Trimming bureaucratic fat has been on Beijing's mind in the past, and making government leaner, smaller and more efficient has been an articulated goal of at least the five previous cabinets. Five rounds of government restructuring have followed, but Beijing seems to be a classic example of a half-hearted, yo-yo dieter. After going in cycles from expansion to reduction and back again, the only thing that has been proved is that the world's largest bureaucracy is extremely buoyant. The word is that the latest cabinet revamp, to be unveiled today at the National People's Congress' session, is going to be the real deal. Li Junru , vice-president of the Central Party School - the Communist Party's top think-tank - has even billed it as 'a potential breakthrough in China's political reform'. The key feature of this round of restructuring, as Premier Wen Jiabao stressed in his work report last week, will be 'an accelerated transformation of government function'. A service-oriented, macro-regulating government would replace the control-obsessed, micro-meddling one that has increasingly hurt the country's booming market economy. 'Previous government reorganisations have mainly focused on downsizing. This one is meant to be qualitatively different. The pace and depth of this round of administrative reform are going to be beyond expectations,' said Tang Tiehan , a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and vice-president of the National School of Administration. Under the small government credo, there's also much talk about the emergence of a handful of 'super ministries', responsible for transport, health, industries and information technology, human resources, housing and city planning. The drive is intended to cut bureaucratic overlaps and boost efficiency. At the same time, to give priority to the issues of environment and energy, Beijing will create cabinet-rank agencies covering the two areas. 'This might be termed the benign shake-up, although even here it's questionable how much difference it really makes,' Boston University political scientist Joseph Fewsmith said. Analysts were also quick to point out it's not the first time that Beijing has embarked on the super ministry structure. If the past is any guide, the next 12 years - the time frame Beijing has set for its massive government revamping plan - will be eventful. A case in point is the Ministry of Information Industry, formed as a de facto super ministry in 1998 by merging the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Electronics Industry and the data transmission sections of the State Aerospace Bureau, the General Administration of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Radio, Film and Television. The information industry behemoth largely proved a bust and is facing the axe in the new round of restructuring. The National Development and Reform Commission, a product of extensive restructuring, is a case study in itself. The planning bureau, the most powerful one under the State Council, had become the 'progenitor of red tape and official quotas', Professor Tang said. The shake-up would most likely see it stripped of project-approval powers and be left to focus on macroeconomic planning, he said. Beijing would probably tout the Ministry of Commerce as its chief example of a successful cabinet reshuffle. It was set up five years ago - by amalgamating the once powerful State Economic and Trade Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation - largely to meet the challenges of accession to the World Trade Organisation. But the industrial associations grouped under its umbrella will probably have to move again, this time into the new super ministry of industries and information. Professor Fewsmith said the most frequent reason for the apparently never-ending cabinet shake-ups was that existing arrangements were judged to have failed. 'There is no finer sign of a policy area in bad shape than the restructuring of its governing ministry,' he said. But just moving a block of civil servants a few hundred metres down the road might not have any real impact on the standard of administrative ability. 'Beijing espouses the merit of joined-up government. Constant joining, separation and rejoining can hardly speak of good governance,' Professor Fewsmith said. 'But it certainly shows a dogged determination to get it right.' Bureaucratic opposition to the latest overhaul was likely to be intense, analysts said. The Ministry of Railways was reportedly holding out against absorption and vested interests in many other agencies would work against plans that cut into their turf. That may explain why Mr Wen used the word 'exploring' in his work report to imply the restructuring was going to be a gradual, non-threatening and protective process. Yet the herculean task of creating an efficient and accountable government may prove unattainable without deeper and more painful changes. After 30 years of efforts to liberalise the economy, China seemed to have reached the most unwieldy aspect of the reform process - political restructuring - said Steve Tsang, a China scholar at Oxford University. 'Unless China has a political reform, its administrative reform will not get very far,' Dr Tsang said. 'But Beijing is only interested in the latter - in improving the party-state's capacity to govern and maintain long-term monopoly on power.' Mr Li, the vice-president of the party school, unwittingly confirmed the rationale. 'You can give it another try if you fail at economic reform,' he said, 'but when it comes to political reform, you'd never be given another chance to try it again.'