Parliament approves abolition of corruption-plagued rail ministry
Chinese state councilor Liu Yandong with a delegate representing ethnic minorities at the National People’s Congress in Beijing yesterday. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Chinese state councilor Liu Yandong, vice-chairman of CPC Xu Qiliang and Members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee Sun Zhengcai talk during the Third Plenary Session of the 12th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on March 10, 2013 in Beijing, China. The State Council, China's cabinet, will begin its seventh restructuring attempt in the past three decades to roll back red tape and reduce administrative intervention. Several departments under the State Council will be reorganised according to a plan on the institutional restructuring and functional transformation of the State Council, which was submitted to the plenary session of the National People's Congress. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Soldiers marching outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where a session of the National People’s Congress is being held. Photograph: Feng Li/Getty Images
China’s parliament has announced that it plans to trim back government ministries, including shutting the powerful but corruption-plagued rail ministry and merging broadcast and print media censorship into one streamlined body.
Other affected ministries include the health ministry and the family planning commission, which will be merged, and the food watchdog, which is being elevated to ministry status, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Reduction in ministries
The plans to cut the number of ministries from 27 to 25 were formulated by the State Council, China’s cabinet, and presented to China’s annual rubberstamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, currently meeting in Beijing.
The reshuffle – the seventh in three decades – reflects the aims laid out during the congress by China’s new leadership of trimming red tape and doing more to improve quality of life for China’s increasingly prosperous society.
“The State Council has established a framework that meets the needs of the socialist market economy but still has notable shortcomings,” State Councillor Ma Kai said during the session.
“Some departments have more power than necessary, while in some aspects of governance they are not in a position to act.”
Mr Ma added that overlapping government functions led to bureaucrats shifting their responsibilities elsewhere.
The railways ministry operates China’s rail network but is also the regulator of the industry. It has become a hotbed of corruption, especially with the construction of China’s network of high-speed rail throwing up so many opportunities.
In February 2011, then rail minister Liu Zhijun was investigated for graft and subsequently expelled from the Communist Party. He is currently awaiting trial.
Rail operations such as building railway and managing freight and passenger services will be carried out by a newly created China Railway Corp, while regulatory issues such as managing safety standards will come under the ministry of transport.
The family planning commission, which enforces the one-child policy of population control, is also a powerful bureaucracy. It is being merged with the health ministry, which could be a sign that the government is preparing to step up its re-evaluation of the unpopular policy.
Various bureaucracies dealing with fisheries and maritime law will be merged into one administration, which could help China to better push its claims to disputed territories in the East and South China seas.
Two bureaucracies responsible for controlling and censoring the media, the General Administration of Press and Publication and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, will be merged.