Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The "emperor" isn't far away


One version of the old Chinese proverb is "Heaven is high and the emperor is far away." President Xi seems to fear that he is too far away.

China cracks down on bureaucracy ‘paralysed by fear’.
Officials can lose their jobs or be expelled from the party for failing to apply policies under new rules, as Beijing takes aim at bureaucratic inertia.

After a relentless anti-corruption crusade spooked many officials into inaction, China’s ruling Communist Party is doubling down on efforts to rid the country’s vast bureaucracy of its inertia.

Updated party rules released this week state that failing to implement policies from the top is now officially a breach of discipline that can see cadres lose their jobs or even be expelled from the party.

Those who refuse to implement policy directives from the party’s Central Committee, who run their own agenda, or “are not resolute enough, cut corners or make accommodations” in applying them, will be subject to punishment under the new rules, which took effect on August 18.

It comes after the cabinet earlier this month announced a series of “targeted inspections” in a bid to ensure central government policies are being properly implemented at the local level – especially on priority issues such as reducing poverty, tackling pollution, promoting innovation and revitalising the rural economy…

[D]espite the long-touted efficiency of the authoritarian regime, central government policies have often met resistance at the local level when they go against the interests of authorities.

That situation has been exacerbated in recent years by President Xi Jinping’s sweeping crackdown on corruption, which has snared more than 1.5 million cadres – including some from the highest ranks of the party and the military.

Apprehensive about drawing unnecessary attention or suspicion to themselves, many local officials have instead kept their heads down, sitting on projects and business deals…

Premier Li Keqiang, for one, has repeatedly scolded procrastinating officials for being slack and lazy in implementing Beijing’s policy directives. In 2015, 249 officials were punished for laziness, evidenced by their failure to spend government funds, delays to projects and idle land earmarked for development, Xinhua reported at the time…

Having become the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, Xi is under increasing pressure to deliver on a series of reforms he has promised, ranging from more sustainable, innovation-driven economic growth and a cleaner environment to better public services such as health care and social welfare – all of which could not be achieved without commitment from local officials…

Under the revised party discipline rules, officials who fail to take action on development policies to do with innovation, coordination, the environment, openness and sharing will be given a heavier punishment.

The regulations also target bureaucratic conduct, such as paying lip service to a policy, or holding meetings and issuing documents that do not translate into action.

Apart from cracking down on inaction, the new rules also prohibit party members from speaking out against central party policies or decisions, and they must not spread “political rumours or damage the party’s unity”. “Two-faced” officials who comply in public but secretly oppose the party’s central leadership will also be punished…

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