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UPDATED: September 28, 2014 NO. 40 OCTOBER 2, 2014
A New Start for Change
After 65 years of development, China has ignited a new round of reforms to create an even brighter future
By Li Li

ALL GOOD NEWS: An official (right) explains the new registration policy to an applicant in Suining, Sichuan Province, on March 3 (ZHONG MIN)

Xiaogang, a small village in Fengyang County, east China's Anhui Province, is famous for representing the epitome of China's last round of rural reforms. It started with a secret arrangement among local farmers to subdivide their common farmland in December 1978, after which agricultural production increased dramatically. The village was then held up as a model by China's leadership in launching a national reform that made rural households contractors of farmland, and greatly incentivized agricultural production and productivity.

The reforms have transformed China's rural areas as well as people's lives in Xiaogang. Half of the families in this village now live in villas. Local farmers have in recent years built tourism facilities, including a museum related to the famous reform, to attract urban residents seeking a vacation getaway. The revenues from running vineyards and family-run hostels have boosted the local farmers' per-capita income to more than 12,000 yuan ($1,950) in 2013, compared to a mere 20 yuan ($3.2) in 1978.

After becoming the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in November 2012, Xi Jinping, who was elected Chinese president the following March, wasted no time in reassuring the world that the CPC will not only persevere with reforms championed by Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of China's reform and opening up, but also initiate new paths. Shenzhen, the special economic zone of south China's Guangdong Province that is synonymous with the country's 36-year-old era of reform drive, was the first city that Xi inspected after becoming the Party chief.

"I chose Guangdong because I intended to reflect on China's opening-up and reform progress on the site where the trend was first initiated," Xi recalled.

The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, held in November 2013, unveiled an overall deployment of China's new comprehensive reforms. A leading group for overall reform headed by Xi has been established as a key measure to promote the country's comprehensive deepening of reforms.

A series of reforms have already taken place since the landmark plenary session. The reeducation-through-labor system, which allowed detention for up to four years without an open trial, has been officially abolished. The one-child policy has been eased by allowing couples to have two children if one of them is an only child.

Business registration rules were reformed on March 1 by lifting restrictions on minimum registered capital, payment deadlines and cash ratio of registered capital to encourage start-ups. Between March and June, about 1.27 million new companies were registered in China, representing a year-on-year growth of almost 67 percent.

FREE MEDICAL SERVICE: A retired woman (second left) receives a free health check-up at her community in Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province, on June 9 (XINHUA)

More reforms are in progress, such as the household registration system reform to give citizens without urban household registration equal access to public services in cities, reform on the purchase and use of government vehicles to cut hefty spending and avoid misuse of public money and the reform of cutting hefty salaries for executives of large state-owned enterprises. Meanwhile, medical reform will be expanded from 311 county-level public hospitals to more than 1,000 such institutions, covering 50 percent of Chinese counties, in 2014. The reform is aimed at improving the management of public hospitals and setting up a payroll and human resources system suited to the medical sector.

In the economic field, China is opening the door to private investors in oil and natural gas exploration and the banking sector, areas previously closed to private capital. Private capital has also been encouraged to invest in railway construction. The price mechanisms for agricultural products, and public service products are also undergoing reform.

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