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Campaign for better toilets sign of reform

An Baijie
Updated: Feb 25,2019 8:37 AM     China Daily

When Zhao Yan visited her boyfriend’s hometown three years ago, she drank as little water as possible because it was — as she put it — “a real torture” to go to the shabby toilet in the rural village.

The situation changed early this month, when she once again traveled to the town in Juancheng county in Shandong province during the Spring Festival holiday. The 26-year-old nurse found that a newly renovated bathroom was available.

Building new toilets was encouraged by the local government last year amid its efforts to improve the villagers’ living conditions. Families that renovated their toilets could get a subsidy of 4,000 yuan ($596) each.

The “toilet revolution” was set as a major task for deepening reform at the first meeting of the Central Committee for Deepening Overall Reform on Nov 20, 2017. The meeting was presided over by President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

China launched the toilet revolution in 2015 to increase the number and sanitation of toilets at tourist sites. The campaign expanded to improve public toilets in cities and build better private toilets in rural areas.

In the Government Work Report delivered last year, Premier Li Keqiang pledged to improve the living conditions in rural areas within three years and push the toilet revolution.

The Central Committee for Deepening Overall Reform, headed by Xi, also has reviewed and approved a large number of reform plans covering various fields including politics, economy, environmental protection and education.

Since Xi became general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, reform has emerged as the hallmark of his administration. About three weeks after taking office as general secretary in late 2012, Xi headed to Guangdong province, where he declared, “Reform and opening-up decide China’s fate.”

When talking with deputies to the National People’s Congress from Guangdong during the NPC’s annual session in March 2014, Xi said that choosing Guangdong as the first stop on his inspection tour has demonstrated China’s firm resolution to deepen reform and opening-up.

Xi has stressed the importance of reform and opening-up in his discussions with NPC deputies and political advisers during the two sessions every year since.

China will not close its door of openness, and it will continue to facilitate trade and investment to pursue opening-up in various fields, Xi said while talking with NPC deputies from Shanghai in 2017.

Last year, China held a grand gathering to celebrate the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. In the past 40 years, China has lifted around 740 million people out of poverty, reducing the poverty head count ratio by 94.4 percentage points.

“The pursuit of reform and opening-up and socialism with Chinese characteristics is a milestone in realizing the Chinese nation’s rejuvenation,” Xi said at the gathering.

In his report to the Party’s 19th National Congress in October 2017, Xi said that over 1,500 reform measures had been launched in the past five years.

Deepening reform and boosting opening-up will continue to be highlighted at the upcoming annual sessions of the country’s top legislature and top political advisory body to be held in early March, analysts said.

It will be the Party’s main task to deepen overall reform in the coming years to realize the people’s aspirations for a better life, and reform measures in various fields are likely to be discussed at the two sessions, said Zhu Lijia, a professor of public administration at the Chinese Academy of Governance.

Jiang Weidong, a deputy to the National People’s Congress and also board chairman of Shandong Wuzheng Group, said more reform measures are expected to be taken in rural areas along with the implementation of the rural vitalization strategy.

The country’s reform measures have won compliments from both home and abroad.

Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and philanthropist, said at the Reinvented Toilet Expo held in Beijing in November that China has made great progress improving health and sanitation for hundreds of millions of people.

“President Xi’s toilet revolution underscores China’s commitment to accelerating progress on safe sanitation,” Gates said.

Zhao, the nurse, said that reform’s outcome is tangible for her. The newly renovated toilet in her boyfriend’s hometown has brought her much comfort.

“Now I can drink as much water as I like when I stay at his parents’ home,” she said.