China on Tuesday announced a major cabinet reshuffle to make the government better-structured, more efficient and service-oriented. The institutional reform plan of the State Council was submitted to the ongoing first session of the 13th National People’s Congress for deliberations. State Councilor Wang Yong briefed the lawmakers on the plan. After merging, restructuring, creating and dissolving, there will be 26 ministries and commissions. Among the new entities are ministries for natural resources, veterans affairs and emergency management. There will also be new administrations under the State Council, such as an international development cooperation agency, a state immigration administration, and a banking and insurance regulatory commission. Compared with the current cabinet setup, the number of ministerial-level entities is reduced by eight and that of vice-ministerial-level entities by seven. Wang said the reform, focusing on institutional restructuring in key areas, would strengthen the government’s functions on economic management, market supervision, social management, public service, and ecological and environmental protection. “It focuses on the needs of development and meets the people’s expectations,” Wang said, adding that the restructuring formed part of a broader plan by the Communist Party of China to deepen the reform of the party and state institutions. He said the cabinet reshuffle dealt with the institutional obstacles to make the market play a decisive role in resource allocation. The reshuffle will also help China build a modern economy with high quality growth. In a big change, a banking and insurance regulatory commission will be formed to replace the China Banking Regulatory Commission and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission. The move is aimed at solving existing problems such as unclear responsibilities, cross-regulation and absence of supervision, Wang said. The new body will enhance oversight of both banking and insurance industries and be more effective to forestall risks in the financial sector. The international development cooperation agency, to be formed by merging parts of the functions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce, will “give full play to foreign aid as a key means of major-country diplomacy,” Wang said. A state immigration administration is to be set up under the Ministry of Public Security to formulate and enforce immigration rules, as “the number of foreigners working and living in China has been increasing, raising new requirements on immigration administration and services,” according to Wang. People’s welfare will be better protected, with the establishment of two new ministerial departments devoted to healthcare and veterans affairs. The ministry of veterans affairs will protect the rights and interests of military personnel and their families, improve the service and management system of demobilized military personnel, and make military service an occupation that enjoys public respect. If passed, the cabinet reshuffle will be the eighth such move in more than three decades. Cutting bureaucracy has been a common pursuit of governments around the world. Begining 1982, amid its reform and opening-up push, China began downsizing the central government about every five years. Ma Liang, a public administration professor of Renmin University of China, said cabinet reshuffles throughout the years aimed to develop a sound, service-oriented administration able to satisfy the people’s needs. If the plan is passed, the State Council will consist of following 26 ministries and commissions in addition to the General Office of the State Council: Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of National Defense; National Development and Reform Commission; Ministry of Education; Ministry of Science and Technology; Ministry of Industry and Information Technology; State Ethnic Affairs Commission; Ministry of Public Security; Ministry of State Security; Ministry of Civil Affairs; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Finance; Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security; Ministry of Natural Resources; Ministry of Ecological Environment; Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development; Ministry of Transport; Ministry of Water Resources; Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs; Ministry of Commerce; Ministry of Culture and Tourism; National Health Commission; Ministry of Veterans Affairs; Ministry of Emergency Management; People’s Bank of China and National Audit Office. Published in Daily Times, March 14th 2018.