China's State Council unveiled plans for institutional reform and the transformation of government functions Sunday. The number of ministries under the State Council will fall from 27 to 25. The administrative reform plans are aimed at concrete problems.
The Ministry of Railways and the National Population and Family Planning Commission are viewed as key areas for reforms. State Councilor Ma Kai said the institutional reform aims to delegate power to the market and society, to reduce micro interventions, and strengthen macro regulations.
Some people think the plans will push forward further reforms. But others have complained, through the Internet, that such reforms are far from enough as they are targeted at administrative institutions rather than the political system.
These two views reflect the two different attitudes toward reforms in China. The first is pragmatism, which believes that reforms are a process to solve the country's wide variety of problems. The other viewpoint might be seen as idealism.
The first viewpoint also includes the belief that reforms of the political system are included to a large extent in economic and administrative reforms. For example, as government institutions delegate powers to the market and society, it will help relieve problems brought by officials holding too much unsupervised power.
Institutional reforms do not necessarily lead to political reforms. Such a process needs each step of the reforms to be closely monitored, so as to ensure that reforms do not need to be repeated due to a lack of serious implementation and support.
This round of institutional reforms is being carried out against the backdrop of the Party striving to improve its working style. This will bring more intensity to the reforms.
Ministerial reforms are a by-product of the market economy as it develops. The reason for ministerial reforms is that the government is delegating power. The success of institutional reforms will result in the rising efficiency of government management and the prosperity of a market-oriented society. If they are not successful, this will bring new troubles, which will dial down the public's passion and support for reforms. The negative political impact will be too great to measure, especially in the Internet era.
No matter how China's institutional reforms are carried out, the Chinese government is unlikely to become a Western one that plays a smaller role in a bigger market. China's basic political system and its social realities determine that the Chinese government will always bear more responsibilities than its Western counterparts.