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China tightens scrutiny on executive power for law-based governance

Xinhua,November 22, 2017 Adjust font size:

A new item will be added to the list of tasks the State Council, China's Cabinet, should report to the national legislature, part of the latest efforts to place executive power under more scrutiny.

On Monday, the Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform of the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee adopted a reform project that pushes the State Council to report management of state-owned assets to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.

In addition to introducing more transparent management of state assets, the reform measure is an example of enhanced supervision by the legislature.

In August 2015, the leading group also adopted a policy that asked the State Council to report to the NPC Standing Committee on how it corrects problems exposed by auditing.

The mechanism, which enables the NPC and its standing committee to regularly hear and examine the central government's work, has been effective in realizing the legislature's constitutional power to supervise the government.

The list of what the Cabinet should report has been expanding over the years, as the country works to advance law-based governance.

The best-known practice is the annual government work report delivered by the premier to the NPC at its annual session, which is discussed and examined by deputies to the session before being approved. A budget report and a national economic and social development plan are also delivered to the session for examination before being approved. The legislature also reviews the reports on final accounts, mostly in the latter half of the year.

Since 1996, after the Audit Law took effect, lawmakers have reviewed the National Audit Office's audit report on the implementation of the central budget annually.

In addition, the national legislature hears reports from the central government on specific topics, mostly about important and urgent matters concerning the public. These topics vary every year, from environmental protection to poverty alleviation.

At the last bi-monthly session of the NPC Standing Committee in late October and early this month, lawmakers were briefed by Agricultural Minister Han Changfu about progress and problems in the protection of grasslands.

Another efficient tool of the NPC Standing Committee to check the government is investigating the enforcement of laws.

Also at the last bi-monthly session, the NPC Standing Committee produced a report on the enforcement of the Solid Waste Control Law after several months of investigation nationwide. Based on this report and headed by Chairman Zhang Dejiang, the NPC Standing Committee held an inquiry with officials of the State Council, which should later hand in a report on how to improve and remedy its work.

In the past five years, such interaction between the legislature and government has become regular practice, touching on a number of urgent issues such as air and water pollution, vocational education and quality of commodities.

The key report at the 19th CPC National Congress regards the system of people's congresses as"a political system fundamental to the Party's leadership, the people's running of the country, and law-based governance."

In the report, the Chinese leadership pledged to improve the organizational and working systems of people's congresses to support and ensure they exercise their statutory powers to enact laws, conduct oversight, make decisions, and appoint and remove officials.

A healthy relationship between the legislature and government will be essential to China's drive toward law-based governance as well as modernizing its system and capacity for governance.