In December 2014, the State Council conducted a poll on sina.com.cn and qq.com to find out which policies issued in the year attracted most interest from the public.
The results showed that of the top 10 policies, streamlining administrative approval procedures was the most popular, followed by improved medical services and making it easier to secure hukou, or permanent residence, in urban or rural areas.
The results are:
Streamlining administrative approval procedures
Administrative approvals for more than 200 categories were canceled or delegated to authorities at lower levels. Also canceled were more than 100 professional certification procedures.
Business registration was simplified. Business licenses can now be obtained from industry and commerce bureaus before other authorities grant a permit to do business in a specific field. For instance, a company can be set up before going through procedures to get permits for specific businesses.
After new regulations on information disclosure were issued, enterprises no longer have to go through annual assessment by the industry and commerce authorities. They only have to file an annual report — open to public scrutiny — to the industry and commerce authorities.
The State Council has taken the lead in limiting its power on administrative approvals, setting an example for authorities at lower levels to follow suit.
Improving medical services
According to a May circular, 700 county-level public hospitals will offer better services, so that more than half of counties and county-level cities will have joined the reform program benefiting more than 500 million rural residents.
Provinces that have at least 4 ward beds for every 1,000 residents will not be allowed to expand public hospitals in principle; and authorities should streamline administrative approval procedures so that the private sector can set up medical institutions more easily.
Authorities in different provinces should also try to integrate their public health insurance programs, especially for those who worked and paid for health insurance in one province but are living in another after retirement. This way when people seek medical services in the province they live in, their insurance policies pay for the medical expenses.
Insurance companies are encouraged to issue policies for severe medical conditions so that patients are reimbursed not only by the public health insurance program but also by insurance companies.
Reform of hukou system
A circular to further reform the hukou system, or the residence permit system, was issued in July.
All small cities are required to relax hukou conditions so that all those have a lawful and long-term residence, including even a rented apartment, are eligible for hukou.
On the other hand, the circular seeks strict population controls in mega cities. Cities that have an urban population of more than 5 million should set up a grading system for hukou registration, or improve the system if they already have one. With such a system, a city sets a number of criteria for immigrants who seek hukou, and grades them accordingly to see if they meet the requisite criteria.
The categorization of urban and rural hukou will be canceled but the authorities cannot ask people with rural hukou to trade their land rights to secure urban hukou.
Pension system for urban unemployed and rural residents
In February, a circular was issued stating that rural residents and the urban unemployed should enjoy the same pension by the end of 2015.
Air pollution control
In May, an action plan for 2014 and 2015 was announced to save energy and reduce emissions.
During 2014 and 2015, energy consumed per unit of GDP should be reduced by more than 3.9 percent annually. Emissions of carbon dioxide per unit of GDP should drop by more than 4 percent in 2014 and more than 3.5 percent in 2015.
Targets were also set for the reduction of chemical oxygen demand per unit of GDP, as well as emissions of sulfur dioxide, ammonia nitrogen and nitrogen oxide per unit of GDP.
By the end of 2015, outdated capacity in iron smelting and steel smelting should be cut by 15 million tons each.
Also by that time, outdated capacity in the cement industry should be cut by 100 million tons; and by 20 million weight cases in the plate glass industry.
In Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and surrounding areas, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta, industries with severe overcapacity must reduce coal consumption before they can set up any project that uses coal.
The plan aims to reduce coal consumption in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei as a whole in 2015.
Changes in college entrance exam
A circular in September 2014 aims to reform gaokao, or the college entrance examination, which is being tried as a pilot project in Shanghai and Zhejiang.
High school students in the two places will not be divided into liberal arts or science students.
From 2015, students will not be granted extra points in the college entrance examination for artistic or athletic merit.
Universities and colleges are required to enroll more students from relatively-underdeveloped central and western regions; and top universities and colleges should increase the intake of students from rural areas.
College graduates get help in jobs, businesses
A circular issued in May helps college graduates find a job or start their own business.
If small and micro enterprises employ fresh college graduates, sign a contract with them for more than a year and pay the employers’ contribution of social security in full and on time, the government will offer a yearlong subsidy to these enterprises to cover all or part of their contributions to the graduates’ social security. This benefit will expire by the end of 2015.
Small and micro tech startups can apply for loans up to 2 million yuan (about $322,000), and the government will pay interest if the enterprises employ a stipulated number of fresh graduates.
Small and micro businesses owned by college graduates pay half the enterprise income tax, and are temporarily exempt from business and value added taxes if the monthly turnover is less than 20,000 yuan.
College graduates who open online stores can enjoy micro loans for which the government will pay interest.
Promoting fair competition
In a policy issued in July, authorities across the country were asked to set up a negative list for market entry so that enterprises can enter any industry or business not on the list.
The authorities should set up a system where sellers, instead of producers, compensate consumers upfront for bad products, as well as a national credit information database.
Pricing system reform
According to a November decision, the government’s discretion to determine product prices is reduced, and the pricing system will be more market-oriented and transparent.
The government will not set price controls on services that have no direct bearing on daily life.
The government sets a price cap for some medicines but is working to remove controls so that pharmaceutical companies are encouraged to resume production of medicines now stopped due to the low prices.
Charities get helping hand
According to December circular, the donation an enterprise or a person makes, with certain provisions, is tax-deductible. Charity programs lasting more than 6 months should be open to public scrutiny every three months to explain how the donations are being used. Organizations running such programs should reveal all information on donations used within three months after they end.