Changes in Focus
The massive State Council restructuring creates new ministries, cuts or merges others By Yuan Yuan
The institutional restructuring plan of the State Council, China’s cabinet, was adopted on March 17 at the Fifth Plenary Meeting of the First Session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), the national legislature of China. It is the country’s “biggest government reshuffle in years” as Xinhua News Agency commented and is seen as a dramatic continuation of the previous seven rounds of cabinet restructuring that began in 1982.
“The reform is unprecedentedly large, deep and expansive,” said Guo An, an NPC deputy and Mayor of Nanchang, capital of east China’s Jiangxi Province. “It will optimize the government’s functions by promoting coordinated actions and improving levels of management and public service to better satisfy people’s expectations and national developmental needs in a new era.”
A massive move
In total, the number of ministerial-level entities was reduced by eight and that of vice-ministerial-level entities by seven after the reshuffle.
According to the restructuring plan, func- tions that have long overlapped are integrated. For example, the four ministries of land and resources, water resources, environmental protection and agriculture were involved in water pollution treatment and prevention before the shake-up. When water pollution was exposed by the media or local residents, these departments often passed the buck among themselves instead of dealing with the problem immediately. The new Ministry of Ecological Environment will be responsible for compiling and implementing ecological and environment policies, plans and standards, as well as ecological and environment monitoring and law enforcement, aiming to put all problems concerning pollution under one roof.
“The reform comes at a crucial time,” Chen Xi, head of the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said in an article in the People’s Daily. “It will support the efforts over the next three years toward building a moderately prosperous society and lay a foundation for building a great modern socialist country by the middle of the century.”
“When a frog jumps into a river, it is in the charge of the Ministry of Agriculture. But when the frog is back on land, it is the State Administration of Forestry’s responsibility,” said Lou Jiwei, a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body, referring to the previously rigid division of responsibilities between government departments. “It is these types of problems that have confused people about where they should go when they need consultation or help.”
Nie Weiguo, a CPPCC National Committee member and Director of the Executive Office of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee of the State Council, applauded the abolishment of the committee, which oversaw the world’s largest hydropower project on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. The functions of the committee will be incorporated into the Ministry of Water Resources. “We have always clashed with the Ministry of Water Resources since our responsibilities over the Three Gorges Project overlapped,” Nie said. “It has been a headache for me for a long time.”
Nie said even though some central