BEIJING, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Yang Yuxiang had planned to leave his job as a rural school teacher in central China's Hunan Province for a position in a city school, but changed his mind after the central government began to implement measures to improve rural education.
"I don't need to look for a new job now because the school will be renovated and rural teachers, like me, now qualify for attractive remuneration packages," Yang said.
Measures have been rolled out across the country to close the gap between rural and urban education, including better pay for rural teachers and better facilities for rural schools.
Education reform is just one element of the country's extensive reform drive. In 2016, 97 key reform tasks were completed, 419 reform plans were made, and frameworks for reform in major sectors were drawn up.
And there is little sign of the reform drive losing steam in the new year. Just days after the start of the Lunar New Year, President Xi Jinping chaired a meeting of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform to chart the course for further reform.
At the meeting, the President said leading Communist Party of China (CPC) and government officials are key to China's reform drive. They must act to "shoulder the heaviest burden, and chew on the hardest bones," he said.
Xi himself has taken the lead to do so. More than four years after taking the helm of China, reform has emerged as a hallmark of Xi's governance.
Comprehensively deepening reform is one of the "Four Comprehensives," a strategic blueprint drawn up by Xi, which creates pathways to realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.
He also went to great lengths to make his vision of reform a reality. Xi's first trip outside Beijing as the leader of the CPC was to Guangdong Province, the forefront of China's decades-long reform and opening-up drive.
"Reforms are always in the present tense, not the past tense," Xi has said.
Last year, he visited Xiaogang Village, often referred to as the birthplace of rural reform, in east China's Anhui Province, where he called for a solid agricultural sector and improved well-being of farmers.
Reform and opening up are key to deciding the fate of modern China, he said in July during an event marking the 95th founding anniversary of the CPC.
Already, measures drafted by the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform have been designed to address issues such as urbanization, poverty alleviation, innovation and the market's role in resource allocation.
"These reform measures are so wide-reaching that they touch on the lives of all Chinese," said Xu Guangjian, vice dean of the School of Public Administration and Policy, Renmin University of China.
"In this sense, China's current reform drive is more than just a venture of the ruling party. It represents the common aspiration of the entire people," he said.
SENSE OF GAIN
The general objectives for reform are improving socialism with Chinese characteristics and modernizing the state governance system, according to a communique issued after the third plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in 2013.
Such a vision includes promoting social equity and justice and improving the well-being of the people.
In his latest New Year address, Xi said his top priority was helping the poor.
Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has presided over a total of 32 meetings of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform since its inception.
Poverty alleviation, health care, employment and education were among the key issues discussed at those meetings, which aimed to improve the lives of the people.
"The ongoing reform drive is not just reform for reform's sake," said Xin Ming, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.
Xin said the past more than four years after the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 marked a new phase in the country's reform as it becomes more systematic, interlinked and coordinated.
"The reform now focuses more on increasing people's sense of gain. It is becoming more solution-based and more law-based," he said.
In President Xi's own words, reform must be focused on issues of public concerns. It must serve to resolve outstanding problems in ordinary people's lives and meet their demands and needs. It should be carried out by the people, and for the people.
Eliminating poverty is the first and key step in improving people's lives.
In 2016, tailored measures were designed for, and implemented in, the country's impoverished areas, including a program that allocates profits from local hydropower plants and mining projects to the locals.
Thanks to an array of measures, an additional 10 million people were lifted out of poverty last year, taking the nation one step closer to lifting its remaining 45 million rural poor people out of poverty by 2020.
Along with the poverty relief program, other endeavors to help improve the lives of the population are also taking shape.
More medical resources have been poured in to fill the gap in health services for children, and family doctors are introducing more Chinese to health management. Rural education is also being enhanced to help students compete with their urban peers, while elderly-care services are being better designed to cater to the needs of senior citizens.
At the 14th meeting of the Central Leading Group on Finance and Economic Affairs held last December, Xi was briefed on progress in some major projects, including promoting clean winter heating in northern areas, implementing a waste sorting program in eastern Zhejiang province, disposal and recycling of livestock residue, improving the quality of services in elderly nursing homes, regulating the housing rental market and curbing property bubbles, as well as improving oversight over food safety.
"The fundamental goal of maintaining growth pace and promoting economic development is to seek proper solutions to prominent issues of people's common concerns," said Xi, who heads the central leading group.
Building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way by addressing people's concerns is in line with the need to push forward supply-side structural reform, Xi said, adding this will also help nurture new sources of growth and increase potential for long-term growth. (more)