State Council Restructured to Streamline Bureaucracy
A major achievement of the First Session of the 13th National People's Congress, China's highest legislative body, was the green lighting of a significant restructuring of the State Council, in which 15 government agencies will be axed amid a major revamp. The extensive overhaul will also create and amalgamate government agencies, meaning there will now be 26 ministries and commissions, as well as the General Office of the State Council.
The restructuring is a response to a central government push to streamline the number of government departments and staff, and the focus is on making government functions more efficient by integrating agencies. For example, the Ministry of Land Resources, the
State Oceanic Administration and the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation were combined into the Ministry of National Resources, and the National Health and Family Planning Commission and the State Council's office on medicine and medical reform were merged into the National Health Commission. The mergers will create a more efficient bureaucracy, analysts said, serving to cut the number of excess staff and overlapping functions, which currently make it hard to clarify who has responsibility for what.
The new agencies created by the reshuffle are also more suited to modern conditions. A typical example is the Ministry of Supervision and the National Corruption Prevention Bureau will become the higher-level State Supervisory Committee (not under but at the same level as the State Council) to continue the fight against graft both in and beyond officialdom, based on China's new anticorruption law, the Supervision Law.
Two of the new agencies, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs and the Ministry of Emergency Management were particularly praised for meeting public needs.
Judging from online public opinion on popular social networking tools such as Sina Weibo and Wechat, the latest restructuring of the State Council has received wide support. Many netizens remarked on the government's resolve to better serve the people while reducing the budget, just as it pledged in its annual work report. Yet, as Ma Liang, a researcher at the National Academy of Development and Strategy at the Renmin University of China, commented on news portal The Paper, the long-term effect of the restructuring depends on how local governments make corresponding reforms, and how the new or merged departments cooperate with the Party's departments, as the Communist Party of China said during the congress that it intends to lead the government departments in diversified ways.