The institutional restructuring plan of the State Council, China's cabinet, was adopted on March 17 at the First Session of the 13th National People's Congress, the country's top legislature.
This was the eighth round of institutional reform since the launching of the reform and opening-up drive in the late 1970s. Compared with previous reforms, which focused on streamlining administration and transforming government functions, this round seeks to strengthen the government's ability to confront new challenges in economic and social management, public service and environmental protection.
Previously, ministerial- and vice-ministerial-level entities under the State Council were divided by industries, but the recent changes attempt to separate different entities by functions. For instance, the newly formed Ministry of Emergency Management combines the disaster relief and prevention roles of several different entities including the State Administration of Work Safety and the China Earthquake Administration. Such restructuring greatly improves the government's ability to deal with major disasters and accidents.
China's growing global presence is also reflected in the ongoing reform. For instance, the International Development Cooperation Agency has been established to give full play to the role of foreign aid in major-country diplomacy.
Moreover, the new institutional restructuring is more comprehensive because it involves institutions of the Communist Party of China and the government, legislative and political advisory bodies, judicial and military organs, as well as social groups and non-governmental organizations, while previous reforms mainly dealt with government institutions and administrative systems.
In recent years, the Party's leadership in certain areas has been weakened owing to the transformation of government functions. A comprehensive reform covering both Party and state institutions is necessary to promote the modernization of China's national governance system and ability.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in China Newsweek on March 26)