The Living Standard of Urban and Rural Residents Increased Significantly

     In the past two decades, the income of both urban and rural residents redoubled. In 1997, savings deposits of urban and rural residents reached 4628 billion yuan, over 218 times that of 1978 with an average annual increase rate of 32.8 percent. Plus foreign currency savings, debentures and stocks, the amount of financial assets owned by urban and rural residents had exceeded 6 trillion yuan. In 1997, total retail sales of consumer goods reached 2.7299 trillion yuan, over 20 times that 1978 in real terms. The residents' consumption level increased from 184 yuan in 1978 to 2,677 yuan with an annual increase rate of 7.8 percent if calculated by comparable prices. The pattern of consumption underwent positive changes--the Engel Coefficient of both urban and rural population lowered by 11 and 12.6 percentage points respectively. The average living space for urban residents increased from 3.5 square meters in 1978 to 8.8 square meters in 1997. According to an investigation and analysis of the supply and demand of 601 kinds of major commodities made by the State Administration for Domestic Trade in the first half of 1998, commodities whose supply exceeded demand occupied 74.2 percent of all the commodities while the percentage of those that achieved a balance between supply and demand was 25.8 percent. That is to say, there was already no commodity whose demand exceeded supply. And the food, oil and cloth coupons, which symbolized rationing, have exited the historical arena for long. The residents can afford more and more durable goods. The so-called "three major articles"--bicycles, wrist watches and sewing machines are renewed every few years. In the recent years, part of urban residents had turned their focus of consumption to personal computers, automobiles and housing. In 1998, the standard of living of both urban and rural residents continued to improve. The average per capita net income of rural residents rose by 4.3 percent over the previous year in real terms taking into consideration price drops; the average per capita disposable income of city and town dwellers increased by 5.8 percent in real terms. There was an abundant supply of commodities on the market. The development and sales of affordable housing for people with low or medium incomes increased by a fairly large margin. There was improvement in infrastructure facilities in cities and environmental protection. The living conditions of both the urban and rural population improved during the year.

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     From 1978 to 1997, nearly 100,000 reservoirs of different purposes were constructed with a total water storage of 500 billion cubic meters. 5608 irrigated areas were added and the size of irrigated land came to 22.6 million hectares. New investment in capital construction resulted in an increase of coal-mining capacity by 380 million tons, oil-drilling capacity by 240 million tons, steel-making capacity by 18.84 million tons and power-generating capacity by 159 million kilowatts. At the same time, 1,226,000 kilometers of highway were constructed and the loading capacity of newly constructed (or extended) ports amounted to 460 million tons. From 1980 to 1997, main-track railway newly laid throughout the country increased by 17,000 kilometers.