Fostering Modern Governance

By staff reporter HOU RUILI

THE Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, held from November 9 to 12, 2013, outlined China’s reforms and development for the coming five to 10 years.

The ruling party stated that it would advance modernization of the country’s governing system and capabilities. Many interpretations of this are that China will be more systematic, holistic and coordinated in its reforms. According to Liu Yuanchun, vice dean of the School of Economics of Renmin University of China, modernization of the governing system and capabilities means that the government must transform from administration and investment centric to service oriented and greater transparency, exercising its power openly and within the institutional framework.

Better Governance Capabilities

Mo Jihong, research fellow at the Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, holds that comprehensive and efficient coordination of social relations is the essence of state governance, and that rule of law is the hallmark of a modern governance system. In line with modern governing capabilities, this includes the ability to cope with emergencies like natural disasters, to defend national sovereignty, security and interests in the international arena, as well as to build a harmonious society wherein the people live a peaceful and affluent life. An institutionalized and standardized legal system is an important guarantee and key indicator of a modern governance system and capabilities.

Wang Yukai, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, is of the opinion that the ability of the central government to run the country at a lower cost is a yardstick for a modern governance system. For this reason, government departments need to confine the size of their staff to a moderate level, improve policy-making and enforcement capacities to meet the demands of social and economic development, and maximize their informationization in the interests of safeguarding information security.

Modernizing China’s governing system and capabilities is also vital to an appropriate relationship between the government and the market. For decades, China’s market economy has been defined as one in which the government enacts stewardship and the public sector constitutes the majority amid the coexistence of diverse ownerships. Things have changed in the 35 years since inception of the country’s opening-up and reform policy. The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee concluded that the market would play a decisive role in the allocation of resources, so heralding an era of “bigger market and smaller government.” The government will shed some of its powers and functions to become “small,” but will nevertheless grow more potent and capable. This greater power will be apparent in better performance in serving the public and comprehensive governance instead of overriding the market. In fact, positive changes are underway in this regard. Over the past year, the central government has either abolished or decentralized 300 or more items requiring administrative approval. And Premier Li Keqiang stated on several occasions that China will press on with reforms in a manner that shows the pluck of certain ancient warriors who would chop off a mortally wounded limb rather than allowing it to worsen and jeopardize their lives.

Public Expectations on Strengthening

Judicial Construction

Commentators generally believe that carrying forward modernization of the state governing system and capacities is a complicated and comprehensive process at both political and economic levels. It involves deepening reforms in such key sectors as the fiscal and taxation system, and integration of urban and rural development. It also emphasizes systematic control and supervision of power, and a creative social administration system. Wang Liming, vice president of Renmin University of China and distinguished jurist, holds that deepening judicial reform is an important link in the process.

The plenary session proposed that constructing a law-based China entails deepening judicial reform, accelerating construction of a fair, efficient and authoritative socialist judiciary, and safeguarding people’s rights and interests. We must maintain the authority of the Constitution and laws, deepen reform on administration of law enforcement, defend procuratorial and judicial authority that can be exercised independently, fairly and aligned with the law, and improve operation of judicial power and the judicial protection of human rights. Strengthening judicial construction is the public’s new expectation.

In fact, China called for further reform of its judiciary last year, to ensure that judicial and procuratorial organs exercise their power independently, fairly and according to the law. Last October, the Supreme People’s Court published the Suggestions on Strengthening a Fair Judiciary and Continuously Increasing Judicial Credibility. One chapter of the document is devoted to exercising independent judicial power according to the law. It explicitly demands the guarantee of parties’ free expression, of respect for their rights of choice in civil procedures, and of timely response to parties’ applications and questions.

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