We solemnly commemorated the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up, thoroughly reviewed its great achievements and the valuable experience gained in its pursuit, and pledged our resolve to see reform and opening-up through in the new era, thus galvanizing the Chinese people of all ethnic groups to continue their hard work to make new historic achievements.
Looking back at the past year, we can see that our achievements did not come easily.
What we faced was profound change in our external environment. Setbacks in economic globalization, challenges to multilateralism, shocks in the international financial market, and especially the China-US economic and trade frictions, had an adverse effect on the production and business operations of some companies and on market expectations. What we faced were severe challenges caused by the growing pains of economic transformation. An interlacing of old and new issues and a combination of cyclical and structural problems brought changes in what was a generally stable economic performance, some of which caused concern.
What we faced was a complicated terrain of increasing dilemmas. We had multiple targets to attain, like ensuring stable growth and preventing risks; multiple tasks to complete, like promoting economic and social development; and multiple relationships to handle, like that between short-term and long-term interests. And the difficulty of making policy choices and moving work forward increased markedly. With the concerted efforts of the whole country, the Chinese economy, from a larger base, achieved generally stable growth while making further progress; and social stability was ensured. This once again shows that the Chinese people, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, have the courage, vision, and strength to prevail over any difficulty or obstacle. There is no difficulty that cannot be overcome in China's pursuit of development!
Over the past year, we fully implemented all major policies and plans made by the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core. We followed the general principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, and worked holistically to maintain stable growth, advance reform, make structural adjustments, improve living standards, and guard against risks. We handled economic and trade frictions with the United States appropriately. We worked to ensure stable employment, a stable financial sector, stable foreign trade, stable foreign investment, stable domestic investment, and stable expectations. Our main work of the past year was as follows.
First, we developed new ways to improve macro regulation and ensured a generally stable economic performance.
Facing new circumstances and developments, we were firm in choosing not to adopt a deluge of strong stimulus policies, and we maintained the continuity and consistency of macro policies. As we conducted regulation to keep main economic indicators within an appropriate range, we also improved targeted and well-timed regulation, and carried out anticipatory adjustments and fine-tuning. We continued to pursue a proactive fiscal policy, focusing on cutting taxes and fees, strengthening areas of weakness, and promoting structural adjustment. We reduced VAT rates and expanded the coverage of tax relief for small businesses with low profits, and introduced preferential tax policies to encourage R&D and innovation. Over the year, the tax and fee burden on enterprises and individuals was thus reduced by around 1.3 trillion yuan. We improved the composition of budgetary spending, put idle budgetary funds to use, and ensured spending in key areas.
We maintained a prudent monetary policy and encouraged financial support for the real economy. In response to the difficulties and high costs of financing, we reduced required reserve ratios four times, and applied a combination of measures to ease funding shortages faced by private enterprises and small and micro businesses. Initial success was thus made in curbing the rising cost of financing. We promptly responded to abnormal fluctuations in the stock and bond markets, and kept the RMB exchange rate basically stable. China's foreign exchange reserves were maintained at over US$3 trillion.
Second, we took solid action in the three critical battles and made good progress in carrying out key tasks.
We drew up and began the systematic implementation of a three-year action plan for the three critical battles. We made steady progress in structural deleveraging, handled risks in the financial sector prudently and appropriately, prevented and controlled local government debt risks, and reformed and improved mechanisms for conducting regulation over the real estate market. We made further progress in precision poverty alleviation. We strengthened poverty relief capacity, increased budgetary input, and encouraged society to assist poverty alleviation. The self-development capacity of poverty-stricken areas was steadily enhanced.
We launched an all-out fight to keep our skies blue, our waters clear, and our land pollution-free. Energy and transportation structures were upgraded. The replacement of coal with natural gas and electricity in North China was steadily advanced. The system of river chiefs and lake chiefs was established across the country. The use of both chemical fertilizers and pesticides was reduced. Inspections and law enforcement for environmental protection were strengthened. And we took active steps to respond to climate change.