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China’s reform on administrative approval system on track for success

Updated: Aug 12,2016 8:22 AM

The Chinese government has been making great efforts to promote the reform of the administrative approval system over the past several years, and has seen many results.

As of May, China canceled or delegated to lower levels 618 administrative approval items across the country, cut 230 local items designated by the central government, removed or standardized 303 intermediary services, and abolished 11,073 documents.

In June, the State Council made another step forward by cutting redundant approval licenses for establishing lightning protection engineering, benefiting at least 200,000 projects each year.

Nevertheless, they are only part of China’s achievement list. For the last three years, China has overcome many difficulties to put in place simplifying approval procedures.

The task of cutting a third of items that need government approvals was fulfilled in 2014 ahead of schedule, among which a total of 618 items were canceled or delegated to lower levels.

Non-administrative license examinations and approvals were abolished. And 230 local items designated by the central government have been removed, surpassing the target of 200 items.

In addition, 70 percent of intermediary services and 85 percent of pre-approval items for business registration have been reduced. And most local governments have published their responsibility lists and power lists.

Simplifying administrative procedures can help cut institutional costs and minimize the possibility of power rent-seeking and corruption, experts said.

Efforts also have been made to explore new ways of regulation, based on the State Council’s 2015 document on regulation of government departments’ approval procedures.

Local governments have carried out various tests on one-stop approval or assessment, with efforts to utilize procedures and services, and eliminate parts of officials’ obstructive actions.

The central government also issued a guideline on standardizing administrative licensing at the end of July, offering regulations on management of administrative licensing.

Standardization of administrative approval procedures will help improve related services, conduct dynamic supervision, and prevent corruption in related procedures, said Wu Xiaobo, secretary-general of a working group on national standardization of administrative approvals.

However, things could be far from complete if we stopped there. Supervisory measures have to be rolled out at the same time, to guarantee the smooth running of new approval procedures after streamlining.

The State Council has urged exploring and implementing supervision measures while simplifying administrative approval procedures, especially those concerning state security, environment protection and people’s health, life and property safety.

More supervision should be conducted during and after, instead of pre-approvals, in order to resolve problems of misconduct in some fields and create a fair development environment, according to a State Council document in July 2015.

To ensure the good results of administrative reform and its implementation, the State Commission Office for Public Sectors Reform (SCOPSR) conducted a special inspection among 63 departments on their administrative approval work and sent five teams to local governments to supervise and assess their related work.