Herders who endured a snow disaster wait for the distribution of disaster relief fodder in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, on February 26 (XINHUA)
Twenty veterans were awarded at an activity titled Most Outstanding Veteran in January for their contributions to the country and society. Among them was Shen Rubo, a veteran from north China's Hebei Province, who has done more than 100,000 good deeds in his life. The last one was a donation of 500 yuan ($74.8) to a cancer patient before he passed away in June 2018 from esophageal cancer.
The deeds of these model veterans reverberated among the public and the related reports on Weibo, a major social media platform in China, have been read for more than 150 million times. "Pay tribute to outstanding veterans! You are all a bright light that illuminates society," a user posted.
Calling on people to learn from the spirit of these veterans, the activity was organized by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, which is one of the new ministries established after an institutional reshuffle in 2018.
A year has passed since the announcement of the institutional restructuring plan by the State Council on March 17, 2018, during the First Session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature of China.
To build a governance system with clear responsibilities under the principle of the law, the reshuffle focused on the transformation and optimization of government functions, including economic regulation, market supervision, public services and environmental protection.
During the process of restructuring, departmental constraints were broken in a bid to meet requirements in the new era, taking advantage of the function of the market and government, further realizing the development of a high quality and modernized economic system, as well as, the satisfaction of the people.
As a result, seven new ministries were established and unveiled by April 16 last year, garnering great attention from the public. In addition, the number of ministerial departments was reduced by eight and that of vice-ministerial entities by seven.
At this year's sessions of the NPC and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, or the Two Sessions, in Beijing, leaders of these new departments answered questions at the Ministers' Corridor, outlining the year's achievements and unveiling the work focus for the coming year.
Sun Shaocheng, Minister of Veterans Affairs, brought good news about a draft law on supporting veterans, expected to be submitted to the NPC for reading in the second half of 2019.
Launched on April 16 last year, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs is working to centralize and unify the management and support system for veterans with clarified power and duties as it aims to protect the legitimate rights and interests of military personnel and their families. At the same time, an improved service and management system of demobilized military personnel will be built to motivate and help them in their civilian life as well as promote military service as an occupation that demands public respect.
A draft legislation, with a total of 11 laws and regulations and 17 policies that concern veteran affairs, began to circulate in related departments at city and county levels in March 2018, and the reviewing of the draft is due to be finished by the end of March.
Currently, a vast veteran service network is under construction, which is aimed to cover every village and community and be tasked with supporting and assisting veterans with employment and businesses, helping retirees and their families in need, surveying and visiting veterans, handling veterans' complaints and petitions, and safeguarding their rights and interests.
In addition to the acceleration of laws, reform of the resettlement system for veterans will be further strengthened. An improved petition and supervision mechanism will be implemented to protect veterans' rights and help solve their problems. Through service centers set up at all administrative levels, construction of information technology and the quality of services will be strengthened.
In order to improve the employment competitiveness of veterans, the ministry is working with relevant departments and social forces to provide training programs and entrepreneurship services. On March 19, the ministry signed contracts with 10 banks for preferential policies supporting financing for veterans.
"To help veterans in the new era, extensive support of all of society is needed, with better services jointly offered by forces from different quarters. Thus, a friendly social atmosphere will be created for them," Sun pointed out.
Expanding medical care
The National Health Commission (NHC) was formed in 2018, and immediately undertook deepening medical reform, including the hierarchical medical system and public hospitals. It is also responsible for formulating national health policies, establishing a national basic medicine system and providing family-planning services, among other tasks.
Last year, it released an updated list of the national essential drugs, increasing the total number from 520 to 685. In addition, 17 anti-cancer drugs were admitted into hospitals, saving 80,000 critical patients. By January 3, some 1,386 hospitals nationwide reported that they had purchased anti-cancer drugs to reduce the burden on patients.
In terms of industrial supervision, the NHC has taken the lead in establishing a comprehensive coordinated supervision mechanism at the national level. The health problems of the poor in rural areas were given prominence, while the intensive treatment of serious diseases expanded to 21, with a total of 548,000 patients treated. In addition, the NHC gave special attention to women, children and seniors.
In 2019, the revitalization and development of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) will be highlighted. It requires the construction of key laboratories, research of modern key technology equipment and protection of TCM intellectual property rights. Meanwhile, the prevention and control of major diseases and public health work will also be emphasized. The NHC will continue to focus on fields that have seen some advances, such as medical care in rural areas, while also paying close attention to reforming the hierarchical medical system.
"To some extent, the development of a mature hierarchical medical system marks the success of medical system reform," said Ma Xiaowei, Director of the NHC, on March 8 at the Ministers' Corridor at the Two Sessions this year.
Protection and prevention
As a new ministry managing the country's natural resources, the Ministry of Natural Resources is charged with overseeing the development and protection of China's natural resources. It has set up and implemented a spatial planning system with the establishment of a system for paid use of natural resources.
After the restructuring based on previous administrations, the ministry took the lead in drafting a number of opinions, including the national spatial system and natural resource assets property rights, considering recommendations from different quarters, investigations and studies. Approved by the Central Government, they have all moved into the implementation phase.
At the same time, the ministry launched the basic work of the national survey of reclamation status and the third national land survey.
According to the requirements of the Central Government, the ministry will put efforts into solving some outstanding problems, such as the formulation of more effective land protection policies based on various natural geographical conditions, which also requires in-depth exploration.
Last year, the ministry straightened the real estate registration service window. The next step is to reduce the time needed for real estate registration. Moreover, in order to strengthen the overall protection and supervision of natural resources, the ministry will continue to explore scientific ways with local governments to protect the limited natural resources of the country in order to realize more economical and intensive use.
To forestall and defuse serious and major natural risks and improve disaster relief, the Ministry of Emergency Management was set up last year. It launched 47 emergency responses, 14 of which were dispatched to more than 60 groups, combined with the allocations and relief materials arranged by the Ministry of Finance.
As a result, the year-on-year number of missing people, collapsed houses and direct economic losses caused by natural disasters decreased by 60 percent, 78 percent and 34 percent, respectively, compared to the average over the past five years. There was also a decline in the total number of accidents in safety production, large accidents and serious accidents.
This is due both to the lower rate of natural disasters in 2018 and the efforts of the new ministry. After formulating emergency and work plans for various disasters, it organized and coordinated disaster prevention activities, motivating various departments. In addition, it is constantly exploring new ways to improve the operational mechanism for the integration of disaster prevention and relief.
In 2019, the ministry will focus on the enhancement of the ability to prevent and resolve major risks, the construction of a disaster and workplace accident prevention and rescue mechanism, and the improvement of national aviation emergency rescue capability. It is necessary to comprehensively build a system of emergency management legal systems by accelerating the revision of relevant laws and regulations in order to promote safety production supervision.
Basic theoretical research was also emphasized in the ministry's work list. It promised to promote the research and application of advanced technologies and increase international exchange and cooperation.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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