China's third plenum

'Leading team' to spearhead drive for reform, party plenum resolves

Move underlines new leadership's eagerness to push forward with reform agenda, leading to fairer distribution of wealth and resources

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 3:51am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 11:45am

A central "leading team" will be set up to spearhead reform efforts, underscoring the eagerness of the new leadership to overcome chronic obstacles to deepening reforms.

Leaders said yesterday the team would "comprehensively deepen reforms".

It would be responsible for co-ordinating them, carrying them out and then monitoring their implementation, according to the communiqué released after the conclusion of the third plenum of the Central Committee.

The format of the high-level body underscores the leadership's resolve to reinvigorate the reform agenda, which has stagnated as powerful vested interests - corrupt officials and state-owned monopolies - held back efforts to achieve a fairer distribution of wealth and resources.

"It signals that China's reforms will enter into a new era, with the leadership vowing to improve their plans, undeterred by vested interests," said Liu Shanying , a political researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The reforms will involve redefining local government function and the relationship between the central and local governments on such matters as property rights and the controversial hukou household registration system.

In the communiqué, leaders said the nation would rely on "top-level design" and "crossing the river by feeling the stones" to give reforms a more "scientific" basis. The "feeling the stones" adage has been popular since late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping used it to encourage a "bold trial-and-error" approach to reform when the country had little experience to rely on.

Poor planning and a lack of cohesion between government departments have undermined the effect of many reforms.

A Politburo Standing Committee member, probably Premier Li Keqiang , was expected to lead the reform team, Liu said.

According to a well-connected source, Vice-Premier Wang Yang is likely to head the team's office, its executive arm, and be assisted by Han Zheng , who will be transferred from his post as Shanghai party secretary.

It appeared the central team would override the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top economic planner, political commentator Zhang Lifan said.

"The transfer of power from the NDRC to the central team is intended to avoid opposition from local governments. The NDRC is deeply connected to local interests," Zhang said.

"However, I think the authoritarian nature of the regime will work against the success of the reforms, because interest groups are already too strong and widely connected to top officials," he added.