Bureaucrats: China's Latest Plague

By Pan Xiaotao, Asian Times Hong Kong Affairs Commentator
September 9, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: September 9, 2006 12:00 am

During an interview with the weekly Oriental Outlook, former Minister of Organization for the Chinese Communist Party Zhang Quanqing said that there are many problems in China, one of which is the unnecessarily large number of bureaucrats. “Now a huge weakness of the Chinese political [system] is that there are too many officials.” Out of all the disasters in China, the top one is the dictatorship system, which results in and is reinforced by a disproportionate number of apparatchiks.

Zhang Quanjing said, “In each province, there are 40 to 50 province-level officials, and hundreds or sometimes over 1,000 bureau-level officials. In each county, there are dozens of county-level officials. This number is unheard of in the history of China and the world. Each provincial governor often has eight or nine lieutenant governors, each of whom also has secretaries and sometimes assistants. The same is true at the city level with mayors and deputy mayors.”

The ratio of officials versus residents may shed some light on this issue. According to Zhou Tianyong, Deputy Director of the Research Office of the Chinese Communist Party School, there are over six million official civil servants who are paid by the national government. However, in addition, there are about 63 million “other staff” on the government payroll. The total number of employees is nearly 70 million.

The ratio of government employees to citizens is 1:18. In other words, every 18 citizens are supporting one government employee or official. The ratio is 440 times that of the Western Han Dynasty, 218 times the Tang Dynasty, 127 times the Ming Dynasty, 50 times the Qing Dynasty, 40 times the 1940s, and 3.7 times the CCP government in the 1980s. Such a drastic increase no doubt adds a huge financial burden on China's citizens.

One reason for the continued growth in the number of officials is that under the CCP's one-party rule, the powers of the officials are unchecked. There is no other force among the civilians to control it. The second reason is that the CCP wants more control on its citizens than any other dynasty in history.

In the past, the levels of government would be central, provincial, and county. However, since the CCP began ruling China, even villages have government officials. There are five to six layers of government, ranging from the central to local governments. It is no surprise that the number of officials has increased exponentially.

Since the “officials” are the greatest beneficiary of the one-party rule, they will do everything they can to defend this system. In the past, when a government became so enormous, a new regime would take over. It was only because the Chinese national economy has been growing that the common people have not been pushed past their limits of endurance.

However, if the current system does not change, the upsurge in officials will continue. In addition, their extravagant meals and vacations are all paid for by the common people, adding to their burdens.

In a political environment such as in China today, power and money are closely tied. The officials will certainly not let go of their power and will do all they can to destroy any reforms that may cause them to lose their status. That is why, since Zhao Ziyang was premier in the 1980s, every premier has touted political reform, yet none has succeeded. There was the phenomenon of “The more downsizing, the more employees.” How much longer will it be before the people are forced to rebel?