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Reforms crucial for the Chinese Dream

By AN BAIJIE | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-02 01:57

Deepening of positive change is part of blueprint drawn up by Xi to help the people and the nation realize aspirations

Thanks to reform measures taken by the local government, migrant worker Liu Gang found it easier to have his hukou, or household registration, transferred in April from his rural hometown to an urban region with better education, pension and medical services.

Liu, 24, a resident of Chengguan district in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province, said that in the past, he had to work at least two years in Lanzhou before applying for the city's hukou, but now he could submit the application at any time as long as he owned a house in the city.

Measures have been rolled out across the country to facilitate hukou application procedures since the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform, headed by President Xi Jinping, reviewed and passed a guideline at a meeting in early 2014.

Hukou reform is just one element of the country's extensive reform drive. Last year, 97 key reform tasks were completed, 419 reform plans were drafted and frameworks for reform in major sectors were drawn up.

Comprehensively deepening reform is one of the "Four Comprehensives", a strategic blueprint drawn up by Xi that creates pathways to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has presided over 34 meetings of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform since its establishment in late 2013.

Poverty alleviation, healthcare, employment and education were among the key issues discussed at the meetings, which aimed to improve people's lives.

During a meeting of the central leading group held early this year, Xi said leading CPC and government officials are central to the national reform drive. They must act to "shoulder the heaviest burden, and chew on the hardest bones", he said.

Xi has taken the lead. In the four years since he became general secretary, reform has emerged as a hallmark of his administration. Xi's first trip outside Beijing as the leader of the CPC, in 2012, was to Guangdong province, which has been at the forefront of China's decadeslong reform and opening-up drive.

"Reforms are always in the present tense, not the past tense," Xi has said.

Last year, he visited Xiaogang village, often called the birthplace of rural reform, in Anhui province, where he called for a solid agricultural sector and improved conditions for farmers.

In July, during an event to mark the 95th anniversary of the founding of the CPC, Xi said reform and opening-up will be crucial to deciding the fate of modern China.

The general objectives of reform are improving socialism with Chinese characteristics and modernizing the State governance system, according to a communique issued after the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in 2013. The session featured a comprehensive reform package covering 60 tasks and over 300 reform measures.

Reform must be focused on issues of public concern, Xi has said. It must serve to resolve outstanding problems in ordinary people's lives and meet their demands and needs. It should be carried out by the people and for the people.

Among the reform tasks, poverty reduction is a key step in improving people's lives. Xi said in his most recent New Year's address that what he cares most about is poor people.

The whole process of poverty reduction requires tailored poverty relief policies and precise measures, and sometimes patience and accuracy like "doing embroidery", Xi told lawmakers during the top legislature's annual session in March.

According to a standard set in 2011, China categorizes those with an annual income lower than 2,300 yuan ($334) as poverty-stricken. The CPC has made a solemn promise to lift all those still living in poverty out of that status by the end of 2020.

The number of people living in poverty nationwide was reduced by 12.4 million last year to 43.35 million. The government will lift another 10 million people out of poverty this year, according to the Government Work Report.

Other endeavors to help improve the people's livelihoods are also taking shape.

The National Development and Reform Commission said in April that all public hospitals will end the longtime practice of drug price markups by September as part of ongoing healthcare reform. That is expected to help resolve problems like overprescribing, overuse of antibiotics and unnecessary increases in medical expenses. Hospitals' loss of revenue will be offset, for the most part, by a rise in prices for patient services, and more government investment is likely.

In the economic sphere, Xi has promised extensive supply-side structural reform.

The reform, proposed at the end of 2015 to resolve structural imbalances in the economy, has been focused on five tasks: cutting industrial capacity, reducing housing inventory, lowering indebtedness, cutting corporate costs and improving weak economic links. Efforts in these areas paid off last year. China met the annual target to reduce overcapacity of 45 million metric tons of steel and 250 million metric tons of coal production ahead of schedule, and a large number of zombie enterprises were shut down.

To advance supply-side reform, China has to handle the relationships between government and market, short term and long term, addition and subtraction, and supply and demand, Xi said in January, during a group study held by the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

The country's clean-governance and supervisory system is another area of political reform that has far-reaching importance. In January 2016, Xi stressed that the country must upgrade the structure of its supervisory organizations and establish a national supervisory system that will oversee all State organs and civil servants.

Han Qingxiang, a professor of public administration at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, said that reform has continued to be a key theme of China's development since the country embarked on its reform and opening-up drive in the late 1970s.

The reform drive is now in a deep-water zone because many of the easier reforms have been accomplished, leaving the difficult tasks, he said.

Zhu Lijia, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the country had made remarkable progress, and the experience of the past few years will be invaluable over the next three to five years.

"Deepening overall reform needs both determination and wisdom because the country's reform is facing arduous and complicated tasks," he said, adding that reform should address such problems as a widening income gap, corruption and employment issues.

Xinhua contributed to this story.


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