Top-level Re­struc­ture:

More Than ‘Down­siz­ing’

NewsChina - - CONTENTS - By Cai Ru­peng and Xie Ying

On March 23, the first emis­sions per­mit from China's new Ministry of Eco­log­i­cal En­vi­ron­ment (MEE) was is­sued by the lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion bureau of Baod­ing in He­bei Province. As shown on the new per­mit, the Ministry's logo had changed from ZHB ( Zhong­guo huan­bao, lit­er­ally, Chi­nese en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion) to MEE, in­di­cat­ing that the re­formed ministry was of­fi­cially in op­er­a­tion.

The MEE was just one of the min­istries on the long list of gov­ern­ment depart­ments to be re­struc­tured un­der new re­forms. Af­ter ax­ing 15 gov­ern­ment depart­ments and re­vamp­ing the others, China's State Coun­cil now con­sists of 26 min­istries and com­mis­sions aside from the Gen­eral Of­fice of the State Coun­cil. The re­form has spread to the Party's or­gans, the NPC (China's high­est leg­isla­tive or­gan), the CPPCC (China's high­est po­lit­i­cal consulting or­gan), and the depart­ments un­der them.

Al­though some of the im­ple­men­ta­tion plans have not yet been de­tailed or made pub­lic, an­a­lysts be­lieve that based on what has al­ready taken place, the lat­est in­sti­tu­tional re­struc­tur­ing is the deep­est and the most far-sighted of the past decades, cov­er­ing nearly ev­ery gov­ern­ment and Party depart­ment and fo­cus­ing on stream­lin­ing and in­te­grat­ing gov­ern­ment func­tions, rather than purely down­siz­ing them as pre­vi­ous re­forms had done.

The MEE, for ex­am­ple, is em­pow­ered to take on a new func­tion: eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion, which has long been due for a merger with the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion agency. An ap­par­ently high-level gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial wrote un­der the pseu­do­nym “Xuanyan” (lit­er­ally “man­i­festo”) in Party pa­per the Peo­ple’s Daily that “cur­rent re­form fo­cuses on the fol­low­ing three years and looks far­ther to the next three decades.”


The way MEE vice-min­is­ter Huang Run­qiu sees it, “MEE” is a bet­ter name than the pre­vi­ous Ministry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion (MEP) be­cause it makes clear that “con­trol­ling pol­lu­tion will pro­tect the ecol­ogy.”

“Al­though ecol­ogy and the en­vi­ron­ment are two dif­fer­ent con­cepts, they com­pli­ment and in­flu­ence each other, and it is [more] log­i­cal one sin­gle ministry does the work of both,” Huang said at a group dis­cus­sion dur­ing the two ses­sions, China's top leg­isla­tive meet­ings that were held in March.

In ad­di­tion to its old func­tions, the MEE will take on around 10 more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing re­spond­ing to cli­mate change, emis­sions reduction, ground­wa­ter pol­lu­tion con­trols and zon­ing for wa­ter use. These were once scat­tered be­tween other min­istries.

“It is an up­graded ver­sion of the ministry,” said Ma Jun, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Pub­lic & En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs, a non-profit en­vi­ron­men­tal re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion. “It is of great sig­nif­i­cance that the MEE has bro­ken through pre­vi­ous ob­struc­tions from other depart­ments whose re­spon­si­bil­i­ties some­what over­lapped with the for­mer MEP,” he told Newschina.

The MEE is not the only ministry with sub­stan­tially ex­panded func­tions. The new Ministry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources (MNR) re­places the for­mer Ministry of Land and Re­sources, State Oceanic Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and Na­tional Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sur­vey­ing, Map­ping and Geoin­for­ma­tion, as well as in­te­grat­ing some func­tions of five other min­istries. The MNR will man­age all of China's nat­u­ral re­sources, in­clud­ing wa­ter, grass­lands, forestry, wet­lands, oceans and more. Cru­cially, it will also take over re­spon­si­bil­ity for zon­ing and ur­ban and ru­ral con­struc­tion plan­ning. These du­ties were pre­vi­ously per­formed by the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and the Re­form Com­mis­sion and the Ministry of Hous­ing and Ur­ban-ru­ral De­vel­op­ment.

“It [the MNR] will be a pow­er­ful depart­ment that helps clar­ify the users of types of nat­u­ral re­sources, re­moves plan­ning over­laps and gives in­te­gral pro­tec­tion to nat­u­ral re­sources,” Niu Xiong, a deputy re­searcher of nat­u­ral re­sources and the en­vi­ron­ment at the De­velop-

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