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China: “Super Ministries” Plan

(Apr. 2, 2008) On March 15, 2008, the People's Republic of China (PRC) National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body, passed the State Council's Institutional Reform Plan, under which five “super ministries” are created. (Shiyi jie Ren Da yici huiyi xuanju chansheng xin yijie guojia lingdaoren pizhun Guowuyuan jigou gaige fang'an, XINHUANET, Mar. 15, 2008.) The reshuffle involves 15 government departments and reduces the number of State Council ministries and commissions from 28 to 27. (Guowuyuan Jigou Gaige Fang'an [The State Council Institutional Reform Plan] (2008), available at; China to Set up Five New “Super Ministries,” XINHUA NEWS, Mar. 11, 2008, available at

This is the latest of several rounds of the PRC government's efforts at institutional reform since 1982. According to the Reform Plan, the five new “super ministries” are the Ministry of Industry and Information, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Construction, and the Ministry of Transportation. Aside from setting up new ministries, some other adjustments include establishing a new National Energy Commission (see item on China in WLB “ENERGY” section above), and the Ministry of Health is empowered to oversee the State Food and Drug Administration as an effort to enhance food safety. (Guowuyuan Jigou Gaige Fang'an, supra.)

The theme of this round of institutional reform, according to researchers in the PRC government, is to integrate functions of government departments. Three of the five new ministries, the Ministry of Industry and Information, the Ministry of Transportation, and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security are the result of combining former ministries and administrations. The Ministry of Environmental Protection is upgraded from the former State Environmental Protection Administration. The new Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Construction is the former Ministry of Construction “with new clothes.” (Yang Zhongxu, Dabuzhi Gaige: Zhineng Zhenghe Shi Zhudiao [Super Ministries Reform: Integration of Functions as Theme], ZHONGGUO XINWEN ZHOUKAN [China News Week], Apr. 1, 2008, available at

Critics have pointed out that there are some flaws in the Reform Plan. The Ministry of Railroads is still separate from the new Ministry of Transportation. In addition, the functions of the State Council departments still overlap to a great extent. Additional rounds of reform are expected in the future. (Yi Shuihan, Dabuzhi Rengxu Dabu Xiangqian [Super Ministries Need Big Steps Forward], YANZHOU CAIFU LUNTAN [Asia Fortune Forum], Apr. 2, 2008, available at