2. We steadily advanced supply-side structural reform and made strong progress toward high-quality development.
We focused on top-level planning to promote high-quality development. We implemented the Guidelines on Promoting High-Quality Development, and took gradual steps toward establishing an institutional system for high-quality development. We continued to make solid progress in supply-side structural reform. With the focus on cutting ineffective supply, fostering new growth drivers, and reducing costs in the real economy, we saw yet further improvements in the composition of supply and sustained increases in the quality and efficiency of development.
1) Solid progress was achieved in cutting overcapacity.
Our efforts to cut overcapacity through structural adjustments and improvements continued. We cut production capacity by over 35 million metric tons of crude steel and 270 million metric tons of coal, thus achieving the targets for steel and coal overcapacity cuts in the 13th Five-Year Plan two years ahead of schedule. A large number of small, poorly-managed, and heavily-polluting enterprises were closed down, and a relatively high rate of industrial capacity utilization was maintained. Further progress was made in handling the debts of "zombie enterprises" and enterprises with excess capacity, and proper steps were taken to help workers displaced due to overcapacity cuts, ensuring they were resettled to new positions or found new employment in a smooth and orderly fashion.
2) New strides were taken in revitalizing the real economy.
As progress continued in building China into a manufacturer of quality, the total value-added of industry broke the 30-trillion-yuan mark. We promulgated the Guidelines on Promoting the Demonstration and Application of Newly-Developed Major Technological Equipment, and stepped up efforts to make breakthroughs in a number of core and key technologies. We moved forward with the implementation of the Three-Year Action Plan on Enhancing Core Competitiveness in the Manufacturing Sector (2018-2020) and the Action Plan on Developing the Industrial Internet (2018-2020). We promoted the in-depth integration of the internet, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI) into the real economy, and carried out demonstration projects for integrated applications of the industrial internet plus smart manufacturing. Breakthroughs were made at a faster pace in core technologies in key areas such as rail transit, high-end medical appliances, and industrial robots, and these have been successfully applied to industry.
We carried out a new round of technology transformation and upgrading projects, and accelerated technology transformations in major areas such as high-end equipment, smart manufacturing, and new materials. Further strides were taken in the strategy to make China a country strong on quality, and our work on strengthening quality, standards, and brands was intensified. We issued the Plan on the Layout and Development of National Logistics Hubs. In the services sector, we continued implementing the guidelines on innovation-driven development, carried out dedicated campaigns to raise quality, and conducted trials of integrated reform.
3) Work on bringing down costs continued.
We stepped up efforts to reduce taxes and fees, helping ease the burden on enterprises and individuals by about 1.3 trillion yuan for the year. The rates of value added tax (VAT) were lowered from 17% to 16% in manufacturing and some other industries, and from 11% to 10% in industries such as transportation, postal services, construction, and basic telecommunications services and on goods such as agricultural products. The annual sales threshold for small-scale taxpayers was raised. The policy of a 75% tax deduction for research and development (R&D) expenses was extended to cover all enterprises. Financial institutions' credit line threshold for VAT exemption rose to 10 million yuan. We reduced or abolished a range of government administrative fees and government-managed funds. We continued the policy of reducing businesses' contributions to social insurance schemes and the housing provident fund, and overhauled and standardized business service fees. We took strong steps to lower energy and logistics costs, and continued to raise the proportion of market-based electricity transactions. The target to cut the price of electricity for general industrial and commercial businesses by an average of 10% was surpassed. Purchase tax on trailers was halved, and the policy of differentiated tolls was extended to cover more expressways.
3. We made solid progress in the critical battles against potential risk, poverty, and pollution, and yielded positive results in key tasks.
We formulated an action plan for winning the three critical battles, for which implementation has proceeded as planned and in accordance with laws and regulations. We scored notable achievements in improving financial governance, hit our poverty alleviation targets for the year, and secured fresh progress in improving the environment.
1) Major risks were manageable on the whole.
We have curbed excessively rapid growth of the macro-leverage ratio and maintained general stability in the financial market. The RMB exchange rate has remained generally stable at an appropriate level. Market restraints have been gradually enhanced, and the concept of prudent business operations has taken stronger root. Further improvements were made in financial regulation mechanisms, and initial success was achieved in addressing acute problems in the financial sector. We moved forward with reforms to improve the management system for foreign-debt registration and effectively guarded against foreign debt risks. The growth of commodity housing prices in major cities was basically brought under control, and the policy of providing monetary compensation to people displaced by the rebuilding of run-down urban areas was improved according to local circumstances.
2) Targeted poverty alleviation registered strong progress.
We stepped up support and assistance to particular groups affected by poverty and to extremely poor areas, including the three regions and three prefectures. We made solid progress in relocating people from inhospitable areas and implementing work-relief programs. We stepped up initiatives to alleviate poverty through the development of local industries, employment, education, healthcare services, culture, tourism, and the internet, as well as the provision of ecological conservation subsidies and financial support. These efforts have enabled poor areas to boost their capacity for self-sufficient development. Over the year, 13.86 million people in rural areas were lifted out of poverty, our target of relocating 2.8 million people from inhospitable areas was achieved, and we helped 3.88 million people in poverty find jobs.
3) Major progress was made in the critical battle against pollution.
Putting into practice Xi Jinping's thinking on promoting ecological progress and the principles from the national conference on ecological and environmental protection, we improved top-level planning for strengthening ecological and environmental protection across the board. Follow-up environmental inspections were carried out by the central government as planned, the river chief and lake chief systems came into effect nationwide, and trials of the national park system registered steady progress. We launched campaigns to protect our blue skies, clear waters, and clean lands across the country and began implementing the Three-Year Action Plan for Keeping Our Skies Blue. The annual average concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) decreased by 10.4% in the cities at and above prefecture level that fell short of the national standards, and further steps were taken to address water and soil pollution. Total emissions of major pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP continued to fall.
We took resolute measures to block illegal waste imports, and achieved a reduction of 46.5% in solid waste imports on the previous year. Work on the sorted treatment of waste made rapid progress. We completed the first steps in setting standards for enforcing ecological-conservation red lines in 15 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities, including Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, and basically completed plans for 16 others including Shanxi. We formulated the guidelines on deepening reforms for coordinated administrative law enforcement to protect ecosystems and the environment.
We made steady progress in major ecological conservation and restoration projects. We returned more than 825,333 hectares of marginal farmland to forest or grassland, and undertook projects to return 2.47 million hectares of grazing land to grassland, which involved constructing grassland fencing and improving the condition of degraded grasslands. We did more to protect coastal wetlands and strictly controlled and regulated coastal reclamation activities. Progress was made in establishing market-based mechanisms for diversified ecological compensation and the Guidelines on Innovating and Improving Pricing Mechanisms for Promoting Green Development were issued for implementation.
We steadily moved forward with the work to adopt clean energy sources for winter heating in northern China, and achieved progress in building systems for natural gas production, supply, reserve, and sale. We continued working to cut coal consumption and to replace coal with alternative energy in key areas, and launched trials on trading energy consumption rights. The total volume targets for upgrading coal-burning power plants nationwide to achieve ultra-low emissions and energy efficiency were completed two years ahead of schedule. We made moves to strengthen the development and regulation of the long-term mechanism for absorbing clean energy into power grids, and delivered a reduction in both the amount and ratio of idle power and a decrease of 3.1% in energy consumption per unit of GDP. Steady progress was made in establishing a national market for trading carbon emission rights.
On the international stage, China worked to bring about positive results at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland, and made an important contribution to ensuring the adoption of the Paris Agreement's implementation guidelines.