Full Text: Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China

Human Rights
The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China on Sunday published a white paper titled "Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China."

XinhuaUpdated: September 23, 2019

III. Continuing to Improve People's Living Standards

China is the world's largest developing country. It has always been the CPC's most fundamental mission in governance to ensure adequate food and clothing for the people, achieve better development, and give the people a better life. Upholding the rights to subsistence and development as the primary human rights, China strives to enhance people's wellbeing through development in order to better protect their human rights.

The right to food is effectively guaranteed. In the early days of the PRC, the country faced many difficulties, such as a weak agricultural base dependent on the weather, and low grain yield. As a result many Chinese did not have enough to eat and suffered from malnutrition. Over the years the Chinese government has carried out rural land reforms to stabilize and improve land contracting system in rural areas. With improved irrigation infrastructure, China's agriculture has seen a continuing rise in productivity and steady increase in the output of main agricultural products. 

Total grain output soared from 113.18 million tons in 1949 to 657.89 million tons in 2018, and the area of irrigated farmland from 15.94 million ha in 1949 to 68.1 million ha in 2018. China's output of grain, meat, peanut, tea, and fruit has topped the world for many years. China feeds approximately 20 percent of the world's population using 6.6 percent of the fresh water resources and 9 percent of the arable land of the world; it has succeeded in improving nutrition and eradicating hunger.

Absolute poverty eliminated. Poverty is the biggest obstacle to fulfilling the human rights of the Chinese people. In the past, the world knew an old, weak China mired in poverty, its people living in dire misery. Since the founding of the PRC, the CPC and the Chinese government have led the people in a great fight to eliminate poverty, highlighted by a campaign which since 1978, the year when reform and opening up was launched, has focused on development-oriented poverty alleviation in rural areas. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee has taken poverty elimination as the primary task, made it a defining indicator in completing a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and laid out plans to win the final battle against poverty. It has been made clear that by 2020 there must be no more rural people living below the current poverty line and no more impoverished counties, and regional poverty must be eradicated. The 19th CPC National Congress has made new plans for targeted poverty eradication, one of the three final tasks that must be accomplished to achieve all-round moderate prosperity. 

Between 1978 and 2018 the number of rural poor fell from 770 million to 16.6 million calculated against China's poverty line set in 2010, and the incidence of poverty in rural areas dropped from 97.5 percent to 1.7 percent. More than 10 million people rose and remained above the poverty line every year from 2012 to 2018. With the highest number of people moving out of poverty, China was the first developing country to realize one of the UN Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction. This achievement represented 70 percent of the global poverty reduction effort.

Living standards improved markedly. In 1952, China's GDP was RMB67.9 billion, with a per capita GDP of RMB119. In 2018, China's GDP reached RMB90 trillion, 175 times that of the 1952 figure in real terms. The per capita GDP was RMB64,644, and the per capita gross national income was US$9,732 - above the average level of middle-income countries. The per capita disposable income of Chinese citizens in 1956 was RMB98, and the per capita consumer spending was RMB88. In 2018, the per capita disposable income reached RMB28,228, a 36.8-fold increase in real terms over that of 1956; the per capita consumer spending was RMB19,853, a 28.5-fold increase over 1956 in real terms; the Engel coefficient was 28.4 percent, 35.5 percentage points lower than that of 1978. In 2018, every 100 urban households had 41 family cars, and every 100 rural households had 22.3 family cars; every 100 households had 249.1 mobile phones. 

Following the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the real growth in disposable rural income has outpaced urban income. The gap between urban and rural incomes has narrowed, with the ratio falling to 2.69 in 2018.

Safe drinking water. A program was launched in 2005 to guarantee safe drinking water in rural areas. By the end of 2018, a total of 520 million rural residents and 47 million teachers and students in rural areas had gained access to safe drinking water, 173 million rural residents had a better and more steady supply of drinking water, and the percentages of centralized water supply and running water supply reached 86 percent and 81 percent in rural areas. In 2009 China attained one of the UN Millennium Development Goals - halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water - six years ahead of schedule. As of 2018, there were more than 11 million water supply facilities in rural areas, and a complete rural water supply system had been formed to serve 940 million people. 

The government has conducted examination and assessment of key drinking water sources nationwide, to ensure they meet safety standards. In 2016, 618 surface water sources, each supplying drinking water for 200,000 people or more, and all ground water sources, each supplying 20 million or more cu m of drinking water annually, were incorporated into the Catalogue of China's Major Drinking Water Sources. In 2018, 90.9 percent of the 871 drinking water sources serving cities at the prefecture level and above reached the required standard. In 2018, 90 percent of all households had piped water supply, 95.2 percent had access to safe drinking water, and 96.3 percent had convenient access to drinking water.

Improved housing conditions. Before the launch of reform and opening up in 1978, despite great difficulties, the government endeavored to address housing problems. At that time, housing was mainly provided by employers for workers in urban areas, while rural residents built their own houses. After 1978, urban housing reform was introduced to commercialize the sector, while the housing supply system was gradually improved. The housing conditions of urban and rural residents have improved markedly. In 2018, the per capita floor space of urban residents was 39.0 sq m, up by a factor of 5.8 from 1956, and that of rural residents was 47.3 sq m, up by a factor of 4.8 from 1978. 

Since 2008, the government has introduced major construction projects to provide affordable housing to urban residents, and renovated dilapidated rural housing. By 2018, government subsidies had been used to build 70 million housing units in urban areas, 22 million poor people had received public rental subsidies, and 200 million poor people had received help for improving their housing conditions. The state has helped tens of millions of rural households move into proper accommodation, leaving their dilapidated houses built of such materials as beaten earth mixed with straw, adobe, timber and bark. There has been significant improvement in the capacity of rural housing to resist earthquakes and other natural disasters, and in the comfort level. 

Efforts have been made in several areas: 

• improving the living environment in cities and the countryside; 

• carrying out environmental remediation and urban repair; 

•  promoting energy-saving architecture and green architecture; 

• renovating existing buildings with energy-saving facilities; 

•  furthering domestic sewage treatment and building a system of collecting, transporting and disposing of household garbage in rural areas. 

By 2018, 84 percent of all administrative villages were provided with garbage treatment.

More convenient public transport. After 1949, the newly founded PRC took quick action to repair the transport routes damaged in war, and restored transport by water, land and air. From 1953 to 1977, a total investment of RMB84 billion was made in the construction of transport businesses owned by the people. Key projects such as the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge, Capital International Airport, and Beijing-Shanghai Railway were completed, significantly improving the country's transport links. Since the 1990s China has accelerated construction of transport infrastructure and made it a key strategic goal, and continued to increase investment to build a comprehensive transport system. With an improved transport network, the country's transport capacity and efficiency have seen marked growth, enabling better services to travellers.

By the end of 2018, China's rail network had grown to 131,000 km, up by 500 percent from 1949, and the high-speed rail network had reached 29,000 km, accounting for more than 60 percent of the world's total. In 2018, the number of passengers travelling by rail reached 3.38 billion, 2.01 billion of whom travelled by CRH (China Railways High-speed) trains. China has achieved leapfrog development in its road network, which, by 2018, had reached 4.85 million km in length, including 143,000 km of expressways. In 2018 13.67 billion individual trips were made by road in China, and 97.1 percent of administrative villages had bus services. Every county in China now has road access, and 99.9 percent of villages are connected to the road network. Total inland waterway mileage had reached 127,000 km. The mileage of regular flights had reached 8.38 million km, a 736-fold increase over 1950.

Better health for the people. Before 1949 China suffered from a very low level of medical and health services, and doctors and medicine were rare resources in the countryside and remote areas. Over the past 70 years, the Chinese government has established a sound medical and health care system, continued to increase financial input for advancing public health and medical technology, and launched the Health China initiative, increasing public access to health services throughout the life cycle. Life expectancy in China rose from 35 in the early 1950s to 77 in 2018, meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule, and the people generally enjoy better health than people in high-income countries. 

In 2018, the number of health service institutions increased to 997,000, a 271.78-fold increase from 1949, with health professionals growing 22.73-fold to 12.3 million. From 1949 to 2018, the number of health professionals per 1,000 people increased from 1 to 8.81, and the number of beds in medical institutions per 1,000 people grew from 0.16 to 6.03. A community-level health service system covering urban and rural areas is in place. 

Basic public health services have improved, with the HBV infection rate among children under five dropping below 0.32 percent in 2014, and the national vaccination coverage among children topping 90 percent in 2015. Historic progress has been made in the prevention and control of major infectious diseases and endemic diseases, eliminating polio and basically eliminating iodine deficiency in 2000, filariasis in 2007, and neonatal tetanus in 2012. The prevention and treatment of cancer has been strengthened. The five-year cancer survival rate in the past decade grew from 30.9 percent to 40.5 percent. 

The national fitness program has thrived. As of 2018, China had more than 3.2 million sports venues (a floor space of 1.84 sq m per capita) across the country, and more than 400 million people took part in regular exercises.

Improved social assistance. In the early 1950s, China was in a state of economic stagnation. The people were poor. There was a large number of victims of natural disasters or disability; many were old people or orphans who had no family to turn to. The CPC and the Chinese government carried out emergency assistance, giving money and supplies to the poor and cleaning the mess left by old China. Later, social security was mainly provided by employers in urban areas and production brigades in rural areas, and the state and collectives offered assistance to special groups including orphans, people with disabilities, and rural people eligible for the "Five Guarantees" (food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses). Since 1978, the year when reform and opening up was launched, China has further improved its assistance system in both urban and rural areas, and provided relief to groups with special difficulties. Through years of effort, China has formed a social assistance system supplemented by public participation, with subsistence allowances, disaster relief, medical assistance, education assistance, housing assistance, employment assistance, temporary assistance, and assistance and support for people in extreme difficulty. 

As of March 2019, the average subsistence allowance for urban residents was RMB591 per month, and that for rural residents was RMB4,953 per annum. All rural subsistence allowance standards at county (city) level reached or exceeded the national poverty line. People living in extreme difficulty received RMB6,693 per person per annum in rural areas, and RMB9,096 per person per annum in urban areas. From the 18th CPC National Congress to August 15, 2019 China launched 157 national emergency responses in the wake of major natural disasters, issuing a total of RMB60.27 billion as living subsidies for disaster relief from central funds. Between 2013 and 2018, on a yearly basis the government temporarily relocated more than 9 million people affected by disasters, provided relief to more than 70 million people, and restored and rebuilt more than 500,000 damaged houses. In 2018, the government offered subsidies for 76.74 million poor people on subscribing to the basic medical insurance system, medical assistance to 53.61 million inpatients and outpatients, and assistance to 1.55 million homeless persons and beggars.

Improved postal and telecommunications services. At the beginning of the PRC, China had only 706,000 km of postal routes, with 146,000 km of parallel, long-distance open-wire lines. Over the past 70 years, postal and telecommunications services have kept expanding, with quick progress in telecommunications infrastructure. IT applications and the internet have been developing rapidly, and people's right to communication has been fully guaranteed. 

As of 2018, China had 275,000 postal and courier outlets, a 9.6-fold increase over 1949. The total length of postal routes ahd courier service networks reached 39.45 million km, about a 55-fold increase over 1949. Some 829 million people accessed the internet, 59.6 percent of citizens used the internet, and 98.6 percent went online via mobile phone. As of June 2019, the total length of fiber optic cable lines reached 45.45 million km, and 90 percent of internet users were fiber broadband subscribers. With 4.45 million 4G base stations, China has established the world's largest fixed broadband network and 4G network. Of the 1,586 million mobile phone users (3G and 4G users), 1,230 million were 4G users. Fixed broadband networks connected 91.8 percent of all households, and 97.1 percent of the population was using mobile broadband services. More than 98 percent of administrative villages had access to fiber optic cables and 4G services, taking the lead in the world in this regard. On June 6, 2019, with the issuing of the 5G commercial license by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, 5G services entered the market.

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