Editor’s note: The deepening of Party and State institutions’ reform is a big move initiated at the Third Plenary session of the 19th Communist Party of China Central Committee. Six scholars share their views with China Daily on the State Council’s proposal to reshuffle the institutions. Excerpts follow:
Reform responds to call of the new era
The reform of Party and State institutions aims to promote the modernization of the country’s governance system, as required by the third plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee and the 19th National Congress of the CPC. The Party’s and country’s institutional reform will accordingly fulfill the requirements of modernizing governance capacity so as to meet the conditions of the two stages for the country’s modernization, that is, to basically achieve socialist modernization by 2035 and become a strong modern socialist country by 2050.
This is the eighth institutional reform since the first one in 1982 in response to the call of the new era. The reform will incorporate part of the Ministry of Land and Resources into the proposed Ministry of Ecological Environment, which will be set up to meet the demands of green development and to better prevent and control pollution. It will also make overall governance, from the perspective of resources, and the environment and ecology, more efficient than the existing system of separated governance.
Compared with the last State institutional reform in 2013, the reform of Party and State institutions this time will be comprehensive in nature and better meet the development demands in the new era. For instance, the Ministry of Supervision and National Bureau of Corruption Prevention will be incorporated into the new National Supervisory Commission, which is a significant reform to merge administrative departments into national bodies.
This round of reform of Party and State institutions, among other things, is aimed at enabling the market to play a decisive role in resource allocation, and improving governance.
The reform’s aim is also to avoid the overlapping of different departments’ functions and improve their efficiency, as some administrative reforms in the past made some institutions more complicated and overstaffed despite the original intention of streamlining them. The key to solve this problem is to transform government functions, in which the government delegates power to the market, society and lower authorities in the areas that they can better fulfill their duties.
Ding Yuanzhu, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance. This is an excerpt from his interview with China Daily’s Wang Yiqing.
Taking forward health and family planning policies
In this round of the Party and State institutions reform, the existing National Health and Family Planning Commission, aging work society and some health agencies under other ministries, will be transformed into the National Health Commission, indicating a historic shift in the main task of family planning, from population control to better serving the families to plan their future.
Considering the drastic changes in China’s demography, controlling the newborn population is not conducive to meeting the demands of social development, and the institutional reform will make sure the policies keep pace with the changing times.
As the institutional reform plan says, the new National Health Commission will bear the responsibility of “family planning management and service”, reflecting the functional transformation of family planning work. In the next stage, the authorities should focus on encouraging childbearing and optimizing the family planning services, which is a change the public has been expecting for a long time.
Moreover, the new National Health Commission has to address some problems arising out of the previous strict family planning policy, including those related to families losing their only child and the support for elderly care, in order to better manage family planning duties and provide improved services.
Mu Guangzong, a professor at the Population Research Institute of Peking University. This is an excerpt from his interview with China Daily’s Wang Yiqing.
Move to better protect the environment
The proposed Ministry of Ecological Environment will help integrate urban and rural areas for strengthen supervision and law enforcement, and to better control and prevent air, soil and water pollution. This is important for reducing environmental problems, safeguarding the country’s ecological security, and building a beautiful China.
Take the task of reducing water pollution for example. Previously, the groundwater and watershed management, and agricultural pollution control duties were shared by several ministries and commissions such as the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture, which resulted in the overlapping of management responsibilities and a buck-passing tendency.
Therefore, after similar functions of different ministries and institutions are integrated, the responsibilities and duties will rest with one department. The Ministry of Ecological Environment, as the main body, will set policies, plans and standards to control and prevent pollution and fight environment-related crimes.
That the new Ministry of Ecological Environment will now be responsible for fighting climate change and curbing emissions will also help reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions on a larger scale.
However, the massive reshuffle will also create some challenges, including how to realign the functions of multiple ministries and commissions to effectively integrate shared responsibilities. And since the existing Ministry of Environmental Protection has focused its attention on controlling air, soil and water pollution, the added responsibilities could distract the new ministry’s focus and disperse its limited resources.
Therefore, while giving more responsibilities to the Ministry of Ecological Environment, the higher authorities should also provide it with more resources and personnel to better perform its duties. Besides, the new ministry should also continue the good practice of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which, for instance, includes disclosing information on and encouraging public participation in environmental protection measures, and mobilizing multiple forces to promote green and sustainable development.
Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Beijing-based environmental NGO. This is an excerpt from his interview with China Daily’s Yao Yuxin.
Veterans’ rights will be better protected
The Ministry of Veterans Affairs to be established in accordance with the plan to deepen the reform of Party and State institutions is a historic step to implement the strategy to build a powerful military.
The new ministry will better protect the rights of retired military personnel by combining the functions of different ministries and organizations, and to better serve the veterans. The resettlement of retired military soldiers and officers was the responsibility of the Ministry of Civil Affairs and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. The political work and logistics departments of the Central Military Commission also shared the responsibility of resettling the veterans.
The unified functions focusing on better serving the retired military personnel will not only strengthen the faith and sense of honor of the military, but also make up for the past deficit in serving the veterans in some areas.
This reform is a timely response to the concerns of retired military personnel, including acknowledgement of their contributions, further education, and memorial for heroes, which President Xi Jinping, also chairman of the Central Military Commission, has been reiterating over the past five years.
With the functions integrated, the ministry can better coordinate and systemize work for resettling veterans. For instance, the implementation of relative policies, to some extent, will push local governments to better fulfill their roles in resettling the veterans.
The Ministry of Veterans Affairs will improve not only the public services for the veterans but also attract more youngsters to a career in the military, paving the way for building a powerful military.
Li Daguang, a professor at the PLA National Defense University. This is an excerpt from his interview with China Daily’s Pan Yixuan.
Immigration administration to serve growing number of migrants
According to the draft proposal that the State Council, China’s Cabinet, submitted to the ongoing first session of the 13th National People’s Congress on March 13, the establishment of a specific administrative body for immigration affairs is of great significance for the Chinese people as well as foreigners planning to migrate to China in the near future.
First, the planned immigration administration is a requirement of the times, as more and more people who share the Chinese Dream are migrating to China. A blue book series, Annual Report on Chinese International Migration, published by the Center for China and Globalization, says China has become a more desirable immigration destination because of its rapidly expanding economy and relatively low living costs. Also, pursuing the Chinese Dream has become a new trend in global immigration.
Second, the planned immigration administration will help China to build a global competitive talent immigration system and take advantage of international immigrants to facilitate the building of a moderately prosperous society in the new era. So China needs a smooth immigration management system.
Third, the new administration may more easily meet immigration challenges. For instance, an increasing number of illegal immigrants in some parts of China pose a challenge to urban management, which the new administration should effectively overcome.
Fourth, China needs the new administration to deepen its participation in global immigration management and strengthen international cooperation on immigration.
With the help of the new administration, China will also have a bigger say in the immigration issues on the world stage.
Wang Huiyao, founder and president of Beijing-based independent think tank Center for China and Globalization and a counselor to the State Council
Coordinated aid will improve development
According to the draft reform plan, China will establish an agency for international development and cooperation, which will integrate the work of providing foreign aid of the ministries of commerce and foreign affairs. The new agency will play an active role in China’s trade and international cooperation in addition to improving the efficiency of its overseas aid.
Aid from the international community greatly contributed to China’s development in the past, particularly in the early decades after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when it faced severe trade restrictions.
Although China today is able and willing to shoulder more responsibilities to help other countries in need, it should take a prudent approach to overseas aid. Since it is important to help a country achieve long-term sustainable development instead of giving it short-lived aid, the recipient country should be encouraged to develop its economy and trade. And while adhering to its stance of non-interference in the internal affairs of another country, China should enhance supervision on aid, and make sure it is effectively used to facilitate the recipient country’s development.
The agency can also help China to lay out its cooperative diplomacy, which should include the promotion of mutual cooperation among countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation