The career prospects of provincial-level officials have been linked to their performance in achieving the central government's energy-saving targets.
Thirty deputy governors, mayors and heads of autonomous regions and 15 general managers of energy-guzzling State-owned enterprises yesterday signed an "accountability" pact with the State Council.
It calls for overall energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) to be cut by 20 percent during the country's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10).
It was not revealed what penalties, if any, would be meted out to those who fail to meet the targets.
"It's really demanding, but we must take all measures possible to fulfill the goals," Guo Gengmao, executive deputy governor of Hebei Province, said at the ceremony.
Ma Kai, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) the country's top economic planner, said an appraisal system was being prepared for officials involved.
"The results of their endeavors will certainly be a factor in their promotions," said Ma. "The officials should not only take charge of developing the economy, but also improving energy efficiency."
Guo and several provincial chiefs said the efforts have to percolate to all levels, and they would "sign similar agreements" with county-level officials.
The country's top authorities have set two goals for the next five years: The first is to double per capita GDP in 2000 by 2010, and the other is to reduce energy costs per unit of GDP by 20 percent.
Ma Kai, head of NDRC, warned that China's economy, which grew at a sizzling 11.2 percent in second quarter, rides excessively on investment and consumption of raw materials and energy. The inefficient growth pattern, in conflict with the environment and energy supply, "can no longer continue," he said.
Research by the State Council Development Research Centre, a think-tank, has shown that the energy-saving target is not easy to meet.
"Most local and grass-root governments are not fully aware of the situation," a researcher at the centre said on the condition of not being named. "That's why the central government has adopted this kind of accountability system."
An accountability system for officials was set up during the SARS outbreak in 2003; and since then, many grass-root Party and government officials or even those at the provincial level have been punished for their dereliction of duty in dealing with natural or man-made disasters. Last year, four vice-governors were disciplined for fatal coal mine accidents.
(China Daily July 27, 2006)