First term limits ... now Xi Jinping to shake up the state to tighten Communist Party’s grip on government

Local authorities to have more autonomy, providing they toe the central government’s line

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 11:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 5:42pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping has kick-started a structural shake-up of the country’s massive party and state bureaucracy, in a push for efficiency and to further entrench the Communist Party’s control of all levers of government.

Xi’s shake-up plan was endorsed by the party’s ruling Central Committee after its three-day closed-door meeting in Beijing, state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday.

It came just days after the announcement of a party proposal to scrap the two-term constitutional limit on the presidency, opening the way for Xi to stay in power beyond the end of his second term in 2023.

The Xinhua report did not detail the reform plan, but stressed the top priority was to fortify the party’s control.

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The main task of the overhaul was to “strengthen the party’s full leadership of all areas and all aspects of work, to make sure the party’s leadership is all encompassing and becomes even stronger”, the report said.

It said the existing structure and functions of the party and state departments did not fully meet the needs for better development under Xi’s new era, and failed to meet the demands of modern governance.

Part of the blueprint will be put to the National People’s Congress – the country’s legislature – for formal approval when it convenes its annual meetings next week.

The NPC is expected to approve the establishment of a super anti-graft agency – the National Supervision Commission – with extensive powers to investigate and detain all state employees without the need for judicial approval.

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There will also be a shake-up of the government’s ministries and agencies, including a possible merger of the banking and insurance watchdogs – the China Insurance Regulatory Commission and the China Banking Regulatory Commission, sources have told the South China Morning Post.

The Xinhua report did not say which government departments would be affected, saying only that the systems for market supervision, natural resources and environmental management, and public service management would be improved.

It also said local governments would be given more autonomy to manage their own affairs, providing they toed the central government’s line and strictly enforced all its orders.

Wu Qiang, a former Tsinghua University political science professor, said the announcement sounded a loud note of the party’s leadership in all aspects of governance.

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“The party will not only tighten control over traditional administrative agencies, and economic policymaking, but also social groups,” Wu said. “In particular, it means that the party will deepen its intervention in economic and social affairs.”

Although the details of the changes were not public, Wu said it was very likely that the State Council, China’s cabinet, would continue to wane in a political system ruled by an increasingly powerful party.

“The organisational restructuring is carried out under a changing relationship between the party and the cabinet. The party leadership could intervene more in the work of the State Council,” he said.

The Central Committee also submitted a list of “recommended” candidates for key state offices to the NPC – including the presidency and vice-presidency, the NPC chairmanship, the head of the National Supervision Commission, the top judge and the top prosecutor.

The NPC will also appoint key cabinet officials, including a team to address the economic and financial woes of the world’s second-biggest economy.

Additional reporting by Sidney Leng