Premier Li Keqiang looks at 109 rubber stamps that were later replaced by one rubber stamp after administrative procedures were simplified, at an administrative approval service center of the Tianjin Binhai New Area, in north China’s city of Tianjin, September 11, 2014.
The State Council held 100 executive meetings up to the end of July with streamlining administration and delegating powers to lower-level governments major priorities as it tried to make the relationship between government and the market more efficient.
Nearly half of the State Council executive meetings focused on these topics.
A continuing reform
Streamlining and delegating powers were not just empty slogans but key elements of continuing reform.
The Premier has been determined to break down the barriers of redundant rules and regulations which restrained the efficiency and creativity of the market.
On September 11, 2014, the Premier visited Tianjin Binhai New Area and witnessed the establishment of the administrative examination and approval bureau of Tianjin municipality, the country’s first such bureau. It brought 216 examination and approval duties from 18 different governmental organs under the administration of one bureau.
Holding one of the 109 abolished approval stamps in his hand, the Premier commented: “What a stamp. It restrained so many people in the past!’’
In the past, people had to run through different government departments to get different stamps before finally winning approval to set up a company.
During a State Council executive meeting, the Premier brought up the issue again and said that this procedure hindered efficiency and dampened entrepreneurial passion.
“Chinese people are industrious and intelligent, but they are restrained by too many rules and regulations,” he noted.
To remove the barriers, the State Council has initiated a number of measures over the past two years.
> One third of more than 1,700 items previously subject to examination and approval from organs under the State Council have been axed. The goal was achieved three years ahead of schedule.
> More than 800 administrative examination and approval items were delegated to lower-level governments.
> It implemented the cancellation of 211 professional qualification licenses.
During an inspection tour to the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) on March 20, Premier Li Keqiang ordered that three certificates for enterprise registration from the SAIC, and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to become one certificate within the year when he learned that it is the toughest task concerning the commercial system reform at the Enterprise Registration Bureau of SAIC.
A modern government
“The process of examination and approval must be faster to keep up with the new era, which defines a modern government,’’ the Premier said at the first State Council executive meeting of 2015.
The State Council has made public the list of all administrative examination and approval items and explicitly declared that each department should not set up new administrative examination and approval items without the permission of the State Council.
The Premier focused on the “power subtraction” which underlines the notion of the power of government within the legal framework.
He criticized some local governments that had taken advantage of delegated administrative examination and approval items and turned them into intermediary services for profit.
He also targeted so-called “non-administrative examinations and approvals” and said the government should never step into this “gray zone’’ again and should perform its duty with clarity.
The reform has entered a key stage as the government should keep streamlining administration and delegating power to lower-level governments and at the same time excise its power within a legal framework, he said.
According to the Premier, the efforts to streamline administration and delegate power to lower-level governments should continue to further energize the market and stimulate social creativity.
At one State Council executive meeting, the Premier mentioned the golden age in Chinese history and said history indicates that “simplification” always goes in tandem with a flourishing society and many major reforms in Chinese history were mainly about “simplification’’.
As the Premier noted, there is no end to streamlining administration and delegating power to lower-level governments. But as the easy part has been reformed, the next stage would be more difficult. It’s time to crack the tough nut.