China’s bloated state administration is facing a much touted reform—an issue both Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao had in their sights before stepping down late last year.
According to Wen’s vision, the number of departments under the State Council would be reduced from 44 to 24, and 13 department heads would be removed. In the coming two years, a total of 240 ministry-level officials would be laid off.
Hu Jintao also mentioned government reform in his report during the 18th National Party Congress in November. It was expected back then that new government reforms would surface in 2013.
With new leaders in place, the so-called reform is being closely watched.
Government reform will begin at the top, from the central to the provincial, and on to the local governments, according to sources cited by New Express, a well-known Guangzhou media, Jan. 19.
Based on this plan, administrative reform at the central government will take place before provincial and municipal reform and will commence in the first half of this year.
Recent exposure of local government reform in Guangdong indicates that it has become a top priority.
Chen Jianhua, mayor of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, declared in his official 2013 annual work report that the execution of city and county levels government reform should be completed in the first half of 2013.
Not everyone is optimistic about the outcome, however.
The vice mayor of Guangzhou told Hong Kong’s Phoenix: “Government reform itself is a good thing. But if it is not carried out properly, it will only lead to more troubles, the greater the scale of reform, the more bureaucratic it is going to be. The more concentrated the reform is, the more corruption it will trigger.”
Past Reform Failures
As early as 2008, political commentator Qi Ge told New Epoch Weekly that he was not optimistic about any sort of government reform. He said the problem is low efficiency and high costs. The problems stem from an absence of separation between government and the communist party. The Communist Party’s (CCP) own political system is the real issue, Qi said.
“People who are familiar with the history of CCP’s government structure should know about this. Interdepartmental mergers have happened before. Department of Mechanics had merged with Department of Industrial Electronics. The National Development and Reform Commission had merged with the National Economic Commission,” Qi said.
“What happened then? Before, intradepartmental infighting was out in the open. Now, interdepartmental infighting continued in secrecy. It did not take long before the merged department was separated again. Each person protected his own interest. After a series of such failed attempts in reforms, we now have the largest number of civil servants in the world.”
Current government reform would not succeed if fundamental problems were not solved, Qi added.
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