IX. Government Democracy
The Chinese government is the government of the people. The fundamental purpose of the entire work of the Chinese government is to serve the people, be responsible to the people, and support and guarantee the people's right as the masters of the state. Since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policies, especially in recent years, governments at all levels have, in line with the requirements of democratic rule and centering on the goal of "forming an administrative management system that is standard in conduct, coordinated in cooperation, and being fair, transparent, honest and efficient," energetically augmented the building of their capability of administration. In February 2005, the Working Rules of the State Council were revamped and announced, fully reflecting the spirit of democracy that encourages scientific and democratic decision-making, administration in accordance with the law and the strengthening of administrative supervision.
(1) Promoting Administration in Accordance with the Law
In November 1999, the State Council promulgated the Decision on Pushing Forward Administration by Law in an All-Round Way, and identified the tasks and requirements with regard to rule by law. In March 2004, it issued the Implementation Outline for Pushing Forward Administration by Law in an All-Round Way, and announced the goal of basically realizing a law-abiding government in 10 years. On July 1, 2004, the Law of the People's Republic of China on Administrative Licensing went into effect. Under the principle of "rational and legal, efficient and convenient for the people, and supervision and responsibility," the law sets a series of principles and systems for administrative licensing, and, while requiring the government to administer according to law, highlights the major contents of democracy in the government's exercise of power.
- Strengthening the legislation work of the government. Since 1978, the State Council has submitted to the Standing Committee of the NPC several hundred bills for deliberation according to law, formulated more than 650 administrative regulations that are still in effect today. In recent years, the Chinese government has persisted in putting the people first and governing for the people, set great store by legislation directly related to the immediate interests of the people, and promoted the coordinated development of economic and social undertakings in an all-round way. The State Council has submitted to the NPC Standing Committee a number of bills for deliberation, including the Production Safety Law (draft), the Law on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases (revised draft) and the Law on Civil Servants (draft), promulgated or amended such administrative regulations as the Regulations on Unemployment Insurance, the Regulations on Guarantee of Minimum Subsistence Allowances for Urban Residents, the Regulations on Labor Security Supervision, the Regulations on Religious Affairs, the Regulations on Industrial Injury Insurance, the Methods on the Aid to and Management of Indigent Vagrants and Beggars in Cities, the Regulations on Marriage Registration, the Regulations on Legal Aid, and the Regulations on the Implementation of the Law on Road Traffic Safety. The care shown for disadvantaged people are fully reflected in such legislation, showing the government's humanistic concern in administration. In 2005, once again the State Council amended and promulgated the Regulations on Letters of Petition and Personal Petition, which protects in accordance with the law the rights of citizens to criticism, suggestion, appeal, accusation and impeachment, emphasizes the responsibilities of the government departments in charge, and gives prominence to the spirit of "unification of power and responsibility, open operation to facilitate petitioning and guarantee of the rights of citizens."
- Improving administrative enforcement of the law. The Chinese government stresses exercising powers and functions strictly in line with the legal limits of authority and legal procedures, introduces in an all-round way the responsibility system in administrative enforcement of law, strictly investigates and affixes the responsibility for mistakes in law enforcement, constantly strengthens the law enforcers' sense of administration in accordance with the law, and reduces and eventually eliminates acts of enforcing law at liberty. In the course of enforcing the law, attention has been placed on protecting the legitimate rights and interests of the parties concerned and the parties of interest, and on resolutely rectifying misconduct that encroaches on the interests of the people, abuse of power for personal gain and other breaches of the law, so as to ensure that the laws are enforced in a strict, just and civilized manner. Over the past few years, the government has made sincere efforts to rectify illegal administrative acts of infringements on people's rights in the work of demolition and relocation in cities and land expropriation and requisition in rural areas.
- Improving the systems of administrative supervision. While accepting the supervision of the NPC, CPPCC, judicial organs, public opinion and the masses, the Chinese government has established and improved a set of systems of administrative supervision. The first is the system geared to tracking down the responsibility for erroneous administrative decisions. Based on the principle of "he who makes the decision will be held responsible," where massive losses are caused because of stepping beyond the bounds of one's power or because of violation of procedures, the decision-makers shall be held strictly accountable. The second is the introduction of the system of affixing administrative responsibilities, under which government officials are held responsible if their administrative conduct violates the law. The third is the implementation of the administrative review system and the filing and examination system of regulations and regulatory documents so as to promptly and effectively ensure that subordinate departments and governments act in accordance with the law. The fourth is strengthening supervision by auditing and monitoring organs. The National Audit Office is empowered to conduct careful auditing of the implementation of the central financial budget and other financial revenues and expenditures before making relevant reports to the NPC Standing Committee and the State Council, and made penalty decisions for the violation of financial laws and regulations. China decided in 2005 to enlarge the auditing of economic responsibilities to all leading cadres at department (bureau) level while continuing a similar practice among provincial-level (ministerial-level) officials.
(2) Accelerating the Transformation of Government Functions
In line with the requirements of democratic administration, the Chinese government has accelerated its structural reform and the transformation of government functions, pressed ahead with innovations in management structures and systems, with special focus on efficiency of administration, and striven to build a clean, efficient and pragmatic government.
- Defining the administrative functions of the government in accordance with the law. Guided by the principle that things that can be handled by citizens, legal persons or other organizations independently, or be regulated by the market competition mechanism, or be solved by industrial organizations or intermediaries through self-disciplinary mechanism, shall not be solved through administrative ways by administrative organs, the relations between government and enterprise, government and the market, and government and society have been rationalized gradually, and things that the government need not bother about shall be shifted to enterprises, the market or society correspondingly.
- Deepening the reform of the system of administrative examination and approval. To solve the problem of excessive administrative examination and approval and uproot corruption, the Chinese government has pressed forward with reform of administrative examination and approval, comprehensively sorted out projects subject to administrative examination and approval, and scrapped or adjusted the examination and approval of such projects. From 2002 to 2004, the State Council eliminated or moderated 1,806 such projects in three batches. By the end of 2004, the number of projects that needed review and approval by State Council departments had been cut by 50.1 percent. In the meantime, local governments have also endeavored to streamline similar projects and standardize their conducts of examination and approval. The Chinese government will continue to deepen the reform of the system of administrative examination and approval, improve the examination and approval methods, and reinforce follow-up supervision and control, so as to build a scientific and rational mechanism of administrative management and supervision.
- Strengthening social management and public services. The Chinese government has made great efforts to improve its social management system and pattern, and maintain social order and stability to promote social justice. The State Council has promulgated 106 plans for emergency, including the Regulations on Response to Public Health Emergencies and the Regulations on Preventing and Dealing with Geological Disasters, worked out the State General Plan for Handling Public Health Emergencies, and is constantly improving its capacity to deal with all emergencies of various kinds. To make itself a better supplier of public services, the Chinese government is paying more attention to responding to the common demands of society, and gradually improving and completing its public policy and service system. In addition, it is shoring up financial support for education, science and technology, culture, public health and other social undertakings, and pushing forward the commercialization process of some public products and services in an active and steady way.
(3) Making Decisions in a Scientific and Democratic Manner
The Chinese government has kept reforming and improving its decision-making mechanism, made efforts in introducing a scientific and democratic practice in decision-making, and encouraged and expanded all forms of effective participation of the masses in government decision-making.
- Establishing a system of open administration. The Chinese government requires its subordinate departments at all levels to make public their administrative affairs as far as possible, so as to enhance the transparency of government work and guarantee the people's right to know, participate in and supervise the work of the government. In particular, it requires schools, hospitals, as well as water, power, gas, public transportation and other public departments and units that are closely related to the people's interests to adopt the system of open administration in an all-round way. In recent years, the work of the government has become more transparent with the establishment of government websites and promotion of e-government, as well as the introduction and improvement of the system of press spokesmen and the mechanism of media reporting on emergencies. Now, the Chinese government is enacting regulations to enhance the transparency of government administration with the aim to provide institutional guarantees to standardizing open administration.
- Increasing the public's participation in government legislation. By way of media publicity of drafts of laws and regulations, consultation and discussion with experts, seminars and hearings, the Chinese government has stepped up the practice of open government legislation to ensure the effective participation of the public in the work. On the basis of summing up past experience, the Implementation Outline for Pushing Forward Administration by Law in an All-Round Way has codified and improved relevant systems and mechanisms, so as to ensure that the wisdom of the masses and the will of the people are embodied in government legislation.
- Establishing a system of expert consultation, discussion and appraisal. When making important decisions, governments at all levels earnestly listen to and accept the opinions of experts. In recent years, the state has organized experts to complete several important strategic study reports on development, including the state medium- and long-term development plans for science and technology, the development plan for agricultural science and technology, the national strategy on sustainable development of water resources, and the plan for building a public health system, thus providing intellectual support for government decision-making. When formulating or revising administrative regulations, the State Council extensively solicits the opinions of experts, accepts their suggestions, and make great efforts to ensure that the regulations are in accord with reality and are practical.
- Building a system of public hearing and publicity. Public hearing and publicity are increasingly becoming a common practice adopted by governments at all levels when making decisions. The Law on Legislation, the Law on Price, the Law of Administrative Licensing, the Law on Administration of Toll Highways, and other rules and regulations include expressly specified provisions on public hearings. Some local governments have also worked out their own rules on hearings concerning administrative decision-making. In January 2002, the government departments concerned conducted a hearing on the "plan for government-guided pricing of some passenger train tickets," the first national hearing on an administrative decision in Chinese history, which attracted wide attention from the society. In recent years, several thousand hearings of various kinds have been held across the country, and the public's enthusiasm for participating in government decision-making is higher than ever before.