Restructuring, Realignment and Austerity: Opening Moves of the New Leadership in China
IITM CSC Article #49
09 April 2013
Restructuring, Realignment and Austerity:
Opening Moves of the New Leadership in China
The 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) concluded in March, with the transition of the new leadership for China. As Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang were elected as State President and Premier of the State Council respectively, the process of handing over the country’s reigns of governance was successfully completed. Faced with growing challenges to balance economic development with inequality, the leadership has already started initiating measures that are aimed at projecting a healthy image before the vast population of the country. The central government’s concerns in this regard need to be seen in parallel with the larger concerns of the CPC on getting alienated from the people.
In this context, the NPC passed a series of measures restructuring and streamlining administrative functioning aimed at reducing red tape, excessive bureaucratic intervention and corruption. The measures are intended to overhaul some key administrative organs. The major focus was the decision to split the Railway Ministry and bring about a separation of its administrative and commercial arms. Employing over two million people and having its own police force and courts, the intention was to do away with the dual role of the ministry as regulator and operator. After the break-up of the ministry, a new China Railway Corporation would be created for infrastructural expansion and managing freight and passengers services; while measures of ensuring safety, quality and other standards of regulations would come under a railway administration that would be merged with the Transport Ministry. Similarly, the Health Ministry and National Population and Family Planning Commission would be merged into a New National Health and Family Planning Commission, which has raised speculation regarding the continuation of the country’s One-Child policy. A decision was also taken to bring together the fisheries and maritime law enforcement agencies scattered under different ministries into a single entity known as State Oceanic Administration. This measure was specifically aimed at better organization and coordination, especially in the context of the Diaoyu island dispute with Japan. With the stated aim of improving the enforcement of food and drug safety standards, the Food and Drug administration was elevated in status as a Ministry. Restructuring has also been undertaken in the National Energy Administration created five years, to infuse efficiency into it. Also, the General Administration of Press and Publication and the State Administration of Radio were merged into a single entity for the whole media sector, though questions of thorough deregulation still remained.
This significant overhaul and restructuring, which was happening for the seventh time since the onset of post-1978 reforms has resulted in the number of ministries under the State Council being reduced to 25 from 27. The larger aim of realignment and streamlining was to prevent too much concentration on micro issues by State Council departments and to enhance the role of the market.
Combined with the realignment of the administration by the government, the CPC is also focussed on retaining its prominence among people. Under the constant scrutiny of the people with an active and critical social media, the party has been more and more cognizant of its role and functions. Presenting the report in the 18th Party Congress, Hu Jintao had called upon the party members to put peoples’ interests, above everything else and be mindful that the party shared a common destiny with the people. He was categorical that there was a serious need for the party to solve the pressing problems concerning the people and raise the ability to work in all conditions. He also significantly underlined the “need to reject undesirable practices such as mediocrity, laziness, laxity and extravagance, the practice of just going through formalities, and bureaucratism”.