II. Better Protecting the Rights to Subsistence and Development
Over the past 40 years, China has worked to better protect basic human rights, with its primary focus on the rights to subsistence and development. Development is China's top priority in governance and considered to be the key to addressing the country's main problems. China has focused on ensuring and improving people's wellbeing by resolving their most serious and urgent problems, realizing historic leaps from poverty to securing access to food and clothing, and thence to moderate prosperity.
Tremendous achievements in poverty reduction. Poverty elimination is the top priority in China's effort to protect human rights. Reform and opening up has been a great driving force for poverty elimination in China. Over the past four decades, the Chinese government has made continuous endeavors in poverty reduction, concentrating on development-oriented poverty alleviation in rural areas. The government has carried out large-scale development-oriented poverty-alleviation campaigns across the country in a planned and organized way, and implemented a number of medium-and long-term programs, including the Seven-Year Program for Lifting 80 Million People Out of Poverty (1994-2000), the Outline for Development-Oriented Poverty Alleviation for China's Rural Areas (2001-2010), and the Outline for Development-Oriented Poverty Alleviation for China's Rural Areas (2011-2020).
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee has gone all out to win the battle against poverty, taken poverty elimination as the primary task, made it a defining indicator in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and made unprecedented efforts to implement major plans for development-oriented poverty alleviation. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council have issued the Decision on Winning the Battle Against Poverty, which lays out the goals and criteria for poverty elimination, establishes the basic strategy of targeted poverty alleviation and elimination, creates a poverty elimination system with Chinese characteristics, and defines comprehensive efforts to advance key plans for targeted poverty alleviation.
In the light of the strategic goal of poverty elimination set out by the 19th CPC National Congress, the central authorities issued a Three-Year Guideline on Winning the Battle Against Poverty. The 19th CPC National Congress defined targeted poverty elimination as one of the three crucial battles in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and pledged to help all the rural population living below the current poverty line shake off poverty by the year 2020 and ensure that poor people and poor areas will join the moderately prosperous society together with the rest of the country.
Through decades of efforts, the number of rural poor has markedly dropped and the poverty headcount ratio has seen a continuous decrease. Solid steps have been taken to eliminate regional poverty, and the working conditions and living standards of the rural poor have notably improved, which created a stronger sense of gain for the people, indicating decisive progress has been made in the fight against poverty. According to World Bank estimates, over the past 40 years, the number of people in China living on less than US$1.9 a day (international poverty line) has dropped by more than 850 million-this represents 70 percent of the total world figure. The number of rural poor fell from 770 million in 1978 to 30.46 million in 2017 when calculated in accordance with China's current poverty line, with the incidence of poverty dropping from 97.5 percent to 3.1 percent. More than 10 million people rose and remained above the poverty level every year from 2012 to 2017. With the highest number of people moving out of poverty, China was the first developing country to realize the UN Millennium Development Goal for poverty reduction. Poverty reduction is the most telling evidence of China's progress in human rights.
Adequate food and clothing ensured. In the early days of reform and opening up, providing enough food and clothing for nearly one billion people was the top issue facing China. Reform of the rural land system and the implementation of the household responsibility system greatly stimulated farmers' enthusiasm and boosted agricultural production capacity. China's food grain output reached 661.61million tons in 2017, double the figure of 1978. In recent years China has become the world's largest producer of grain, meat, peanuts and tea, the second-largest producer of rapeseed, and the third-largest producer of sugarcane. China feeds approximately 20 percent of the world's population using less than 10 percent of the arable land, guaranteeing the basic right to subsistence by eradicating hunger and improving nutrition.
Safer drinking water. National standards for major drinking water sources have been implemented. In 2016 more than 600 surface water sources each supplying drinking water for 200,000 people or more, and all ground water sources each supplying 20 million or more cubic meters of drinking water annually were incorporated into the Catalogue of China's Major Drinking Water Sources, subject to annual quality assessment. The 2017 assessment results show that 99.5 percent of the drinking water sources met the water supply reliability standard, and 90.9 percent met the water quality standard.
A program was launched in 2005 to ensure drinking water safety in rural areas. By the end of 2015 a total of 520 million rural residents and 47 million teachers and students in rural areas had gained access to safe drinking water. Since 2016 the program has been upgraded to reinforce rural drinking water safety. By the end of 2017 the upgrade had benefitted 95.09 million rural residents, among whom 11.69 million were people living below the poverty line. Centralized water supply now covers 85 percent of the rural population and 80 percent of rural people have access to tap water.
Improved housing conditions. The past 40 years have witnessed a remarkable improvement in housing conditions. In 2017 the per capita floor space of urban residents was 36.9 sq m, up from 6.7 sq m in 1978, and that of rural residents was 46.7 sq m, up from 8.1 sq m in 1978. The state has made it a priority to resolve housing problems for poor families. From 2008 to 2017 government subsidies were used to build 64 million housing units in urban areas, and redevelopment of run-down areas helped 100 million people move from sub-standard accommodation to new apartments. By the end of 2017 more than 35 million people in straitened circumstances had moved into public rental housing units, and more than 20 million poor people had received public rental subsidies. Since the 18th CPC National Congress the state has increased funding for dilapidated rural housing renovation, allocating RMB162.5 billion in subsidies for renovating the sub-standard housing of 16.59 million rural households, and helping tens of millions of rural households move into proper accommodation from dilapidated houses built of such materials as beaten earth, and timber and bark.
More convenient and safer public transport. Over the past 40 years China's steadily-improving public transport network has provided stronger support for the country's economic and social development, and greater convenience and safety to the public. By the end of 2017 China's rail network had grown to 127,000 kilometers, up by 150 percent from 1978, and high-speed rail had reached 25,000 kilometers, accounting for more than 60 percent of the world's total. The high-speed and other railway lines form an extensive passenger transport network covering all provincial capitals in the country. By the end of 2017 China's road network had increased to 4.77 million kilometers, up by 440 percent from 1978, including 136,000 kilometers of expressways. Road density had grown more than fivefold from the beginning of reform and opening up to 49.72 km/100 sq km. Every county in China now has access to roads. Rural transport has seen continuous improvement, with roads connecting 99.99 percent of towns and townships and 99.98 percent of administrative villages. Since 2001 programs have been carried out to renovate dangerous bridges, and reinforce road safety, the protection of the public, and road disaster prevention. Through these programs, 39,000 bridges on roads at township level and above, 660,000 kilometers of high-risk roads, and 31,000 kilometers of disaster-prone roads have been renovated to better safeguard public transport safety.
A total of 8,440 new post offices have been built in towns and townships, with the result that every township-level unit has a post office and every village has access to postal services. Express delivery outlets cover 87 percent of towns and townships, establishing a two-way channel that facilitates the transport of manufactured products to rural areas and agricultural products to the cities.
Better protection of the rights to life and health. Since reform and opening up, and especially since the 18th CPC National Congress, the country has increased public access to health services throughout the life cycle, to quicken its pace toward a healthy China. Life expectancy in China rose from 67.8 in 1981 to 76.7 in 2017, higher than the world average of 72. The maternal mortality rate decreased from 94.7 per 100,000 in 1989 to 19.6 per 100,000 in 2017, and the infant mortality rate dropped from 50.2 per 1,000 in 1991 to 6.8 per 1,000 in 2017, both meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule.
A community-level health service system covering urban and rural areas is in place. The number of health service institutions increased to 987,000 in 2017, up by 480 percent from 1978, with the number of health professionals growing by 260 percent to 8.98 million in 2017. Basic public health services have improved, with national vaccination coverage among children topping 90 percent, and the prevalence of HBsAg in children under five decreasing to 1 percent. China has set up the world's largest online direct reporting system of notifiable epidemics and public health emergencies, and the average reporting time has been shortened to four hours. The national fitness program has thrived, with more than 1.7 million sports venues across the country
Expanded social assistance. Through years of effort, China has formed a social assistance system with subsistence allowances, assistance and support for people in extreme difficulty, disaster relief, medical assistance, housing assistance, education assistance, employment assistance, and temporary assistance as the main forms, supplemented by public participation. A subsistence security system has been set up nationwide. Regulations on Subsistence Security for Urban Residents and Interim Measures for Social Assistance have been enacted. Decisions on Improving the Assistance and Support System for People in Extreme Difficulty provide assistance to two groups of people-urban residents without income, the ability to work, or support by family, and rural people eligible for the "Five Guarantees": those who are unable to work and have no source of income, including the elderly, the disabled and minors who have no legal guardians to support them.
By the end of 2017, 37,494 towns, townships and neighborhoods had set up social assistance agencies, staffed by 104,673 full-time and part-time personnel-an average of 2.6 per unit. As of September 2018 there were 46,199,000 people living on subsistence allowances, consisting of 10,688,000 urban residents receiving an average of RMB575 per month, and 35,511,000 rural residents receiving an average of RMB4,754 per annum. All rural subsistence allowance standards at the county level meet or exceed the national poverty line.
In 2017 medical assistance was granted to 91,381,000 applications, in the form of direct payment for medical service for 35,171,000 people, and as subsidies for 56,210,000 poor people when joining the basic medical insurance. Between January and September 2018 temporary assistance was given to 5,658,000 applications, averaging RMB1,069.4 per application.
Stronger protection of environmental rights. Over the past four decades China has incorporated ecological progress into the national development strategy and intensified its efforts in environmental governance, creating a better environment and effectively safeguarding people's environmental rights. China's first Environmental Protection Law was adopted in 1979. Environmental protection was first included as a salient part of the plan for national economic and social development in 1982, and was designated as a basic state policy in 1983. China's Agenda 21 passed in 1994 made China the first country in the world to formulate and implement a strategy of sustainable development.
Committed to green development, China puts an enormous effort into pollution control and takes concrete steps to promote ecological progress toward a beautiful China. The 19th CPC National Congress sounded a clarion call to win the battle against pollution. The National Conference on Environmental Protection established Xi Jinping Thought on ecological progress. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Decisions on Comprehensively Strengthening Environmental Protection and Resolutely Winning the Battle Against Pollution, setting out the timetable, road map and agenda for pollution prevention and control. In 2017 coal accounted for 60.4 percent of China's total energy consumption, down by 10.3 percentage points from 1978. The proportion of clean energy sources, including natural gas, water, nuclear, wind and electricity, has increased from 6.6 percent in 1978 to 20.8 percent in 2017. Between 2013 and 2017, the average PM10 intensity in 338 cities at and above the prefecture level nationwide fell by 22.7 percent, and the average PM2.5 intensity in 74 major cities fell by 34.7 percent. In 2017, trees were planted on 7.36 million hectares across the country and forest coverage was 21.66 percent; the number of nature reserves totaled 2,750, covering 1.47 million sq km or 14.86 percent of China's land territory.
China has played an active role in global environmental governance, and ratified more than 30 multilateral conventions and protocols related to environmental protection. China was the first country to release a national plan on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to deposit its instrument of ratification for the Paris Agreement, becoming an important participant, contributor and leader in promoting global ecological progress.