Hubei Government Plans to Abolish Township Level Consultative Congresses, Reduce Size of Township Government

April 5, 2005

The China Youth Daily recently reported on a pilot plan for wide-ranging structural changes in the governing framework at the township level in seven Hubei counties. According to the report, the seven pilot projects were successful, and the Hubei provincial government now plans to extend the downsizing reforms throughout the province.

The provincial government has declared that the central functions of government leadership are social supervision and public service, and that all other functions can be transferred to market mechanisms or "intermediary" organizations. This language suggests that provincial government authorities wish to shrink government by relying on civil society to perform functions considered outside the core functions. In administrative terms, the government’s goal in the counties in which the pilot projects ran is to reduce the staffing quota (bianzhi) at the township level to a total payroll of between 35 and 45 staff per township.

Among the steps taken in the seven pilot counties were abolishing the township people's consultative committees and causing the township Party secretary to also act as township head. The three deputy Party secretaries took on the jobs of chairing of the township people's congress, serving as the secretary of the discipline and inspection committee, and acting as the deputy head of the township standing committee. (The move halves the payroll cost of the highest ranking and most costly senior officials.) In addition, other members of the township Party committee are to head the local propaganda, military, and organization departments. Township governments are also to limit the number of staff to fewer than 40 people.

Township courts, judicial departments, police, land bureaus, and transportation departments have been made local extensions of county government units. Other than the functions performed by schools, the health clinic, and the finance department, all other functions have been delegated to contractors or "intermediary" organizations.