A massive cabinet restructuring plan was passed Saturday at a plenary meeting of the ongoing first session of the 13th National People’s Congress. There will be 26 ministries and commissions in addition to the General Office of the State Council after the reshuffle. The institutional reform has shown an unprecedented scale, scope and depth and been the most far-sighted shake-up since the reform and opening-up. Why did China make the reshuffle? How should we understand the significance of the restructuring? Global Times reporter Xing Xiaojing talked to two Chinese experts.
Ma Li, State Council counselor
The current setup has its drawbacks. Each ministry makes its own decisions and is hard to work with others in addressing problems. Therefore it is necessary to carry out institutional reform. For example, China will set up a ministry of emergency management to integrate departments and institutions related to safety and better respond to emergencies by concentrating personnel, funds and resources.
Obviously through the reshuffle the central government has exhibited a firm determination to tackle what was deemed unresolved in the past. The shake-up will break the existing interest patterns and restructure previously fragmented departments and institutions.
Each step of reform will help reach the overarching goal of deepening reform. The extensive reshuffle will improve work efficiency of government organs, which will inevitably cut the number of public servants. Reducing the government workforce comes in the form of retirement and job transfer. As China has about 7 million public servants and 50 million employees of public institutions, it is thus a general trend to streamline the administration.
Once the plan is implemented, China’s State Council will have 26 ministries and commissions, down three. The shake-up of overlapping or fragmented institutions is a manifestation of gradual reform.
Song Shiming, professor of public administration at the Chinese Academy of Governance
The cabinet reshuffle is a structural reform carrying strategic and epoch-making significance. It is designated to deepen reform in the Communist Party of China and the central government, to promote coordinated reforms of institutions in the Party, the government, the military and people’s organizations and to build a modernized governance system with Chinese characteristics.
The reform in each era has its own value, goal, target and approach. The value of the institutional reform lies in institutionalizing and strengthening overall Party leadership. The reshuffle is expected to reach the goal of building a modernized governance system with distinctive Chinese features and is targeted at establishing a Party and state institutional function system that is fully built, procedure-based and efficiently functioning. The approach adopted to propel the restructuring is advancing coordinated reforms of institutions in the Party, the government, the military and people’s organizations.
The institutional reform plan of the State Council is designed to make the government law-based and clearly defined in functions and duties, provide an institutional guarantee to promote balanced economic, political, cultural, social and ecological progress, as well as structural support to ensure the government fully plays its part.
Continuous institutional reform of the State Council has happened since 1988, with its focus on transforming government functions. The reshuffle this time aims to build a modernized governance system with Chinese characteristics.
There are numerous ways ahead to transform government functions, but institutional reform is the most direct. However, institutional restructuring should accord with the actual demand of the times.