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Shenzhen resumes government reform
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After six years in standstill, an abortive reform concerning government administration in Shenzhen has been revived and is expected to bring big changes.

The "General Proposal of Shenzhen Comprehensive Reforms" will be carried out now that it has been approved by the State Council earlier this month. The government administration system reform is given the top priority.

The topic of such administrative reform has been discussed ever since 2003. It aims to restructure the government departments.

According to Le Zheng, the chief of Shenzhen Academy of Social Sciences, the existing government structure will be divided into three main parts: the policymaking department, executive department and supervision department. Professor Ma Jingren with the School of Management at Shenzhen University who is also one of the designers of Shenzhen's reforms, confirmed Le's statement.

Interaction among the three branches will help the government run more efficiently and will also play a positive role in checking each branch to keep the government clean.

After Tianjin Binhai new area and Shanghai Pudong area, Shenzhen is the third area to carry out comprehensive systematic reforms. Different from Tianjin and Shanghai, Shenzhen will set a precedent by forming a new government structure.

Learn lessons from failed cases

Every failed reform leaves room to learn how to improve it, and this is no exception. One of the reasons the reform was previously halted is because many affairs rose against the initial plan. Similar to the present plan, the Shenzhen government wanted to divide its departments into three parts; however, the three parts could only operate in their own domains.

In order to make it easier for the government to rule and make decisions, the plan had placed the policymaking department in a relatively higher position than the other two departments. However, this caused government bureaus to prefer being placed under the rule of that department. If the plan continued, at least one fifth of the departments at the bureau level would have faced merging. Resistance from personnel arrangement blocked the plan's practice. Although the plan was not only successful for both Hong Kong and Singapore, and met the requirements of the central authorities, the plan did not work for Shenzhen.

"At first the plan wanted to set up three policymaking departments, but the plan finally increased that number to 21," said Ma Jingren. "The plan couldn't keep going ahead with the initial scheme."

Difficulties lie in policy level division

Now, the time is ripe for the revolution. During the six years of standstill, the central government's structure has changed a lot, benefitting the government reform at the local level.

Compared to other cities, Shenzhen is no doubt the most mature enough city to separate policymaking, executive and supervision rights. There are two key reasons for this: firstly, as a special economic zone, Shenzhen needs a more advanced government system to match its market economic system; secondly, the Shenzhen government and Shenzhen's citizens have all had time to prepare for the reform over the past six years.

In order to operate the "Proposal" better, the Shenzhen government will develop a three-year work plan. More supporting details will be revealed in the plan.

According to a The Beijing News report, Ni Xing, director of the School of Government Affairs at Zhongshan University, recalled that the administrative reform was originally arranged as this: appoint one mayor and one vice mayor, other existing vice mayors shall take the responsibility to set up policymaking committees; assign executive bureaus to match each policymaking committee; combine the current supervision bureaus with the accounting offices to form supervision committees.

But Ma Jingren and Le Zheng said at present this is only a draft and the final plan is still in discussion.

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