As we head into the second half of this year, the performance of the Chinese economy may be a topic of great interest to many of you. On the whole, the Chinese economy has registered steady growth and has been operating within a proper range. The economic fundamentals remained stable with a positive momentum. Major economic indicators match our expectations. More jobs have been created, as can be seen from the relatively low surveyed urban unemployment rate in May, which was around 5 percent. The economic structure has continued to improve. The services sector has been steadily expanding; profit growth of industrial enterprises has re-entered positive territory; the growth of high-tech manufacturing and strategic emerging industries has notably outstripped that of the overall industrial sector; and a bumper harvest for summer grains is on the horizon. Consumer prices increased mildly. And foreign exchange reserves have remained stable and saw a moderate increase. In the first five months of this year, the average number of newly-registered businesses has risen substantially to 18,900 every day, reflecting vibrant start-up and innovation activities and confidence among market entities across the country.
That being said, the Chinese economy does face some new downward pressure. The increase in uncertainties and destabilizing factors externally is affecting some businesses and weighing on export and market expectations. Slowing growth in effective domestic investment has added to the difficulty in maintaining stable economic performance. Yet, we have long seen challenges coming and have been making full preparations by acting proactively to tackle head-on the complex and difficult situation both at home and externally. Such efforts, especially larger-scale tax and fee cuts, have produced initial results. With its huge market, ample human resources, full-fledged industrial system and dynamic new growth drivers, the Chinese economy enjoys solid overall strength and resilience, potential and flexibility, sufficient to sustain its sound development in the long term.
In the coming months and years, we will unswervingly focus on development as China's top priority. We will continue to follow the guiding principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, step up efforts in reform and opening-up, deepen the supply-side structural reform, and work holistically to pursue stable growth, continued reforms, structural adjustments, and higher living standards, and guard against risks while ensuring stability. We will work to ensure stable employment, a stable financial sector, stable foreign trade, stable foreign investment, stable domestic investment, and stable expectations. We will maintain economic performance within the proper range, pursue high-quality economic development, and make sure this year's main economic and social development goals will be achieved.
To this end, we must implement well the macro policy measures we have introduced, continue to improve macro regulation in innovative ways, and do a good job in anticipatory adjustment and fine-tuning in order to create conditions for the steady operation of the economy. This does not mean that we will resort to massive stimulus measures, or return to the old approach of expansion in scale and inefficient growth. Maintaining stable growth, first and foremost, is to ensure stable employment, which is a key parameter defining the proper range of economic performance. We cannot allow mis-steps when it comes to employment. We must fully implement the employment-first policy, encourage job creation through business start-ups, strengthen support for flexible and new forms of employment, and keep employment stable and expanding through various means.
Reform is the fundamental driving force for development. We will continue to deepen reforms to foster a world-class, market-oriented business environment governed by law and further invigorate all market entities. Improving the business environment is a crucial step in unlocking and strengthening productive forces and enhancing global competitiveness. China will slash taxes and fees to reduce the burden and pressure on market entities. At the same time, we will streamline administration, delegate power, improve compliance oversight and provide better services to give a boost to all market players. These two major initiatives are mutually reinforcing and will foster strong synergy in energizing the market and improving the business environment.
Larger-scale tax and fee cuts are being implemented as scheduled. Timely measures will be taken to address problems down the road to ensure their full implementation. We will continue to deepen the above-mentioned reform of government functions to further ease market access, substantially reduce the number of items requiring administrative permits, and rescind any management measures that may involve approvals in disguised forms. Bottlenecks hindering businesses' ability to start operations and obtain construction permits will be eliminated. We will promote fair and impartial regulation, improve government services, strengthen protection of property rights in accordance with the law, and create a market environment where companies under all types of ownership and from both home and abroad are treated as equals and compete on a level playing field. To ease the difficulties faced by enterprises in accessing affordable financing, we have taken a combination of measures from cutting the required reserve ratio and real interest rates to expanding direct financing and supporting accelerated development of market-based venture capital. These measures have significantly improved access to financing and lowered the overall costs.
China now has 76 million plus self-employed traders, creating about 200 million jobs, and over 36 million companies, 90 percent of which are medium, small and micro businesses. Given their sheer numbers and the wide range of sectors they cover, these businesses play an important role in generating jobs, facilitating people's daily lives and stimulating consumption. They deserve every support from the government. We will enhance inclusive financial services and encourage financial institutions to provide more loans to small and micro businesses through targeted cuts in the required reserve ratio, targeted Medium-term Lending Facility and higher tolerance for nonperforming loan ratio. We will support big enterprises in working with medium, small and micro companies in an integrated way to better leverage their comparative strengths and form more competitive industrial chains. We will foster a more enabling environment for the development of private businesses. We will fully implement fiscal support policies such as general-benefit tax and fee cuts, increase policy loan guarantee, make good use of the instruments for supporting bond financing for private businesses, and remove all implicit barriers to private investment. When we can secure a sound business environment where hundreds of millions of market entities are invigorated and motivated, we will have a solid foundation for the steady growth of the Chinese economy.
Innovation is a key engine of development. We will fully implement the strategy of innovation-driven development and cultivate and strengthen new drivers of growth. We will better harness scientific and technological progress to support development. Measures such as allowing additional tax deductions for R&D spending will be implemented and improved to encourage greater R&D input from the business sector, and innovation results will be applied and commercialized at a faster pace. We will support the upgrading of Internet Plus and expand Intelligent Plus to empower the transformation and upgrading of traditional industries. A prudent yet accommodating regulatory approach will remain in place to sustain the healthy growth of emerging industries. We will promote faster development of modern vocational education, and train high-caliber skilled workers in all professions. The nationwide business start-up and innovation initiative will be taken forward. We will further improve policies supporting innovation-drivendevelopment, enhance public services across the board, build open and sharing platforms, and make our economy more innovative and competitive.
The purpose of China's development is to improve the lives of our people. Their aspiration for a better life motivates all our endeavors. We will work to foster a healthy cycle of economic growth and higher living standards for the people, and continue to unleash domestic demand. China has nearly 1.4 billion people and boasts a middle-income population of over 400 million. The upgrading of consumption that comes with better lives for the people entails huge market demand. So our efforts to meet people's needs for a better life will create boundless opportunities for fostering a robust market and stronger growth drivers. We will encourage a greater role of the private sector in developing social services to increase the supply of medical, cultural, tourism and sports services, and target the most acute bottlenecks affecting the daily lives of our people, by accelerating the development of community-based elderly care and childcare services. We will adopt pro-consumption policies to unlock the potential of consumption and make people's lives better.
Effective investment will be scaled up as needed to promote the construction of public utilities, roads and new-generation information infrastructures. Sprucing up aging residential areas in cities is not only the call of our people, but also a means to stimulate effective investment and consumption. This year, pilot programs in this endeavor will be intensified with funding support from the central government and the participation of the private sector through market-based modalities. Delivering a better life to our people is a never-ending process. The Chinese government will continue to put people first in pursuing development, explore innovative means to enhance people's well-being, and provide more quality public goods and services to better share the fruits of reform and development among our people.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Annual Meeting of the New Champions has been held in China for 13 years. When it was launched 13 years ago, the new round of industrial revolution was just on the horizon, globalization was picking up pace, and new forms of business, new technologies and new business models were burgeoning. The focus on "New Champions" for the Summer Davos back then still remains meaningful today. Many growth enterprises, which were mere seedlings a dozen or so years ago, have grown into "towering trees". We would like to see that all types of market players, large companies and growth enterprises alike, compete on a level playing field and achieve common development. We hope that companies with famous brands and long traditions will continue their record of excellence, and more small and medium-sized firms will stand out and become "New Champions".
Openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation are the sure way to lasting prosperity of the world economy. China is prepared to join hands with all other countries to make economic globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial for all, and together create a brighter future for humankind! In conclusion, I wish the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2019 a full success!