Editor’s note: In this column we introduce phrases frequently used in the Chinese media and by the Chinese government, thereby providing a succinct overview of China’s political thinking, its policies, and ongoing reforms and transitions.  






Transforming Government Functions


Transforming government functions is at the core of a more in-depth administrative structural reform drive. Essentially it involves determining what the government should and should not do, by clarifying the roles of the government, the market and society, i.e., clearly defining what should be dealt with by each of them individually or jointly.


Generally speaking, since the reform and opening-up policy was introduced in the late 1970s, great progress has been made in transforming the functions of the governments at all levels, and valuable experience gained, providing strong impetus to the country’s modernization process.


However, much remains to be done in this respect. Government intervention in the micro-economy is still considered excessive and too intrusive. It is also imperative to improve macro-economic regulation, and address inadequacies in market regulation, and social and public services. With greater resolve, we must intensify our push for transforming government functions. Only by doing so, can we better meet the pressing challenges to drive the process of reform and opening-up to a deeper level, speed up the transformation of the growth model, encourage ethical conduct, and maintain social harmony and stability.





Confining the Exercise of Power within an Institutional Cage


The move to confine the exercise of power within an institutional cage is meant to strengthen oversight of the work of the government and deter possible misuse of power by government officials. It entails establishing a mechanism that prevents, deters, and punishes corruption. Such a mechanism should provide institutional firepower to fight corruption and promote integrity, by addressing both the symptoms and root causes of corruption with combined measures of punishment and prevention. To this end, China has established an effective framework of accountability with institutional checks on corruption. It is designed to ensure that no official enjoys absolute power above the law and that all officials exercise power to serve the people, are accountable to them and accept their oversight.






Greater Transparency in the Exercise of Power


Greater transparency in the exercise of power requires an improved system of checks and balances, and greater participation of the people in monitoring the way in which authority is used, so as to ensure that government departments and agencies exercise power within their respective mandates and in accordance with procedural requirements. In addition to more constraints on power, it entails rational separation and distribution of powers. It is important to put in place a sound system and implementation mechanisms through which different functions are performed by different government departments, agencies or individuals. Oversight should be stepped up, and the performance of government functions, particularly by those who hold top positions at all levels, should be placed under more rigorous scrutiny. Internal oversight should also be strengthened, and so should administrative supervision, auditing, and onsite inspections.


The presence of commissions for discipline inspection should be extended to all Party and state bodies, and onsite inspections should cover all government departments, state enterprises, and public institutions nationwide. To increase transparency, a complete list of powers should be established for governments at all levels and their functional departments, and procedures for exercising power made public in accordance with the law. Oversight by the people is essential to ensuring greater accountability and appropriate exercise of public authority. Any move to strengthen checks and balances and oversight must be accompanied by measures to ensure the independence and authority of commissions for discipline inspection in performing their duties.


Selected from Keywords to Understanding China published by China Academy of Translation and China International Publishing Group.