Third, we need to promote interconnected development of Asia and Europe through enhanced connectivity. Sharing common mountains and rivers, Asian and European countries are natural partners in connectivity cooperation. This is also what our people expect from us. We need to improve "hardware connectivity" in terms of highways, railways, aviation, fiber optics and other infrastructure to generate development momentum for surrounding areas. These transportation arteries will be conducive to bringing together in an integrated way the resource endowments, demographic dividends and industrial advantages of the Eurasian continent to forge trans-continental networks of transportation, industries and logistics and flesh out the supply chains, industrial chains and value chains in the region. All this will help unlock the immense development potential of both Asia and Europe.
At the same time, we need to strengthen "soft connectivity" in areas such as institutions, policies, rules and standards in order to invigorate factors of production from capital, technology, to services and data. When Europe's new technologies are combined with Asia's big market at a higher level, it will lend fresh impetus to development in Asia and Europe and present new opportunities to the sustained growth of the world economy. In this context, the ASEM Pathfinder Group on Connectivity can serve as an effective platform for deepening cooperation in this important area; it will need our collective support to fully play its coordinating role and deliver relevant plans at an early date.
The Belt and Road Initiative was put forward by China, but it belongs to the world, with the Eurasian continent being a pivotal region. Following the principle of consultation, cooperation and benefit for all, China is ready to work with all parties to enhance synergy of our development strategies, build open and transparent cooperation platforms, and carry out collaborative projects with high standards and quality in a bid to achieve common development and prosperity. Next year, China will hold the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation; fellow ASEM members are welcome to join the event.
Fourth, we need to step up people-to-people and cultural ties to add new vitality to Asia-Europe cooperation. Our two continents, with fascinating episodes of exchanges between the East and West in history, are making new progress in inter-civilizational dialogue and cooperation. People-to-people and cultural ties, as an important pillar of ASEM, deserve greater resource input from all of us to build up momentum and support for political and economic cooperation. There should be more exchanges between our parliaments, social organizations, think tanks, universities and media outlets to enhance understanding and friendship between our peoples. This is also conducive to cementing political mutual trust.
Cooperation in public health, education, population aging, tourism, people with disabilities, women and youth are important to the well-being of our peoples and is part and parcel of efforts for inclusive development. Countries in Asia and Europe need to step up experience-sharing and deepen exchange and cooperation to make societies more equitable and just, and deliver more benefits of development to our peoples. We will continue cooperation involving people with disabilities as part of the ASEM cooperation framework and foster a stronger awareness of equality and inclusion. In this context, China proposes that discussions be held under ASEM on the setting-up of cooperation mechanisms in these areas to contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations.
Let me now turn to China's economy and macroeconomic policies. In the first three quarters of this year, China's economic performance stayed within the proper range. Surveyed urban unemployment rate is kept at around 5 percent. Over 18,000 new companies are set up on an average day. High-tech sectors, equipment manufacturing and IT services have been expanding rapidly. Profits of large industrial and service companies have maintained double-digit growth. New growth drivers are thriving, contributing to over one third of economic growth. The fundamentals of the Chinese economy are sound. Having said that, affected by notable changes in the global environment and other factors, the Chinese economy is also confronted with difficulties and challenges.
China is still a developing country. Despite our large economy, the per capita GDP is ranked below 70th place in the world. China's development remains unbalanced and inadequate with significant disparities between different regions and between urban and rural areas. In many places, transportation, energy, utilities and other types of infrastructure remain underdeveloped. In rural areas, over 30 million people still live in poverty with an average annual income of less than 3,000 RMB yuan ($433). But every coin has two sides. The upside of the disparities is that they also represent big space for development. With a huge market of more than 1.3 billion people, China has vast potential, great resilience and broad space for maneuver in coping with changes in the global environment. Its economy is fully capable of sustaining sound growth.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up, a policy that has not only created China's success story, but also brought enormous opportunities to the world. We will continue to deepen reform across the board. By further streamlining administration, delegating powers, strengthening oversight and improving government services, we will raise policy transparency and exercise fair and equitable regulation to create a market environment in which Chinese and foreign-owned companies are treated as equals and compete on a level playing field. We will open up further and strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights to foster a world-class business environment.
This year, we have taken significant steps to ease market access in services sectors, particularly the financial sector, and cut tariffs on drugs, automobiles and some consumer goods in a phased way. On top of that, China has most recently announced additional tariff cuts on over 1,500 taxable items, bringing its overall tariff rate down to 7.5 percent from last year's 9.8 percent, a lower middle level globally. Next month, China will host the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai. While offering more choices to Chinese consumers, the Expo is a major step taken by China to promote trade liberalization and open its markets still wider to the world. We look forward to your active participation to share the opportunities it brings. China is steadfast in its commitment to market-oriented exchange rate reform. We will not engage in competitive devaluation. There is every reason that the RMB exchange rate will remain basically stable at an adaptive and equilibrium level.
ASEM, now in its third decade, serves as an important platform for dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe. I am confident that by making united efforts toward our shared goals, we will deliver more benefits to the people of Asia and Europe and make greater contribution to peace and development of the world.