Reforming Towards Scientific Structure for Exercising Power

The first session of the 13th National People’s Congress opens at the Great Hall of the People on Monday. by Xu Xun

China’s reform of the national supervision system, which is closely related to its anti-corruption campaign, is emphasized by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as a “major structural political reform that has a direct impact on the big picture.” 

China’s anti-graft drive since the 18th CPC National Congress has resulted in remarkable outcomes. The goal that those in power do not dare to commit corruption has been basically achieved. According to the Report on the Work of the 18th Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, 440 officials at or above provincial or corps level had been investigated for corruption since the 18th CPC National Congress. Among them, 43 were members or alternate members of the 18th CPC Central Committee, and nine members of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) were investigated. More than 8,900 city-level officials and over 63,000 county-level officials were punished during that period. A total of 58,000 people have been handed over to judicial authorities for suspected corruption. A review of the anti-graft campaign during the past five years shows that the number of corrupt officials has decreased significantly thanks to such tough measures and discipline. And the goal of ensuring officials dare not attempt corruption has been achieved basically. However, we should take a sober look at the goal, which has just been achieved at a basic level, not comprehensively. Party members should resolutely safeguard the authority of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core. As the “time to develop a permanent cure and support from the people are gained from an accumulation of temporary solutions,” only by shifting from temporary solutions to a permanent cure can the goal of those with power daring not ever commit corruption be fully achieved. 

On October 27, 2016, the communique of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee referred to “the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi at the core.” At 7:55 p.m. on November 7, 2016, the CCDI, China’s supreme anti-corruption watchdog, published on its website the news that the General Office of the CPC Central Committee released a plan for a pilot reform program in Beijing, Shanxi Province and Zhejiang Province. According to the plan, supervision commissions will be set up in these three places to explore new mechanisms and systems. The document stressed that the reform of the national supervision system is a “major structural political reform that will have a direct impact on the big picture” and is the top-level design. On December 25, 2016, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislative body, approved a decision to carry out the pilot program of reforming the national supervision system in these three places. The decision stated that “the reform of the supervision system and the establishment of supervisory commissions for a centralized, unified, authoritative, and highly-efficient national supervision system are a major structural political reform that has a direct impact on the big picture.” Less than two months after Xi Jinping was formally identified as the core of the CPC Central Committee, the plan for the pilot program was released, and finally approved by the NPC.

What is the goal for the reform of the national supervision system? Experience across four decades of China’s reform and opening up has shown that the emphasis of economic reform falls on restructuring, while political reform also focuses on structural adjustment. Many people don’t understand why the pilot program was identified by the CPC Central Committee as a “major structural political reform that has a direct impact on the big picture.” Some have opined that it is merely another stronger anti-graft measure while others say that the Party discipline watchdog is expanding its power. They didn’t identify the relationship between the pilot reform program and what Xi Jinping called “forming scientific structure to exercise power.” We can see from the highlights of the past five years that the key to the “four-pronged comprehensive strategy” is to comprehensively strengthen Party discipline, which will be paved by a strong anti-graft campaign. The major anti-corruption movement during the past five years has gained crushing momentum.

But how can this momentum be optimally tapped? The CPC Central Committee has made two major decisions: First, “the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core” was officially declared at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee; Second, the pilot program that “has a direct impact on the big picture” was released later. Logic dictates that supervision commissions are actually anti-corruption organs. And the reform of the supervision system is to replace supervision bodies affiliated with local governments with supervision organs elected by the people’s congresses at various levels. The newly elected supervision organs, with status equal to administrative bodies at the same level, supervise their administration. Meanwhile, they will also “supervise those exercising public power.” This reform separates supervision bodies from the administration. And the goal of deepening the reform of the national supervision system is meant to improve the self-supervision of the Party and the country. To achieve this end, modernization of the country’s governing system and capabilities (one of China’s five goals on modernization) should be given close attention. Modernization of the governing system should be accomplished by forming scientific structure to exercise power, while modernization of the latter requires a reform of the system to select officials.

Accordingly, the reform of the national supervision system is conducive to anti-graft. It is also conducive to forming scientific structure to exercise power and reconstructing political ecology and helps comprehensively strengthen Party discipline in the new era, so that the reform of the leadership of the CPC and the country can be achieved and the great social revolution can develop through self-revolution of the Party. 

The author is an expert on institutional anti-corruption and former deputy head of the Chinese Academy of Discipline Inspection and Supervision.

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