State Coun­cil Re­struc­tured to Stream­line Bu­reau­cracy

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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.

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