The State Council is the highest organ of state administration. It is composed of the Premier, Vice-Premiers, State Councilor, Ministers in charge of ministries and commission, the Auditor-General, and the Secretary-General. Except the Premier who is nominated by the President, Vice-Premiers and State Councilor are nominated by the Premier. They are all appointed by the President upon the approval of the National People's Congress. The State Council reports directly to the NPC.
The State Council, that is, the Central People’s Government, of the People’s Republic of China is the executive body of the supreme organ of state power; it is the supreme organ of State administration.
The State Council is composed of the Premier; the Vice-Premiers; the State Councillors; the Ministers in charge of ministries; the Ministers in charge of commissions; the Auditor-General; and the Secretary-General.
The Premier assumes overall responsibility for the work of the State Council. The ministers assume overall responsibility for the work of the ministries and commissions. The organization of the State Council is prescribed by law.
The term of office of the State Council is the same as that of the National People’s Congress. The Premier, Vice-Premiers and State Councillors shall serve no more than two consecutive terms. The Premier directs the work of the State Council. The Vice-Premiers and State Councillors assist the Premier in his work. Executive meetings of the State Council are to be attended by the Premier, the Vice-Premiers, the State Councillors and the Secretary-General of the State Council. The Premier convenes and presides over the executive meetings and plenary meetings of the State Council.
The State Council exercises the following functions and powers:
- to adopt administrative measures, enact administrative regulations and issue decisions and orders in accordance with the Constitution and other laws;
- to submit proposals to the National People’s Congress or its Standing Committee;
- to formulate the tasks and responsibilities of the ministries and commissions of the State Council, to exercise unified leadership over the work of the ministries and commissions and to direct all other administrative work of a national character that does not fall within the jurisdiction of the ministries and commissions;
- to exercise unified leadership over the work of local organs of State administration at various levels throughout the country, and to formulate the detailed division of functions and powers between the Central Government and the organs of State administration of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government;
- to draw up and implement the plan for national economic and social development and the State budget;
- to direct and administer economic affairs and urban and rural development;
- to direct and administer the affairs of education, science, culture, public health, physical culture and family planning;
- to direct and administer civil affairs, public security, judicial administration, supervision and other related matters;
- to conduct foreign affairs and conclude treaties and agreements with foreign states;
- to direct and administer the building of national defence;
- to direct and administer affairs concerning the nationalities and to safeguard the equal rights of minority nationalities and the right to autonomy of the national autonomous areas;
- to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals residing abroad and protect the lawful rights and interests of returned overseas Chinese and of the family members of Chinese nationals residing abroad;
- to alter or annul inappropriate orders, directives and regulations issued by the ministries or commissions;
- to alter or annul inappropriate decisions and orders issued by local organs of State administration at various levels;
- to approve the geographic division of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government, and to approve the establishment and geographic division of autonomous prefectures, counties, autonomous counties, and cities;
- in accordance with the provisions of law, to decide on entering into the state of emergency in parts of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government;
- to examine and decide on the size of administrative organs and, in accordance with the provisions of law, to appoint or remove administrative officials, train them, appraise their performance and reward or punish them; and
- to exercise such other functions and powers as the National People’s Congress or its Standing Committee may assign to it.
Ministers in charge of the ministries or commissions of the State Council are responsible for the work of their respective departments and they convene and preside over ministerial meetings or general and executive meetings of the commissions to discuss and decide on major issues in the work of their respective departments. The ministries and commissions issue orders, directives and regulations within the jurisdiction of their respective departments and in accordance with law and the administrative regulations, decisions and orders issued by the State Council.
The State Council establishes an auditing body to supervise through auditing the revenue and expenditure of all departments under the State Council and of the local governments at various levels, and the revenue and expenditure of all financial and monetary organizations, enterprises and institutions of the State. Under the direction of the Premier of the State Council and in accordance with the provisions of law, the auditing body independently exercises its power of supervision through auditing, subject to no interference by any other administrative organ or any public organization or individual.
The State Council is responsible and reports on its work to the National People’s Congress or, when the National People’s Congress is not in session, to its Standing Committee.
The central task of the 1998 restructuring of the State Council was to separate the functions of the government from those of enterprises. In the future, the State Council no longer exercised direct management over enterprises. These major reforms in the functioning of the State Council were announced by Luo Gan, state councilor and secretary general of the State Council in a speech on the Plan for Institutional Restructuring of the State Council delivered at the First Session of the Ninth National People's Congress on 6 March 1998. Owing to the special nature of the defense industrial system [consisting of the Ministries responsible for ordnance, shipping, aeronautics, astronautics, and nuclear industry], these agencies will function under the Defense Industrial Committee (General Office) under the State Council. Within the professional of staff of these five major military industrial Ministries, five industrial bureaus wwere set up.
- State Aeronautics Bureau
- State Astronautics Bureau
- State Atomic Energy Bureau
- State Ordnance Bureau
- State Shipping Bureau
Where their responsibilities are concerned, various bureaus would break away from their original companies and their staff would be treated as public servants. The bureaus would each have a standard staff of 100.
The proliferation of ministries and bureaus at local and national levels could at times be at odds with each other. Some of these tensions were seen as positive, for example ecological protection versus commerce and energy, which in some cases provided official pushback against national plans that might have undermined environmental protection. But they also ran the risk of increasing confusion, red tape and inaction in both government and society.
Reforms launched at the 19th CPC National Congress in October 2017 and follow-up meetings, including the Third Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee and the First Session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, have endorsed a major reshuffle of cabinet-level portfolios. While the Party made it clear that it will continue to empower local governance, it would also better supervise it institutionally.
The institutional restructuring plan of the State Council, China's cabinet, was adopted on 17 March 2018 at the Fifth Plenary Meeting of the First Session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), the national legislature of China. It is the country's "biggest government reshuffle in years" as Xinhua News Agency commented and is seen as a dramatic continuation of the previous seven rounds of cabinet restructuring that began in 1982.
"The reform is unprecedentedly large, deep and expansive," said Guo An, an NPC deputy and Mayor of Nanchang, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province. "It will optimize the government's functions by promoting coordinated actions and improving levels of management and public service to better satisfy people's expectations and national developmental needs in a new era."
In total, the number of ministerial-level entities was reduced by eight and that of vice-ministerial-level entities by seven after the reshuffle. According to the restructuring plan, functions that have long overlapped are integrated. For example, the four ministries of land and resources, water resources, environmental protection and agriculture were involved in water pollution treatment and prevention before the shake-up. When water pollution was exposed by the media or local residents, these departments often passed the buck among themselves instead of dealing with the problem immediately. The new Ministry of Ecological Environment will be responsible for compiling and implementing ecological and environment policies, plans and standards, as well as ecological and environment monitoring and law enforcement, aiming to put all problems concerning pollution under one roof.
"The reform comes at a crucial time," Chen Xi, head of the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said in an article in the People's Daily. "It will support the efforts over the next three years toward building a moderately prosperous society and lay a foundation for building a great modern socialist country by the middle of the century."
Even though some central government departments kept their original names, their functions changed considerably. For example, many powers of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) have been transferred to newly-formed or restructured ministries and administrations. The new Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has taken over part of the functions that belonged to the NDRC as well as ministries of commerce, land and resources, and water resources before the reshuffle.
Looking at China's long history and comparing it with others, no other country has proven a greater civilizational capacity to over-bureaucratize, frequently to the point of self-paralysis with respect to the inability to advance meaningful reforms and progress.
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