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.  










Streamlining government and delegating authority


Streamlining government aims to eliminate overstaffing and consolidate duplicate or overlapping – and often mutually interfering-government functions, so as to better address such problems as the inadequate provision of social public goods and services and the low efficiency of the work of the government. Delegating authority is intended to cut down on red tape which subjects an unnecessarily extensive array of business activities to a complex and lengthy government approval process. Such a move should free the government from unwarranted reach into areas it should best stay away from to focus on what really falls within its purview, especially duties it is supposed to perform but has not performed adequately.


The current Chinese administration has given top priority to accelerating the process of transforming government functions, streamlining government and delegating authority. By the end of 2013, a total of 416 applications originally requiring State Council review had been reclassified as exempt from such review, or sent to lower levels of the government for approval. More than 200 projects were addressed in a similar manner in 2014. The key to transforming government functions is striking the right balance between delegation and the exercise of control. To delegate authority means to inject more vitality into economic activities, rather than embracing an unqualified laissez-faire approach. To exercise control means to ensure that the market functions appropriately, rather than stifling the economy with regulatory overreach.


The initiative to streamline government and delegate authority helps rationalize the relationship between the government and the market, giving the market a bigger role to play in allocating resources. This ultimately propels reform, helps restructuring and improves people’s well-being. The shift of focus from pre-implementation approval to monitoring during and after project implementation calls for a more detail-oriented and better targeted supervisory function for the government, rather than reducing its workload. Such a change represents a challenge for government departments. There is now a need for a paradigm shift and enhanced capacity-building. It is vital to develop a forward-looking vision and to be proactive in gauging market dynamics with a view to amplifying the positive effect of market drivers and minimizing the negative influence of any market failure in a timely manner.






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, adding 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 overly 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 to transform government functions. Only by so doing can we better meet pressing challenges and 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.


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