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Groups help point the way to change

Updated: 2015-08-06 07:49
By Zhao Shengnan ()

Party Central Committee garners support from across society

A conspicuous characteristic of top leader Xi Jinping's leadership is that specialized groups created by the central authorities are increasingly focusing on policy in key parts of society and helping to push through high-stakes reforms despite resistance from vested interests.

The Communist Party of China Central Committee decided on Thursday to set up leading group on "united front work", whose purpose is to garner support from across society. The new group brings the number of them to at least 22.

Many of the groups, whose focuses range from specific sectors to overall reform, are headed by members of the Standing Committee of the Party's Political Bureau.

Xi, who is also the Party chief and chairman of the Central Military Commission, heads at least four: The central leading groups for comprehensively deepening reform; Internet security and informatization; national defense and the military; and financial and economic affairs.

Observers said the decision at the top level to adopt a hands-on approach through the groups enables them to push through China's comprehensive but sometimes difficult reforms by ushering in guidelines, coordinating departments and supervising implementation.

While the groups concept is not Xi's invention, their importance has been underlined by problems faced at the critical reform stage, said Zhu Lijia, a professor of public policy at the Chinese Academy of Governance.

The unique role of groups in China has been bolstered by tradition. Some key groups, including those in charge of financial and economic issues, as well as foreign affairs, have existed for nearly six decades.

The newly established ones, created after the Party's 18th National Congress in November 2012, have expanded to areas that include overall reform, national defense and military reform.

These groups usually hold irregular meetings. Their life span could be decided by setting a date for their tasks to be completed, and their leaders are generally decided based on the scale of the goals and the expertise needed to achieve them, Zhu said.

For example, Wang Qishan, chief of China's top disciplinary watchdog, heads a central inspection leading group. China's ideological chief, Liu Yunshan, heads a central publicity leading group.

Wu Hui, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, said departments and local governments are not strong enough to push forward the reform proposals-the country's boldest in more than three decades.

Some departments and local governments-the usual leading forces of reform-tend to maximize their own interests in the name of reform, he said.

The group for that sector would help to break the shackles of vested interests, said Wu, adding that the establishment of different groups usually occurred gradually according to the reform's progress.

Mao Shoulong, a professor of public governance at Renmin University of China, said these groups have gone beyond issues of reform to cover more areas. With such expansion, the establishment and operation of the groups should be further regulated in the long run, including their initiation, functions and staff positions, Mao said.

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