China's Political Reform Plan: Create 'Super-Ministries'?

  @mflorcruzm.florcruz@ibtimes.com on November 29 2012 5:02 PM
Weibo
Southern Weekend's fed-up editors publicly spoke out on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, claiming that the article allegedly written by Tuo Zhen, a provincial-level official, was "raping" the newspaper's autonomy. Reuters

The Chinese Web has circulated rumors of political reform in the shape of an even more centralized governing body.

Changes to China's bureaucratic agencies and procedures could be beneficial to a population eager for reform that would prevent corruption and exploitation.

One Weibo user posted a link to a document that details specific changes that are rumored to happen. A few highlights of the changes include:

- The creation of the Ministry of Culture, which would include the former State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and General Administration of Press and Publication. The two commissions are responsible for authorizing much of China's state-run media, as well as imposing media censorship.

- The National Population and Family Planning Commission and Ministry of Health will be combined into the Ministry of Population and Health. The merge would show the recognition of the interconnectedness of the two departments, especially with respect to China's population planning and the One Child policy. 

- Several of China's current commissions involved with nonmainland affairs and peace-keeping endeavors, such as the National Council of the Nation, the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, the State Council Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the Taiwan Affairs office, will be reorganized to create the new Peaceful Reunification Committee. 

China's always vocal netizens took to Weibo, China's microblogging platform similar to Twitter, to discuss the implications of a more streamlined government. 

Several users think the changes are so drastic that they are unbelievable.

One Shanghai user asked, "Who believes these things? Too drastic!" 

If these changes were to occur, an entire uniformed body of regulations would need to be issued for new ministries to avoid discrepancies between formerly existing commissions. This will likely upset the interests of many people because political power needs to be stripped and reallocated from old department heads.

An important part of the consolidation of several smaller ministries to create so-called "super-ministries" is the consolidation of staff as well. If each "super-ministry" continues to maintain the same people, with the same vested interests, reform would be unlikely. 

One Weibo user, who lives overseas in Australia, says combining different commissions is not enough to solve the excessive government bureaucracy. "The most important thing is to purge local bureaucracy," he said in response to the original posting. 

Another user, a woman from Jiangsu province, agrees that this kind of aggregation of government organs would be a positive change but will be difficult to achieve because they currently operate differently.

"Reform is a good thing; do not change it back," she said. "This will be very difficult, the various reformed departments must synchronize laws and regulations." 

Weibo users are generally open to the idea of a new government comprised of larger, centralized ministries, but in a nation where government corruption at all levels still persists, some citizens are skeptical. Fewer ministries have proven to work in other developed countries, like the U.S., but fewer agencies could mean the absence of appropriate checks and balances necessary to combat corruption.

"Super-ministry systems in Western countries aim to increase efficiency, but in China, without public elections, without checks and balances from the congress and the judiciary, I don't know how many evil things those 'huge big hands' would do," one Beijing user replied.

Though the plans detailed right now are substantial, the prospects of downsizing cabinet-level organizations to reflect that of other developed countries is still unlikely. 

Realistically, changes will occur next spring at the earliest, during China's National People's Congress, where President-elect Xi Jinping will officially take charge. 

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