Chinese Parliamentary Sessions 2013
March 2013 sees the annual meeting of the two legislative and consultative bodies of China, where major policies are decided and key government officials appointed. The National People's Congress (NPC) is held in the Great Hall of the People in China's capital, Beijing, and with 2,987 members, is the largest parliament in the world. It gathers alongside the People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) whose members represent various groups of society.
Number of ministries expected to be reduced, streamlined by State Council
The curtain is likely to be drawn on several decades-old ministries and agencies, while others are expected to be streamlined when State Council secretary general Ma Kai submits proposals to restructure cabinet bodies to the annual meeting of the National People's Congress today.
Sources said the scandal-plagued Ministry of Railways would spin off operational units while its railways watchdog function would most likely be merged with transport ministry - which oversees roads, airports and ports - into a so-called superministry. The operation of its rail business, meanwhile, would be transferred to a separate company.
Operations related to railway financing and construction would possibly be merged with the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, another source suggested.
Meanwhile, the 32-year-old National Population and Family Planning Commission is also likely to be scrapped and its services integrated with other agencies. A source said the family planning section would merge with the health ministry and the population section would go to the National Development and Reform Commission.
A report from Caijing magazine said the health ministry would be renamed the Health, Population and Family Planning Ministry to emphasise the importance of maintaining the country's one-child policy, despite growing calls by experts to loosen or drop it.
Separately, a new central government agency will be created to oversee food and drug safety to avoid overlap and blind spots, streamlining a complex regulatory system that has failed to prevent a series of scandals over contaminated food and fake medicines.
A broadcast and press superministry is also likely to be created by merging the nation's broadcast watchdog, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, and the General Administration of Press and Publication.
Meanwhile, a source with the Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, or Qiaoban, says the agency will merge with the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, or Qiaolian, during the upcoming institutional restructuring. While the head of Qiaoban, Li Haifeng, will soon be promoted to CPPCC vice-chairwoman, the Qiaolian chief Lin Jun will take charge of the new agency after the merger.
The State Council reduced the number of ministries from 52 to 27 in 2008.
Additional reporting by Choi Chi-yuk