April 6, 2008
The Congress, held in Beijing from 5 to 18 March, appointed the State Council (cabinet) and ministries, reorganised the government structure, and focussed on the key policy issues. The 10 March post reported on the first week and reported on Premier Wen Jiabao’s ‘state of the union message’. This post explains the context, the new appointments and the reorganisation. A further post will comment on policy and implications.
Premier Wen Jiabao chairs the State Council, which now consists of an executive (first) vice-premier, three vice-premiers and five state counsellors, who normally serve five years, as follows:
Only Wen Jiabao and Hui Liangyu, of the original 10 members, remain. A balance has been achieved between Hu Jintao’s Tuanpai faction (most linked to the Communist Youth League), the
Shanghai faction and princelings (children of high ranking officials).One can see the rise of the politicians at the expense of the technocrats, which is likely to lead to a change in policy focus and management style. This political support of the Tuanpai faction should help Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao in their harmonious society/sustainable development agenda, rather than the pursuit solely of economic growth. Hopefully, the presence of several former provincial leaders will increase the influence of Bejing over the implementation of its policies.
Zhou Xiaochuan remains head of the Central Bank and Ma Kai,former head of NDRC (National Development & Research Council) will have a senior coordinating role.
Wen Jiabao, a popular and humane administrator, will continue to lead on all major economic issues. Highly regarded, some consider him too soft to be fully effective. He will now have the support of the high powered, intelligent and capable Li Keqiang, as well as Ma Kai, who has worked closely with him The State Council does not appear to be well endowed in foreign economic issues, following the retirement of ‘iron lady’ Wu Yi and Zeng Paiyan.
The financial policy team will continue to be led by Zhou Xiaochuan, assisted by three long term colleagues.
Thus the emphasis is likely to be on continuity, deepening reform and Hu’s vision of a ‘harmonious society’.
The restructuring of government agencies is not as drastic as was intended, thanks to political compromise. There are still 27 ministries (but there were 100 in 1982!) The planned ‘super ministries’ appear to be little more than larger ministries, the main ones being:
Ministry of Industry & InformationNational Energy CommissionMinistry of Environmental ProtectionMinistry of TransportationMinistry of Human Resources & Social SecurityMinistry of Housing & Urban-Rural Construction
The Environment Ministry is a considerable upgrading of the old State Environmental Protection Administration. The Ministry of Health takes over responsibility for the State Food & Drug Administration.Agreement could not be reached on consolidating oversight of Chinese financial regulators in a single body, nor on the creation of super Ministry of Energy The NDRC has been weakened, as anticipated.
(The main source for this post is APCO Worldwide’s report on “Implementing a Harmonious Society” of 21 March)Author : Stanley Crossick