China’s Communist Party agrees on government reform, but no details

China’s ruling Communist Party agreed on Wednesday to deepen reform of party and government departments to improve their function and to push for high quality development, but gave no details of an unexpected shake up of ministries. A statement following the three-day closed-door meeting of the party’s Central Committee, released by the official Xinhua news agency, said the reform plan would be put to the largely rubber stamp parliament, which opens on March 5.

“Transforming government functions and optimising the settings of government bodies and deployment of their functions is an important mission for deepening party and national department reform,” Xinhua said in a long, dry piece full of Communist terminology.

While the statement did not give details on which government departments may be merged, re-organised or gotten rid of, it did say they will strengthen market supervision and management of natural resources and environmental protection. One line about defence said the party would increase the military’s fighting ability, but also did not elaborate.

President Xi Jinping, who spoke at the meeting, is overseeing an ambitious military modernisation plan that has included reorganising how it is run to make it more effective and less like the old-Soviet era it once followed.

The party also agreed that local governments would be given more power to make decisions for themselves, as long as they are in line with central government, Xinhua said.

However, the party’s supremacy will not be challenged.

The primary task of deepening reform is to ensure the party’s leadership is all-encompassing and becomes ever stronger, Xinhua said. Details are expected to be released during parliament, as they will need to be formally approved by lawmakers, who will also have to sign off on a wide-ranging re-shuffle of senior government positions, like the head of the central bank.

Xinhua said the party had submitted a name list of candidates.

Parliament will not block or vote down the party’s pre-selected candidates or its government reform plans as the body is stacked with party members chosen specifically for their loyalty. Another major focus of parliament will be to pass amendments to the state constitution which will include lifting a two-term limit on the presidency, meaning Xi can effectively stay in power forever if he wants.

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