the number of poverty-stricken rural population from 250 million in 1978 to 4.2 million. The proportion of poverty-stricken people in the total rural population has decreased from 30.7 percent to 4.6 percent. The average annual net income of poverty-stricken people increased from 206 RMB yuan in 1985 to 1,318 RMB yuan in 1998, and the production conditions and living standards of poverty-stricken areas have greatly improved. In the past 20 years, the poverty-stricken population worldwide has risen year by year, and the poor have become poorer. In China, however, the number of poverty-stricken people has been decreasing by 10 million every year on average, making China lead the world in the speed of reducing the number of poverty-stricken people. In 1999, the World Bank and the UN Development Program issued a report after a comprehensive survey of China's help-the-poor work, which points out: ``The number of poverty-stricken people is increasing in many places in the world, but China is an exception.'' And ``China has achieved world-renowned progress in solving the poverty problem.''

In old China, whenever serious natural disasters befell, the exposed bodies of those who had died from starvation could be found everywhere. In 1931, when eastern China was affected by floods, 400,000 people died as a result. But New China pays great attention to relief work, and makes every effort to protect and save people's lives and property, and ensure the basic needs of life of people in disaster-stricken areas. According to preliminary statistics, in the past 50 years since the founding of the PRC, the Central Government has allocated more than 30 billion RMB yuan as relief funds for serious natural disasters, solving the problem of provisions in 2.2 billion cases, helping over 800 million people rebuild their homes, rebuilding more than 100 million collapsed houses, providing billions of items of clothing for 200-odd million people and curing a billion cases of disease or injury resulting from disasters.

The rights of workers have been realized to the full. In 1949, the number of unemployed workers was 4.742 million, with an unemployment rate of 23.65 percent. In addition, millions upon millions of peasants were bankrupt. In 1998, the number of employed people nationwide totaled 699.57 million, and the number of registered unemployed persons was 5.71 million, with a registered unemployment rate of 3.1 percent. Three security systems--the basic living security system for people laid off by state-owned enterprises, unemployment insurance and the basic living security system for residents of cities and towns--have been established, and thus the basic needs of life of laid-off and unemployed people have been effectively guaranteed. Meanwhile, wages have been rising rapidly; the average annual income of employees in cities and towns increased from 445 RMB yuan in 1952 to 7,479 RMB yuan in 1998, or an increase of 3.8 times based on comparable prices. According to the law, the working time has been shortened from eight hours a day and 48 hours a week in the past to the present eight hours a day and 40 hours a week. Before the founding of the PRC, there were only a few small training schools for technicians in the whole country. But now, a multi-form and multi-layer vocational education and training system has been established, basically meeting the needs of economic construction. The proportion of new employees in cities and towns receiving various types of training has reached 70 percent.

There was no social security system for employees in old China, but in New China a comprehensive and well-funded social security system has gradually emerged. At present, except for some ex-employees whose pensions are still paid by their old enterprises, the number of people participating in the basic retirement insurance policy is 94.33 million, a coverage rate of 84 percent. Among them, there are more than 28 million retired people. At the end of 1999, a total of 99.12 million employees were covered by unemployment insurance, more than 15 million unemployed were receiving relief funds and 7.5 million unemployed people had been re-employed. Since the founding of New China, the state has set up free medical services and a labor-protection medical care system at public expense, and at the end of 1998, 177.81 million persons were benefiting from these services. Insurance against injury at work is now practiced in more than 1,700 cities and counties throughout the country, covering over 37.8 million employees, and childbirth insurance is available in 1,412 cities and counties, covering 27.77 million women employees. By the end of October 1999, 668 cities and 1,638 counties in the country had established systems for ensuring basic living needs, benefiting two million residents living in poverty.

In old China there was not even the most basic medical and health service for ordinary people. But nowadays, medical institutions can be found everywhere, and a comprehensive medical and health service system has begun to emerge. In 1949, China had only 3,670 medical institutions, 84,600 hospital beds and 505,000 medical and health personnel, and there was only 0.15 hospital bed, 0.93 medical and health personnel, 0.67 doctor and 0.06 nurse (paramedic) per thousand people. In 1998, China had 314,100 health institutions, 3.143 million hospital beds and 4.4237 million medical and health personnel, and there were 2.4 hospital beds, 3.64 medical and health personnel, 1.65 doctors and one nurse (paramedic) per thousand people. The people's health has greatly improved. The incidence of acute epidemic diseases has decreased from 20,000 per 100,000 people before the founding of the PRC to 203.4 per 100,000 people; the death rate, from 33 per 1,000 people to 6.49 per 1,000 people in 1994, and the infant death rate from 200 per 1,000 to the present 33.1 per 1,000. The average life expectancy of Chinese people has increased from 35 years in 1949 to 70.8 years at present, 10 years longer than that of the developing countries and the same as that of the medium-developed countries.

Culture and education in old China were extremely backward. Most working people had almost no opportunity to receive education. However, the right to receive education in New China is guaranteed and realized. In 1998, nine-year compulsory education was practiced in areas where 73 percent of the population live. The enrollment rate for primary school-age children has increased from 20 percent before 1949 to 99.3 percent, and for junior middle school-age children, 87.3 percent. These figures exceed the average figures for developing countries in the corresponding period. Over the past 50 years, 230 million illiterates have been taught to read and write, the illiteracy rate has decreased from 80 percent of the total population to 14.5 percent; adult illiteracy rate has decreased to below 5.5 percent. In 1998, the numbers of students enrolled in institutions of higher learning and middle schools had increased by 22.99 and 41.11 times, respectively, compared to the highest figures before 1949; the educated population was close to 300 million persons, and the number of students enrolled reached 230 million persons. Between 1949 and 1990, the total number of postgraduates and graduates from universities and colleges was 7.6082 million, nearly 40 times the total for the years 1912 to 1948.

China has made universally acknowledged achievements in realizing its people's rights to subsistence and development, and economic, social and cultural rights over the past 50 years. Articles published in October 1999 in the New York Times and in September 1999 in the International Herald Tribune, published in the United States, point out: "The great achievement made by China of solving the problems of food, clothing and housing for one quarter of the world's population will be written in the annals of history." "Today, ordinary Chinese citizens enjoy better health, nutriment, education and living standards than in any period in the Middle Kingdom's long history."