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Pilot Program for the Supervision Committee: Xi Jinping’s Big Step to Political Reform?

{Editor’s Note: Xi Jinping might have started something big in political reform when he established a new supervision (监察) structure.

The new structure was first mentioned in the Communiqué of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party Central Committee in October 2016. The Communiqué listed four government organizations vested with state powers: the People’s Congress, the government (the executive branch), supervision organs, and judicial organs.

The Communist Party Central Committee officially introduced the new structure on November 7, 2016, when it announced a Pilot Program to implement the supervision system reform in Beijing, Shanxi Province, and Zhejiang Province.

The design establishes a state supervision system in the form of a Supervision Committee. The law, whether an alteration of the current administrative supervision law or the creation of a new state supervision law, will authorize the Committee. The Committee will oversee all people working in the public sector.

The Supervision Committee will then establish supervision bureaus in provinces, cities, and counties.

The Supervision Committee will be Xi’s attempt to provide a checks and balances mechanism over officials’ abuse of power. In the Western countries, an independent media plays a primarily role performing this function, but in China, because the Communist Party either owns or controls the media, they cannot fulfill this responsibility.

The following are excerpts from Chinese articles that discuss the supervision system from different perspectives.}

I. Announcement about the New Supervision System

The Communiqué of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party Central Committee {1}

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Supervision Rules

(Passed at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party Central Committee on October 27, 2016)

Chapter 6. The Combination of Intra-Party Supervision and External Supervision

Article 37. Party committees at all levels should support and guarantee that the same-level People’s Congress, government offices, supervision organs, and judicial organs conduct monitoring over state organs and public section staff members according to the law; the People’s Political Consultation Conferences shall conduct democratic monitoring according to its rules; and the auditing organs shall conduct auditing supervision according to the law.

Xinhua: Announcement of the Supervision Committee Pilot Program {2}

On November 7, 2016, Xinhua reported that the CCP Central Committee published “The Plan for a Pilot Program for the State Supervision System Reform in the Beijing Municipality, Shanxi Province, and Zhejiang Province (The Plan).” These three entities will establish supervision committees at all levels. The goal is to test out the mechanism and structure of the supervision system and to accumulate experiences for a nationwide rollout.

The Plan emphasized that the state supervision system reform will be a significant political reform that will affect the overall situation (in China). It will be a top-level design, an innovation to consolidate anti-corruption resources, expand the (current) scope of supervision, and enrich the means of supervision. It will provide full coverage over all public sector staff members and establish a centralized, authoritative, effective supervision system.

The Plan stated that the provincial/municipality people’s congress will establish the provincial/municipality Supervision Committee. The new committee will work in the same office with the Party’s Discipline Inspection Committee.

The Pilot Program will establish the Supervision Committee’s organ, clarify its responsibilities, establish a coordination mechanism with the judicial organs, and strengthen oversight over the committee itself.

The Plan requested that the CCP Central Committee establish the “Deepening Supervision System Reform Pilot Program Leading Group.” The three Party committees of the provincial/municipalities that have the Pilot Program will establish the “Deepening Supervision System Reform Pilot Program Working Group.” The provincial/municipality’s Party Secretary will serve as the head of the working group.

Xinhua: “Communiqué of the Seventh Plenary Session of the 18th Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI)” {3}

Fourth, (we) should solidly advance the supervision system reform and improve the self-monitoring of the Party and the State. Under the direction of the CCP Central Committee, the CCDI will lead the overall efforts of the reform, create State Supervision Law, and prepare for the establishment of the State Supervision Committee.

The Central Committee’s Deepening Supervision System Reform Pilot Program Leading Group should strengthen its supervision and coordination work. The piloting provincial/municipality’s Party committee is mainly responsible for (the work of the Pilot Program), and its Party discipline inspection committee implements it. Supervision Committees will be established at three levels: province/municipality, municipal, and county.

II. Significance of the Supervision Committee

A. Significance

People’s Daily: Unveil the State Supervision Committee {4}

Some people noticed that the Communiqué of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th Party Congress mentioned, for the first time, that the Supervision Organ (will be) in parallel with the People’s Congress and the State government.

In fact, back in early 2016, at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th CCDI, Xi Jinping talked about “enhancing the state supervision organizational structure and establishing a state supervision system that provides full coverage over state organs and public sector staff.”

Xia Kedao (People’s Daily Account on the Haiwai Website): The Direction of “Significant Political Reform” {5}

Though Xinhua’s report (the “Announcement of the Supervision Committee Pilot Program”) was not long, it was full of information. Using the report’s words: It is “a significant political reform that affects the overall situation.” After all, since the 18th Party Congress, the term “significant political reform” has rarely been used.

The Tuanjie Lake Reference (Beijing Youth Daily’s Account of social media Wechat): How Will the Supervision Committee Conduct Oversight? {6}

First, the Supervision Committee has a high political status and superior power. The “high political status” refers to the fact that the People’s Congress will establish it. It will be on the same level with the “one government and two institutions” {Editor’s note: this term refers to the State Council, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate}. The “superior power” means that it can oversee all offices and staff within the public sector. It will cover the People’s Congress, the People’s Political Consultative Conference, State-Owned Enterprises, public hospitals, and public schools.

Second, the supervision committee is an integrated oversight organ. “Integration” means that it will merge the functions from the state supervision organs, auditing organs, corruption prevention agency, and the anti-corruption office.

Third, the supervision committee also reflects the rule of law. It is a “law-empowered organ,” because the local People’s Congress, the highest local authority, will establish it. It will report to the local People’s Congress and its authority and functions will be based on the Constitution and other laws.

B. The Start of Political Reform?

Radio France International: “The Establishment of the State Supervision Committee Will Start the Communist Party’s Third Political System Reform” {7}

The United Morning Post in Singapore commented, “The general prediction is that this political reform has a significant meaning. After rolling out the Pilot Program from Beijing, Shanxi, and Zhejiang (to the whole country), China’s current political structure will be modified.”

Oriental Daily News commented, “The Communist Party has not implemented any major change to its political system since defining the one government and two institutions structure in the Constitution in the 1980s. This (Supervision Committee) pilot is the start of the third political reform. It shows that Xi Jinping has big ambitions and an appetite for political innovation.”

United Daily News in Taiwan commented, “It is possible that Wang Qishan will remain a member of the Politburo Standing Committee in the 19th Communist Party’s Congress and serve as the head of the Supervision Committee… Study Times, the publication of the CCP’s Party School, pointed out that the current ‘Administrative Supervision Law’ cannot serve the needs regarding the complicated corruption situation and thus will be changed to the ‘State Supervision Law.’ … The President of China will nominate the Director of State Supervision Committee.”

C. A Completely Different Political Structure from the Western System

Tuanjie Lake Reference (Beijing Youth Daily’s Account on social media Wechat): How Will the Supervision Committee Conduct Oversight? {8}

(The word) “Supervision (监察)” in Chinese is composed of two characters. The first character “监” means supervision or oversight. The second one “察” means inspect.

(The supervision system has long been part of China’s governance structure.) The first establishment of the Supervision Officer position was in the Sui Dynasty, which was 1,500 years ago. The Supervision Officer was responsible for overseeing officials and inspecting work at local governments. Since then, all subsequent dynasties have followed suit.

The Republic of China, following Sun Yat-sen’s “Five Power Constitution” idea, set up five Yuans (院 or Branches), including the Control Yuan (监察院 or Supervision Yuan). {9} The Control Yuan was the highest supervisory organ in the central government, with the authority to impeach, reprimand, and audit.

The Supervision Committee structure (that Xi plans to install in China) is completely different from the West’s multi-party checks and balances system. It is rather a self-restraint, self-monitoring system under the People’s Congress. It is the state machine’s attempt to establish a long-term, effective, self-cleaning system.

III. The Problem with the Current Anti-Corruption System: Too Many Organs

Xia Kedao (People’s Daily Account on the Haiwai Website): The Direction of “Significant Political Reform” {10}

The core problem that this Pilot Program tries to solve is that, currently, anti-corruption efforts are split (among many organs) and do not provide full coverage. In other words, there is no single force that covers all staff in the public sector.

In theory, the CCDI oversees all Party members, but (it does not have authority over) some public sector staff who are not Party members.

The current Ministry of Supervision is an internal organ within the government system, so it only oversees staff working in the executive branch. However, in China, the “public sector staff” also includes people outside the executive branch, such as those who work at the People’s Congress, the People’s Political Consultative Conference, the courts, procuratorates, and even those who are not government employees but are financially under the government’s fiscal budget. Moreover, there are also people, such as village heads, who are not on the government payroll, but are authorized with administrative power.

People’s Daily: “The State Supervision Committee Is Unveiled! How to Rebuild the Anti-Corruption Organization” {11}

How many anti-corruption organs are there in China?

China’s main anti-corruption framework is that the Party committees oversee the work; both the Party and the state offices manage the work; and the Party’s discipline inspection office coordinates the work. The main functional organs are: Party discipline inspection organs, state judicial organs, government supervision organs and auditing organs, and the state corruption prevention agency.

Judicial organs: Courts are the adjudication organ. They handle bribery, dereliction, and other cases of criminal corruption. Procuratorates are responsible for investigating corruption cases and filing lawsuits on behalf of the state. There is also an Anti-Corruption Bureau but it is an independent organization under the procuratorate; so are the anti-dereliction office and work-related crime prevention office.

State Supervision Organs: They were established to oversee the operations, integrity, and effectiveness of the executive branch and its employees. At the central government level, the Ministry of Supervision is part of the State Council and conducts business jointly with the CCDI. At the local level, local supervision offices join together with the local Party discipline inspection offices to conduct business.

Auditing Organs: These include the State Auditing Administration at the State Council level and the Auditing Commissions at the local government level. They are to audit the fiscal spending of the ministries under the State Council, local governments, and state-owned financial institutions, enterprises, and institutions.

State Corruption-Prevention Bureau: It was created in 2007 to prevent corruption. It was directly under the State Council. The Minister of Supervision serves as the Director of the Corruption-Prevention Bureau. There are also local level corruption-prevention offices.

The Ministry of the Public Security and financial institutes have also implemented anti-corruption functions.

With so many anti-corruption offices, how do they work?

A normal process is as follows: A Party’s discipline inspection office investigates a Party member’s discipline violation. Upon confirmation, it carries out Party disciplinary action; if it finds that the person has also violated the law, it passes the case on to law enforcement agencies.

The government supervision offices monitor and investigate cases that violate administrative discipline. They decide administrative reprimands and pass cases that violate the law to law enforcement agencies.

The public security, auditing, and other administrative offices, during their work, may also discover certain activities that violate the law or discipline. They decide where to submit the case: to the law enforcement agencies, the Party’s discipline inspection offices, or the state supervision offices.

Courts or Procuratorates, after discovering that a criminal suspect has violated the Party’s discipline or the administrative discipline, will send the cases to the Party’s discipline inspection offices or the state supervision offices.

Therefore, currently, there are too many overlapping anti-corruption authorities, resulting in a dilution of power, the setting of different standards, the creation of redundant functions, and the lack of efficient, standardized, effective integration.

IV. How Will the Supervision Committee System Operate?

A. Operations

Haiwai: “The Direction of this ‘Significant Political Reform’” {12}

The operations of the new Supervision Committee need to be designed with care.

At the current stage, it is unlikely that the State Auditing Administration’s auditing function will be put under the new State Supervision Committee. First, auditing itself is a complicated task and requires a big operation, which might be too big for the Supervision Committee to absorb. Second, the Communiqué of the Party’s Six Plenary Session listed three parallel oversight approaches: “monitoring according to the law, monitoring through political consultation, and monitoring through auditing,” which refer to the supervision organs, the People’s Political Consultation Conference, and auditing organs, respectively.

Practically, the most likely organizational change is to merge the current supervision offices and the procuratorate’s anti-corruption offices into the new Supervision Committee. It is easy to implement. It will also offer the Supervision Committee more means to conduct business.

According to the plan for the Pilot Program, the Supervision Committee and the Party’s discipline inspection office will conduct their operations jointly in the same office. It is what people call “same group, two office plates.” They will oversee all staff in the public sector, regardless of whether they are Party members and regardless of whether they work at government offices.

Consolidating powers from those offices also gives the new Supervision Committee a richer means of oversight, for example, the law enforcement function.

B. Staffing Changes at the Ministry of Supervision

Recently, some top level official changes were made at the Ministry of Supervision.

On December 25, 2016, Yang Xiaodu (杨晓渡) was appointed Minister of Supervision. Since 2013, Yang has also served as the Deputy Party Secretary of the CCDI. {13}

On January 21, 2017, Cui Peng (崔鹏) was appointed the Deputy Minister of Supervision. Cui previously served as the Deputy Chief of Staff of the CCDI. {14}

The Ministry of Supervision has one minister and three deputies.

V. Wang Qishan’s Speech

Wang Qishan, the head of the CCDI and the head of the Central Committee’s Deepening State Supervision System Reform Pilot Working Group, visited Beijing, Shanxi, and Zhejiang, the sites for the three Supervision system reform Pilot Programs. He gave an important speech on November 25, 2016. {15}

Epoch Times: “Xie Tianqi: Wang Qishan Came to the Public’s Eye to Unveil ‘Major Political Reform’” {16}

Wang Qishan’s visit to the three pilot sites showed that he was in control of the Supervision Committee’s work. It was a further hint that he might serve the Director of the State Supervision Committee.

Wang Qishan’s speech during his research and conferences conveyed three signals:

First, Wang re-affirmed that the state supervision system reform is a significant political reform that affects the overall situation in China.

Wang pointed out that the Pilot Program will provide the experiences for full implementation of reform and for the implementation of the State Supervision Law. Wang’s mention of creating the State Supervision Law indicated that (Xi and Wang) want to use legal channels to establish the state level supervision system.

Second, Wang defined the nature of the Supervision Committee is an anti-corruption organ.

Wang expressed that the task of the supervision system reform is to consolidate the functions of administrative supervision and corruption-prevention, as well as the procuratorate’s corruption investigation, dereliction investigation, and work-related crime prevention, to form the Supervision Committee. The committee will work in the same offices that the Party’s discipline inspection is in.

This indicates that the Supervision Committee is an expansion of the CCDI. The CCDI will lead the Supervision Committee’s work to ensure that the Supervision Committee is under the control of Xi and Wang.

Third, Xi Jinping and Wang Qishan will use the Supervision Committee to cleanse and counter-balance the Political and Legal Affairs Committee (that Jiang Zemin’s loyalists such as Zhou Yongkang have long controlled).

Wang emphasized that the first step was to transfer certain Procuratorate functions to the Supervision Committee. He clearly stated that the Supervision Committee will perform monitoring, investigation, and reprimand functions and will integrate with and counter-balance law enforcement organs.

This means that the CCDI-led Supervision Committee will not only reduce the anti-corruption power of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, but will also counter-balance it.

VI. Pilot Program Progress and Reform Challenges

Xinhua: “Focusing on the New Development of the Supervision System Reform Pilot Program in Beijing, Shanxi, and Zhejiang” {17}

First Focus: What is the progress of the Pilot Program? The Directors of the Supervision Committee at the top (provincial) level have been elected. The lower level (municipal and county-level) committees will be established in the first half of this year.

Shanxi elected its Provincial Supervision Committee Director on January 18. Beijing and Zhejiang elected theirs on January 20. All of them are the Party Secretaries of the Provincial or Municipality Party Discipline Inspection Committee.

The Deputy Directors and members of the provincial Supervision Committees are from the Party’s discipline inspection committees or former procuratorate’s staff who were transferred to the Supervision Committees.

CCDI has mentioned that the pilot sites will establish the provincial Supervision Committee by March and the municipal and county-level committees by June.

In the meantime, the state-level reform is about to be unveiled as well. The CCDI’s Seventh Plenum Report pointed out that (the CCDI) needs to hurry up to prepare for the establishment of the State Supervision Committee at the organization level, staff level, and legal level, so that the First Plenum of the 13th People’s National Congress (in March 2018) will review and pass the State Supervision Law and formally establish the Supervision Committee.

Second Focus: How to realize full coverage? The supervision will target all staff in the public sector, with integrated functions and enforceable means.

Third Focus: What power does the Supervision Committee have? It has the supervision, investigation, and disposition functions.

Jing Dali, the head of Beijing Procuratorate, advised that the procuratorate will close its anti-corruption bureau, anti-dereliction bureau, investigation command center, case reporting center, and work-related crime prevention office. All people working in those offices will be transferred to the Supervision Committee.

At the same time, each procuratorate in Beijing will set up a work-related crime procuratorate department as a designated office to interface with the Supervision Committee. This office will create procuratorate cases against those the Supervision Committee investigates and will smooth the legal lawsuit process.

The current administrative supervision law, criminal law, procuratorate organization law, procuratorator law, and local organization law will need to be modified.

Fourth Focus: How to monitor the Supervision Committee? The people’s congress, Supervision Committee’s internal mechanism, and society will supervise the Supervision Committee.

The Supervision Committee will establish an internal office to monitor its own people.

Endnotes:
{1} CCDI website, “Chinese Communist Party Supervision Rules,” October 27, 2016.
http://www.ccdi.gov.cn/fgk/law_display_6331.
{2} Xinhua, “CCP Central Committee Published ‘The Plan to Pilot the State Supervision System Reform in Beijing Municipality, Shanxi, and Zhejiang,’” November 7, 2016.
http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2016-11/07/c_1119867301.htm.
{3} Xinhua, “Communiqué of the Seventh Plenary Session of the 18th CCDI,” January 8, 2017.
http://politics.people.com.cn/n1/2017/0108/c1001-29006821.html.
{4} People’s Daily, “Unveil the State Supervision Committee,” November 8, 2016.
http://politics.people.com.cn/n1/2016/1108/c1001-28845567.html.
{5} Haiwainet, “Direction of the ‘Significant Political Reform,’” November 9, 2016.
http://opinion.haiwainet.cn/n/2016/1109/c456317-30484654.html.
{6} Phoenix, “How Will the Supervision Committee Conduct Oversight?” November 11, 2016.
http://news.ifeng.com/a/20161111/50240276_0.shtml?wratingModule=1_9_1.
{7} Radio France International, “The Establishment of the State Supervision Committee Will Start the Communist Party’s Third Political System Reform,” November 24, 2016.
http://cn.rfi.fr/中国/20161124-设立国家监察委,将开启中共第三次政治体制改革-.
{8} Phoenix, “How Will the Supervision Committee Conduct Oversight?” November 11, 2016.
http://news.ifeng.com/a/20161111/50240276_0.shtml?wratingModule=1_9_1.
{9} The Five Branches of the Republic of China: the Legislative Yuan, the Judicial Yuan, the Executive Yuan, the Control Yuan, and the Examination Yuan.
{10} Haiwainet, “Direction of the ‘Significant Political Reform,’” November 9, 2016.
http://opinion.haiwainet.cn/n/2016/1109/c456317-30484654.html.
{11} People’s Daily, “The State Supervision Committee Is Unveiled! How to Rebuild the Anti-Corruption Organization?” November 8, 2016.
http://politics.people.com.cn/n1/2016/1108/c1001-28845567.html.
{12} Haiwainet, “Direction of the ‘Significant Political Reform,’” November 9, 2016.
http://opinion.haiwainet.cn/n/2016/1109/c456317-30484654.html.
{13} Xinhua, “People’s Congress Standing Committee Appointed Yang Xiaodu as the Minister of Supervision,” December 25, 2016.
http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2016-12/25/c_1120183754.htm.
{14} Xinhua, “Cui Peng Was Appointed as the Deputy Minister of Supervision,” January 21, 2017.
http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2017-01/21/c_1120357513.htm.
{15} Xinhua, “Wang Qishan: Implement Full Supervision Coverage of Public Sector Staff Members,” November 25, 2016.
http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2016-11/25/c_1119993502.htm.
{16} Epoch Times, “Xie Tianqi: Wang Qishan Came to the Public’s Eye to Unveil ‘Major Political Reform’,” November 25, 2016.
http://www.epochtimes.com/gb/16/11/25/n8529137.htm.
{17} Xinhua, “Focusing on the New Development of the Supervision System Reform Pilot Program in Beijing, Shanxi, and Zhejiang,” January 22, 2017.
http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2017-01/22/c_1120364378.htm.

 

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