Third, we deepened supply-side structural reform and steadily unleashed the dynamism of the real economy.
We strengthened work to cut ineffective supply, foster new growth drivers, and reduce costs in the real economy. We made progress in using market mechanisms to cut capacity in the steel and coal industries. Measures were implemented to ensure stable investment; as a result, investment in manufacturing and private investment rebounded markedly. Policies were adopted to stimulate consumer spending. Internet Plus initiatives were advanced across the board, and new technologies and models were used to transform traditional industries.
We deepened efforts to streamline government functions and cut taxes and fees. A number of government permits were abolished, the reform separating permits from the business license was implemented nationwide, the time needed to start a business was considerably shortened, and the types of industrial production permits were cut by over a third. Oversight conducted through the random selection of both inspectors and inspection targets and the prompt release of results was implemented nationwide. We overhauled the charges and fees levied on businesses, and encouraged cuts in the cost of electricity, broadband services, and logistics. We advanced the Internet Plus Government Services initiative, the local authorities explored and extended a number of distinctive reform measures, and both businesses and the public now enjoy increasingly better access to government services.
Fourth, we continued to implement the innovation-driven development strategy and further increased innovation capacity and performance.
We greatly improved the innovation ecosystem to keep innovators of all kinds fully motivated. The reform of the management system for science and technology was deepened, steps were taken to achieve breakthroughs in core technologies for key fields, and the building of major science and technology infrastructure and innovation centers was stepped up. We strengthened the principal position of enterprises in technological innovation, and extended the policy on raising the proportion of additional tax-deductible R&D costs to cover all enterprises. We developed policies and measures to support innovation and business startups. The volume of contracted technology transactions grew by over 30 percent.
Fifth, we intensified reform and opening-up and continued to strengthen the momentum of development.
We deepened reforms of state capital and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and made new gains in upgrading and restructuring SOEs and in improving their quality and performance. In addressing difficulties and issues encountered by private enterprises, we used every feasible means to help them overcome problems and concerns. We advanced the reform of the fiscal and tax systems, and launched performance-based budget management reform across the country. We reformed the financial regulatory system and improved the mechanisms through which interest rates and exchange rates are set by the market. Steady progress was made in reforms related to agriculture, rural affairs, social programs, and environmental protection.
In opening-up, we introduced a series of major moves. Joint efforts to pursue the Belt and Road Initiative are producing a pace-setting effect, cooperation mechanisms for countries along its routes are steadily improving, and economic cooperation, trade, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges under the Initiative have gathered momentum. We launched policies to ensure steady growth in foreign trade, and cut the time needed for customs clearance by more than half. Import tariffs on some goods were lowered, and the overall tariff level was reduced from 9.8 to 7.5 percent.
A number of new integrated pilot zones for cross-border e-commerce were established. Reform measures proven to work in pilot free trade zones were replicated and applied elsewhere. We shortened significantly the negative list for foreign investment, opened up sectors like finance and automobiles wider to foreign competition, and sped up the implementation of a number of major foreign investment projects. The number of new foreign enterprises grew by nearly 70 percent.
Sixth, we pursued balanced development across rural and urban areas and regions and sped up the formation of a pattern of positive interplay.
The rural revitalization strategy was implemented with vigor; grain output was kept above 650 million metric tons. Solid progress was made in the pursuit of new urbanization, and close to 14 million people originally from rural areas gained permanent urban residency. A full range of reforms and innovative measures were introduced to advance development in the western region, revitalize the northeast, energize the central region, and support the eastern region in spearheading development. Major progress was made in boosting the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. Along the Yangtze Economic Belt, efforts to prioritize ecological conservation and boost green development were strengthened.
Substantive steps were taken in the planning and building of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge was opened to traffic. We expanded support for reforms and development in old revolutionary base areas, areas with large ethnic minority populations, border areas, and poor areas. Another 4,100 kilometers of high-speed railways opened to traffic, and over 6,000 kilometers of expressways and more than 300,000 kilometers of rural roads were built or improved. With all this, the balance in development between rural and urban areas and between regions has continuously improved.