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-

ment Re­search Cen­ter of the State Coun­cil, told Newschina.

Stream­lined Ad­min­is­tra­tion

Judg­ing by the MEE and MNR, it's clear that a ma­jor pur­pose of the lat­est re­struc­tur­ing is to re­move and stream­line over­lap­ping func­tions. The State Coun­cil's pre­vi­ous seven re­forms fo­cused on slim­ming down depart­ments and cut­ting staff – the num­ber of State Coun­cil min­istries and com­mis­sions dropped from 100 at the end of the 1970s to 25, while the lat­est re­form, ac­cord­ing to Xue Lan, dean of pub­lic pol­icy and man­age­ment at Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity, is con­cen­trat­ing more ef­forts on in­te­grat­ing func­tions across in­dus­tries.

“The pre­vi­ous re­forms marked off gov­ern­ment man­age­ment by in­dus­try, mean­ing the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties were de­fined and clas­si­fied by in­dus­try, while in the lat­est re­form, ‘in­te­gral func­tion' is the cri­te­rion for clas­si­fi­ca­tion,” Xue told Newschina.

The best ex­am­ple is the Min­istry of Emer­gency Man­age­ment (MEM). The new depart­ment was es­tab­lished to in­te­grate emer­gency tasks and ser­vices. In the past, ac­ci­dents or dis­as­ters in China were dealt with by dif­fer­ent depart­ments based on their na­ture. A mine ac­ci­dent or a chem­i­cal ex­plo­sion was han­dled by the for­mer State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Work Safety, emer­gency earth­quake re­sponse fell un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of the China Earth­quake Ad­min­is­tra­tion, ge­o­log­i­cal dis­as­ters went to the for­mer Min­istry of Land and Re­sources, and floods and droughts to the Min­istry of Wa­ter Re­sources. The Min­istry of Civil Af­fairs dis­trib­uted res­cue and re­lief ma­te­ri­als. Ev­ery time a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent or dis­as­ter oc­curred, the cen­tral gov­ern­ment had to set up a higher-level tem­po­rary of­fice to co­or­di­nate those depart­ments, and worse, the over­lap­ping ef­forts caused dou­bling-up – each of the depart­ments had to es­tab­lish a res­cue sys­tem of its own.

The MEM con­cen­trates and in­te­grates all those func­tions and serves as a per­ma­nent co­or­di­na­tor to pre­vent dis­or­ga­nized man­age­ment by mul­ti­ple depart­ments.

“The MEM takes on both rou­tine and emer­gency man­age­ment, which will fa­cil­i­tate bet­ter re­source dis­tri­bu­tion and make dis­as­ter re­lief more pro­fes­sional and ef­fi­cient,” Gong Weibin, deputy di­rec­tor of the China So­ci­ety of Emer­gency Man­age­ment, told Newschina.

In the same way, the for­mer Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and the State Coun­cil's of­fice for the lead­er­ship group of deep­en­ing health and med­i­cal re­forms were dis­banded to set up the new Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion, which uni­fies med­i­cal and health over­sight, as well as se­nior sup­port and to­bacco con­trol. The new State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Mar­ket Su­per­vi­sion and Man­age­ment will unify in­dus­trial and com­merce man­age­ment, qual­ity con­trol and drug su­per­vi­sion, the func­tions of which were once scat­tered among three depart­ments.

No­tably, the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion (NDRC), once dubbed a “small State Coun­cil” for tak­ing charge of de­vel­op­ing and ap­prov­ing plan­ning and pro­grams in all sorts of fields, was mas­sively down­sized in this round of re­forms, with the lion's share of its work trans­ferred to other depart­ments. “The [lat­est] re­form has squeezed out the NDRC'S func­tions that over­lap with those of the other depart­ments... In the fu­ture, the NDRC will fo­cus more on macro-con­trol, while re­duc­ing its in­ter­fer­ence in mi­cro-is­sues,” said Wang Yukai, a pro­fes­sor at the Chi­nese Academy of Gov­er­nance.

In his re­cent ar­ti­cle for the Peo­ple’s Daily, the newly elected Deputy Premier Liu He claimed that “be­ing sci­en­tific” is one of the fea­tures of the on­go­ing re­form, which he de­fined as “a top-down flat man­age­ment model.” Un­der such a model, he said, one is­sue or cat­e­gory of is­sues is han­dled by a sin­gle depart­ment, in co­op­er­a­tion with oth­ers.

Fur­ther, Broader Vi­sion

Ac­cord­ing to Liu, the ul­ti­mate goal of the lat­est re­struc­ture is to pro­vide in­sti­tu­tional back­ing for the gov­ern­ment to re­al­ize its longterm vi­sion, which the rul­ing Party, the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC), de­fined at its 19th Congress as “mak­ing China a well-off so­ci­ety by 2020, ba­si­cally re­al­iz­ing so­cial­ist mod­ern­iza­tion by 2035 and re­al­iz­ing the Chi­nese dream of re­viv­ing the Chi­nese Na­tion by the mid­dle of the 21st cen­tury.”

With such ob­jec­tives, the gov­ern­ment is ap­par­ently adapt­ing to the needs of a rapidly de­vel­op­ing and ris­ing coun­try.

For ex­am­ple, the es­tab­lish­ment of the Na­tional In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (NIDCA) and the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NIA) shows China is build­ing it­self into a

“re­spon­si­ble, big” na­tion as ex­pected.

“The es­tab­lish­ment of the two new depart­ments proves the gov­ern­ment's ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices have reached a deeper and fur­ther level,” said Zhang Ji, deputy di­rec­tor of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee's pol­icy re­search of­fice, dur­ing the two ses­sions.

Ac­cord­ing to China’s For­eign Aid (2014), a re­port is­sued by the State Coun­cil in July 2014, China pro­vided nearly 90 bil­lion yuan (US$13.8B) in for­eign aid to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries from 2010 to 2012. The gov­ern­ment has pledged this fig­ure will con­tinue to rise. How­ever, China's for­eign aid man­age­ment has re­mained frag­mented and dis­or­ga­nized, which slowed ef­fi­ciency and held China back from gain­ing broader dis­cur­sive power on this is­sue.

Ac­cord­ing to State Coun­cilor Wang Yong, the NIDCA was es­tab­lished to solve this prob­lem by pro­mot­ing a “three-di­men­sional for­eign-aid model” with the gov­ern­ment, en­ter­prises and so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing and co­op­er­at­ing with each other un­der China's Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

Sim­i­larly, the NIA was set up to bet­ter serve the grow­ing amount of for­eign tal­ent pour­ing into China. Ac­cord­ing to Wang Huiyao, the di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Cen­ter for China and Glob­al­iza­tion, es­tab­lish­ing the NIA sig­nals that China will be more open and in­clu­sive to glob­al­iza­tion.

In his ar­ti­cle, Liu He em­pha­sized that gov­ern­ment depart­ments must be ca­pa­ble of re­solv­ing prom­i­nent con­tra­dic­tions and con­trol­ling po­ten­tial ma­jor risks. This ex­plains the merg­ing of the China Bank­ing Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion (CBRC) and the China In­sur­ance Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion (CIRC), given that Chi­nese in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and banks were in­creas­ingly risk­ing China's fi­nan­cial sys­tem by launch­ing com­pli­cated, non-trans­par­ent fi­nan­cial prod­ucts.

“In the re­form, the Peo­ple's Bank of China [PBOC, China's cen­tral bank] was in­tended to take over the job of work­ing out and re­view­ing [fi­nan­cial] reg­u­la­tion,” said Wang Jun, chief economist of the He­nan­based Zhong Yuan Bank. “In the fu­ture, the PBOC will take on more macro-level is­sues and mi­cro-mar­ket su­per­vi­sion and in­vestor pro­tec­tion will be un­der the con­trol of the new CBRC,” he added.

Thor­ough Over­haul

The anony­mous of­fi­cial “Xuanyan” wrote in the com­men­tary that dur­ing the re­form process, the gov­ern­ment is pri­or­i­tiz­ing the peo­ple. In a bid to bet­ter serve the peo­ple, gov­ern­ment depart­ments have to “shift from a quan­tity-cen­tered man­age­ment model to one cen­tered on qual­ity one.” This im­pulse is re­flected in the newly es­tab­lished depart­ments, such as the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral Af­fairs, the MEE, and the MEM.

Among the 15 new depart­ments, the Min­istry of Veter­ans Af­fairs (MVA) has re­ceived the most at­ten­tion for be­ing set up at a high level and tak­ing over a num­ber of func­tions from the CPC. Ac­cord­ing to the re­form pro­gram, the MVA will take over some re­spon­si­bil­i­ties from the po­lit­i­cal and lo­gis­tics sec­tions of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion un­der the CPC, which sug­gests the lat­est in­sti­tu­tional re­forms will not be con­cen­trated only within the State Coun­cil.

“Given that China is led and guided by the CPC, re­forms will never have their in­tended ef­fect if they do not reach the Party as well,” Zheng Yong­nian, di­rec­tor of the East Asian In­sti­tute, at the Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of Sin­ga­pore, told Sin­ga­pore-based pa­per Lianhe Zaobao.

Fol­low­ing the re­struc­tur­ing of the State Coun­cil, the CPC cen­tral com­mit­tee is­sued an­other pro­gram on deep­en­ing re­form of the gov­ern­ment and Party depart­ments, an­nounc­ing it would up­grade four of the Party's “lead­er­ship groups” – those on eco­nomics and fi­nance, net­work se­cu­rity, for­eign af­fairs and re­form deep­en­ing – to the com­mis­sion level.

Ac­cord­ing to the pro­gram, the up­grade aims to strengthen the lead­er­ship of the Party by em­pow­er­ing the com­mis­sions to do top-level de­sign and make gen­eral ar­range­ments and su­per­vi­sion of ma­jor is­sues.

“As the rul­ing Party, the CPC ex­erts its lead­er­ship gen­er­ally by the ad­min­is­tra­tive power of the gov­ern­ment. How­ever, the lead­er­ship was some­what weak­ened by separat­ing gov­ern­ment ad­min­is­tra­tion from so­ci­ety and com­pa­nies, which has been im­ple­mented in re­cent years,” Mao Shou­long, the ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­dent of the Pub­lic Pol­icy Cen­ter, at the Ren­min Uni­ver­sity of China, told Newschina.

“Given China's po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, we must or­ga­nize and co­or­di­nate re­forms in both the gov­ern­ment and the Party depart­ments and or­gans, or the re­forms will nei­ther be ‘thor­ough' nor ‘deep,'” he added.

That is why Liu He em­pha­sized that the lat­est re­form should be “all-round.” “Dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous re­forms, the lat­est in­sti­tu­tional re­form should cover all fields, in­clud­ing the Party, the gov­ern­ment, the NPC, the CPPCC, law en­force­ment or­gans, so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions, the mil­i­tary or­gans, lo­cal gov­ern­ment depart­ments and so on... The re­form should en­sure the cen­tral­ized and uni­fied lead­er­ship [of the Party], while giv­ing more autonomy to provin­cial and lower-level depart­ments,” he said.

In an in­ter­view with news por­tal The Pa­per, Ma Liang, a re­searcher at the Na­tional Academy of De­vel­op­ment and Strat­egy at Ren­min Uni­ver­sity, said that a more de­ci­sive fac­tor in the on­go­ing re­form lies in how to deal with the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the gov­ern­ment and Party depart­ments, and how the lower-level depart­ments and lo­cal gov­ern­ments will achieve cor­re­spond­ing re­forms. He stressed the need for an ap­praisal and re­view process to check how well the re­formed depart­ments and or­gans in­te­grate their func­tions and co­or­di­nate with the Party.

Of­fi­cials launch China’s new Min­istry of Ecol­ogy and En­vi­ron­ment in Bei­jing, April 16, 2018

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