Departments and ministries under the State Council, China’s Cabinet, have responded to a series of public concerns in the past week, including on food safety, abnormal price fluctuations and healthcare reform.
The National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top pricing regulator, has issued fines of 2 million yuan ($301,700) apiece to six companies for raising prices since May, after the nation rolled out value-added tax reforms that cover construction, property service and other related industries. The companies include the Ritz Carlton and Crowne Plaza hotels in Beijing, New World Development, China World Trade Center in Shanghai and Heng Long Properties in Shenyang, Liaoning province.
In response to concerns over food safety problems revealed by recent media coverage, the Food and Drug Administration said that China will enhance regulations, supervision, and cooperation with local governments in an effort to crack down on food safety violations. The local authorities in Yingkou, of China’s northeast Liaoning province, shut down seven food factories for illegally adding toxic gelatin and sodium nitrite to food products such as sausages, according to recent media reports. The local police seized six tons of poisonous food products and 3.6 tons of illegal additives.
In response to concerns over abnormal price fluctuations due to the recent floods, Gao Hucheng, minister of commerce, said last week that in the event of natural disasters, enterprises are allowed to limit prices for sale. Gao stressed that it is important to maintain a sufficient supply of emergency food relief and other materials in disaster-prone regions.
In response to concerns over disaster relief in light of the recent heavy floods in the southern parts of China, Yang Xiaodong, deputy director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ disaster relief division, said they were working with the National Disaster Reduction Center to enhance real-time statistical analysis, disaster warning and emergency response systems, which operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The ministry will send out teams to carry out inspections on the local disaster relief process if serious natural disasters occur, Yang said.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said that China is stepping up efforts to improve the public healthcare system. Beijing, the Xinjiang Uygur and Inner Mongolia autonomous regions and Hebei, Jiangxi, Hunan and Guangxi provinces have submitted plans to reduce healthcare service disparities between urban and rural residents. So far, a total of 17 provinces and cities have either submitted plans for, or have adopted unified management of, the basic medical insurance system that allows both urban and rural residents to equally benefit from public healthcare. A unified system to manage the healthcare service helps reduce inequality caused by the household registration system, known as hukou, that prevents unregistered rural citizens benefiting from the urban healthcare service and social welfare, the ministry said.