China must perfect its systems of operating State-owned businesses abroad to better evaluate their performance and hold misbehaving staffers accountable, Premier Li Keqiang said on March 21.
The goal is to “ensure the safe operation of State-owned assets and that their value is maintained or increased”, Premier Li said in Beijing at the State Council’s annual meeting on maintaining clean government.
The State Council, China’s Cabinet, holds the meeting each year to review the government’s work in fighting corruption and other misconduct over the previous year and to outline priority tasks that will boost self-discipline.
At the meeting, Premier Li noted that as State-owned enterprises and capital go global, “supervision and management must catch up in a timely manner”.
China’s centrally administered SOEs include 9,112 business entities operating in about 185 countries and regions.
The SOEs have total overseas assets of more than 5 trillion yuan ($725.6 billion) and 346,000 employees operating overseas, Xiao Yaqing, head of the State Council’s State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, said earlier this month.
While delivering the Government Work Report at the annual plenary session of National People’s Congress on March 5, Premier Li underlined the need “to prevent the loss of State assets” and to enable SOEs to become leaner and healthier and increase their core competitiveness.
At the meeting on March 21, the Premier warned that “the State-owned assets are the common wealth of all of China’s people” and must never become the easily gained, ill-gotten possessions of any single person.
Li Wei, a researcher at the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China, said that some State-owned companies have underestimated the risks of overseas investment, leading to financial loss.
Some cases involving investment overseas have underscored the importance of stepping up supervision of the operations of China’s State-owned enterprises, he said.
Also on March 21, Premier Li said the government will speed up the process this year of stipulating in lists all of the powers and responsibilities of the State Council’s departments.
These management lists will provide a general inventory to regulate the government’s powers and responsibilities, Li said.
The government’s efforts in reducing powers will be maximized, Li said.
As China has set the goal of eliminating poverty within the country by 2020, boosting the efficiency and the supervision of poverty alleviation efforts was raised at the meeting on March 21.
Li said the focus should be on directing the alleviation efforts and resources to where they will do the most good rather than to those not in actual need.
Particularly, when offering subsistence allowances, there should be no cases of providing favors, courting connections, or influence-peddling, Li said.