Knowing All about Hunan

Experts share views on China's institutional reform

Updated:2023-03-13 15:07:09

Photo taken on March 10, 2023 shows the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. [Photo/Xinhua]

Editor's note:China's top legislature on Friday approved a plan for reforming the institutions of the State Council, China's Cabinet. The institutional reform will help improve governance efficiency, tackle risks and challenges and promote high-quality development. Three experts share their views on the issue with China Daily.

Reform key to high-quality development

by Hao Dong

Editor's note: China's top legislature on Friday approved a plan for reforming the institutions of the State Council, China's Cabinet. The institutional reform will help improve governance efficiency, tackle risks and challenges and promote high-quality development. Three experts share their views on the issue with China Daily.

The Party and State institutional reform is an important measure to implement the spirit of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, a move to modernize and improve national governance and governance capacity, and a response to the new developments at home and abroad, in order to promote high-quality development.

The 20th CPC National Congress held in October 2022 made important arrangements for deepening institutional reform, which are of far-reaching significance for building a modern socialist country and promoting the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

The financial system reform is an important part of the Party and State institutional reform. With the 14th National People's Congress passing the State Council's institutional reform plan on Friday, the focus is now on optimizing and adjusting the institutional responsibilities in key areas such as science and technology, and strengthening financial regulation, and highlighting the crucial links of economic and social development.

The authorities will set up the national financial regulatory administration to strengthen the country's financial regulation system. The move comes after President Xi Jinping stressed the need for preventing major financial and ethical risks, and better protecting consumers' rights in the financial industry. The new administration will unify the regulatory responsibilities of all financial sectors except for securities, and enhance institutional, behavioral and functional supervision, and improve risk management. The administration will also oversee the supervision of financial holding companies by the People's Bank of China and improve the management of State-owned financial capital.

This reform is an important step toward building a modern financial system and optimizing regulatory mechanisms.

Additionally, China will reorganize the Ministry of Science and Technology, attaching greater importance to innovations in the field of technology in China's modernization process. The ministry will focus on strategic planning, system reform and macro-management, while optimizing the full chain management of innovations, promoting the economic application of scientific research and innovations, and integrating technology with economic and social development. The aim is to establish a new national system for technology development and further promote self-reliance in technology to strengthen strategic emerging industries and upgrade the economy.

To consolidate the centralized and unified leadership of the Party, the CPC Central Committee will also establish a central science and technology commission, so as to strengthen the Party's leadership over science and technology work.

The CPC Central Committee may also strengthen the Party's leadership in financial supervision and management, which will further strengthen the Party's institutional supervision in key areas, and leverage the advantages of the Party leadership and the socialist advantages of appropriately utilizing and allocating resources to make remarkable achievements.

The Party institutions have undergone five rounds of reform since 1982, with the theme of "streamlining" being a significant aspect of most of them, while the State Council, China's Cabinet, has gone through eight rounds of reforms, with the most Party and State institutional reform being in 2018. Over this period, the number of State Council departments has decreased from 100 to 26, resulting in better resource allocation, improved work efficiency, and lower management costs.

These reforms have not only brought economic benefits but also improved government services and administrative efficiency. They have laid a solid foundation for further modernizing the national governance system and governance capacity, and providing strong support for the historic achievements and changes in the country.

The recent proposal of a 5 percent reduction in staff members across central government agencies shows the government's modernization efforts are aimed at optimizing the organizational structure and functional allocation, transforming functions, and improving office efficiency. This will enhance the leadership of the Party in the modernization of socialism and help China use institutional advantages to improve national governance.

This round of reform of the Party and State institutions focuses on key industries and fields, and on removing deeply-rooted vested interests from them. The reform will also address the difficult and major issues of significant social concern and will have a big impact on economic and social development.

The State Council reform is a major decision made by the CPC Central Committee to oversee the development of the Party and State undertakings in a comprehensive manner, meet the requirements of developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, implement the spirit of the 20th Party Congress and the Second Plenary Session of the 20th CPC Central Committee, further advance the modernization of the national governance system and governance capacity, and help develop a new development paradigm and promote high-quality development.

Using science and tech to promote modernization

by Liu Feng

The Ministry of Science and Technology will be restructured according to the institutional reform plan, which is aimed at strengthening the centralized and unified leadership of the science and technology sector under the upcoming central science and technology commission.

The restructured ministry will focus on macro-management of strategic planning, resource allocation, coordination, policies, regulations, supervision and inspections. The restructuring will help establish a new national science and technology system, optimize the management of the entire technology innovation chain, and facilitate the transformation of scientific and technological achievements while integrating science and technology with economic and social development.

In recent years, the evaluations of technology plans, institutions, policies and other activities organized by the ministry have played an important role in optimizing technology resources, improving government management, and enhancing the level of technology management. Since the beginning of reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, China has been improving the technology evaluation system in a bid to provide clear guidance for scientific and technological activities, and promote innovations in the technology sector. This has played a crucial role in the rapid development of China's science and technology industry.

As China's scientific and technological level continues to improve, the depth and breadth of technology-related activities are constantly expanding, and the challenge of breaking the ceiling of "four onlys" (papers, titles, education and awards) has become one of the key and difficult-to-resolve issues in the reform of the technology evaluation system.

In July 2018, the General Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council highlighted the importance of moral character, ability and performance, and of overcoming the tendency to focus solely on papers, titles, education and awards. After five years, the process of breaking the "four-onlys" ceiling has entered a critical stage which requires an improved technology system, a more scientific and rational new technology evaluation system, and institutional reforms, as well as the use of technology evaluation as a "stethoscope" and "conductor" to promote closer integration of technology with socioeconomic development to facilitate high-quality development.

The emphasis of the "four onlys" is on papers, because advanced degrees, job titles and awards are mostly supported by academic publications. Therefore, to break the "four-onlys" barrier, one needs to first reduce the excessive emphasis on papers.

However, in the fields of basic science and cutting-edge scientific research, publishing papers in reputable academic journals and authoring highly cited papers are two of the best ways to demonstrate a researcher's ability and value. This is also the norm followed by the international academic community.

Overcoming the "four-onlys" hurdle does not mean paper metrics will no longer be considered for scientific and technological evaluations. Rather, it means breaking the simplistic and excessive emphasis on "only" papers. Modern science- and technology-related activities are a complex system, and many tasks cannot be measured by the number or "quality" of published papers alone.

For example, over the past 20 years, a large number of Chinese experts have researched and developed major equipment and materials for integrated circuits ranging from 90 nanometers to 28 nanometers, thus clearing a series of bottlenecks. Those experts have made significant contributions to the development of China's integrated circuit industry and better safeguard its economic security. However, these technologies have already been mastered and widely used in the United States, Japan, the Netherlands and other countries. And due to the need for secrecy, in many cases, the results in most cases cannot be published as papers.

The key to ending the obsession with papers is to establish a new evaluation system which would be guided by the quality and contributions to, and innovations in, the field of science and technology, with focus on meeting the major strategic needs of China's four key areas.

First, there is a need to improve the national scientific and technological evaluation management system. Also, a complete national scientific and technological evaluation management system should be established to optimize the feedback on the innovations in science and technology and better coordinate science and technology resources to intensify efforts to make China self-reliant in the field of advanced science and technology.

Second, it is necessary to strengthen theoretical and methodological research on scientific and technological evaluation, especially by using high-tech such as big data and artificial intelligence, to build a new system of scientific and technological evaluation.

Third, there is also a need to build a multi-level differentiated scientific and technological evaluation system to address the problems of an incomplete classification evaluation system, overly standardized quantitative evaluation criteria, and a utilitarian approach to evaluations.

And fourth, the authorities should take measures to optimize the system and environment for technological evaluation. To counter the trend of seeking quick success and instant benefits in scientific research, and eliminate the culture of weak integrity and low innovation capacity, efforts should be made to create a strong democratic academic atmosphere, and crack down on academic misconduct such as data falsification and plagiarism. This will help foster a positive social atmosphere that values knowledge and innovation.

Improving governance for the good of people

by Harvey Dzodin

After more than three years of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this spring, the season of rebirth, has a special significance, as it signals a restart after a long and costly challenge in both economic and human terms.

This is also an important year for reform in China, with many proposals presented to the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, to improve the delivery of government services to better serve the people. There are changes in the country's central leadership, with numerous experienced leaders already assuming higher positions to help steer the ship of the State at the national level. This spring also represents continuity of President Xi Jinping's leadership.

Democracy isn't one size fits all. The bottom line is how China gives its 1.4 billion people a better life. And while no government is perfect, China has delivered exceptionally well for its people. It has lifted 800 million people out of extreme poverty, a feat unmatched in human history. Also, China's life expectancy at birth, a universal measure of human development, exceeds that of the US. China's pandemic prevention and control measures, too, have been more effective than other countries', as its death toll and number of infections are lower than those of other major countries.

In fact, in terms of COVID-19 deaths and infections, it's still "America first". That the United States has the highest death and infection rates in the world despite having a population about one-fourth of China speaks volumes of the effectiveness of China's anti-pandemic measures.

And to better serve the people, China plans to deepen reforms in different sectors including restructuring its Ministry of Science and Technology, setting up a national financial regulatory administration, and establishing a national data bureau. These moves will help China improve its governance capabilities and inspire the Chinese people to make technological breakthroughs, which would help strengthen financial security and data regulation.

The reform plan for State Council institutions is in line with the reform plan for Party and State institutions which was recently approved at the Second Plenary Session of the 20th Communist Party of China Central Committee.

The reform of the Party and State institutions is the first major systemic step toward achieving the "second centenary goal" of developing China into a "great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful" by the middle of this century. Equally important, it is a guarantee for institutional stability and progress for the next five years and beyond, in order to better serve the Chinese people.

Despite all this, however, the US continues to demonize China and its governance system.

The fact is, China's system works and has been strenuously tested by time. China uses five-year plans to set its socioeconomic goals and measure its achievements (and occasional misses). It has a "sink or swim" personnel system that rewards officials with promotions only so long as they perform well in their positions starting from the village level right up to the national level, including in large State-owned enterprises. Under this system, someone like previous US president Donald Trump would have been red-flagged from day one, which would have prevented him from progressing further.

So why does the US refuse to recognize China's great achievements and use its energy to unfairly demonize China and stop its peaceful rise? Perhaps because the US can't come to terms with the fact that there's a different political and development system out there that works better and achieves more for the country's 1.4 billion people than the US can for many of its 336 million people.

The United States is founded on a myth called "American exceptionalism" wherein the country was chosen by God to lead the world. The myth certainly seems to have been busted. So to hide its own deficiencies, the US bullies others, whether friends or foes, to misdirect the world's attention. This is the time of the year that gets an extra dose of bile from the US, because of the annual sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, which are important meetings that will result in even more improvements for China and its people.

No matter what China does, in the US' eyes it's wrong. This is not unique to US foreign policy; it applies to the dysfunctional, deeply divided US domestic political system, too.

The best analogous example I can think of is the continuing Republican attempt to blame President Joe Biden for the horrendous freight train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb 3 which released toxic chemicals, killing wildlife and making many people sick. The Republicans accused Biden of causing the accident because of lax regulations and their enforcement.

The truth, however, is the Republicans, who don't believe in safety nets, scrapped the previous regulations that might have prevented the tragedy, which many experts say was both predictable and foreseeable. The Republicans just can't own up to their own deficiencies and mistakes, and keep blaming the Democrats.

It's exactly the same with the US' relations with China. Rather than getting its own house in order, the US blames and demonizes China. Starting with Trump and continuing with Biden, dialogue has been replaced with saber-rattling.

From watching the proceedings of the Two Sessions, as well as the circus that is the US Congress, I can tell you that if we don't soon return to dialogue, discussion and problem-solving of the existential issues of our day such as climate change, global public health and arms control, this just isn't going to end well.

So, the US should stop demonizing China's institutional reform as a kind of "power grip" of the CPC and see it more as a sincere attempt to improve governance and focus on making its administration more efficient including improving infrastructure. More important both the Republicans and Democrats should know that divided power hinders socioeconomic development.