Shanghai Initiates Civil Society Reforms, Attempts to Regularize Public Institutions

November 19, 2004

According to a report from the 21st Century Business Herald, the personnel bureau of the Shanghai municipal government has issued a comprehensive plan for the reform of local public institutions. These aim at regularizing public institutions, and may lead to increased independence for at least some of them.

Chinese public institutions are state-controlled organizations providing a range of public services. Examples include hospitals, schools, and sports organizations. As of 2001, they employed over 25 million people. Many regularly lose money, creating sizable financial burdens on local governments. Public institutions are a significant component of China's state-dominated civil society. For further information, see the civil society section of the 2004 Annual Report.

According to media reports, the Shanghai proposal aims at transforming both the administrative and ownership structure of public institutions, depending on their particular characteristics. Those more closely resembling private enterprises (and perhaps running at a profit) are to be privatized. Those with strong administrative functions are to be absorbed into the government. Still others are to be eliminated entirely.

The Shanghai plan has already received the approval of municipal Party leaders and is currently under consideration by national officials.

In addition, according to a Legal Daily report, the Shanghai municipal government has issued new regulations allowing personnel decisions (such as dismissals and transfers) within public institutions to be appealed to the courts. As with the more general reforms discussed above, these likely reflect an effort to regularize the legal status of public institutions and their employees.