Xi Jinping further centralises power with 'revolutionary' reshuffle
Beijing: A "drastic" and "revolutionary" reform of China's government means Australian businesses and officials will need to deal with a raft of new ministries and most likely, the hand of the Communist Party.
The reforms, which will cut the number of ministries and vice-ministries by more than one-third, meant, "we are seeing the party placing its stamp on a wider range of government functions," according to China Policy research director David Kelly.
It would "close off fiefdoms, which were a source of corruption" because they were "allowed to set their own goals and account for things afterwards", Kelly said.
Many powerful bureaucracies were vestiges of the Soviet era, and the new changes reverse policies implemented under former leader Deng Xiaoping 30 years ago which dispersed functions such as international trade to state agencies.
China will create its first immigration bureau and an office to guide its controversial overseas aid program, in addition to creating seven new ministries.
Amid rising international criticism of China's aid and the growth of the massive Belt and Road Initiative, a new international development office will "give full play to aid as an important measure of major power diplomacy", parliamentary documents said.
The office will establish aid guidelines, and evaluate projects, reporting directly to China's state council.
Graeme Smith, research fellow with the Australian National University's department of Pacific affairs, said the new office, which takes over from the foreign and commerce ministries, appeared to be moving away from a money-wasting focus on individual projects.
He was sceptical whether it would work, however, unless staffing was also boosted. "In-country monitoring is crucial," he said.
The new agency would nonetheless "move aid up the list of priorities for the ambassadors and economic counsellors, sending the signal stop wasting our money".
The government shakeup comes in the wake of president Xi Jinping ensuring his leadership can continue indefinitely after the rubber stamp parliament removed term limits for president on Sunday.
State television called it a "drastic reform", with 15 ministries and vice ministries scrapped.
"This reform is revolutionary," China's top economic advisor, Liu He, wrote in People's Daily, adding that it would strengthen the Communist Party's leadership.
Mr Kelly said the party was seeking greater oversight over goverment functions, and to do this it needed to coordinate and reduce the number of agencies.
"The driving force is new technology – big data and secure networks," he said.
A new market regulation agency will regulate prices, licence businesses, enforce anti-monopoly rulings and take charge of quality control, quarantine and food and drug safety.
Former Blackmores chief executive, now Australia Post boss, Christine Holgate told Fairfax Media last week that Blackmores had previously dealt with eight different regulatory bodies.
"It might make it easier, it might create complexity. Normally it does when they have a change," she said of the looming shakeup.
Australian investors in Chinese mining will have to deal with a new natural resources super ministry. An ecological environment super ministry will also be formed.
Banking and insurance regulators will merge as China cracks down on risky borrowing and lending in the world's second largest economy. The former head of the insurance regulator was placed under investigation for corruption a year ago and the second biggest insurance, Anbang, placed under the control of the regulator last month to protect millions of consumers who held policies with the debt-laden company.
The People' Bank of China takes over the law making functions for banks and insurance.
The immigration bureau will process visas, manage refugees and illegal migration, functions previously conducted by police. There are few foreigners working in China, around 600,000, and the move is partly designed to improve policies to attract international talent and manage foreigners living in China.
A Health Commission will focus on preventative health rather than simply treating illnesses in hospitals, and see the closure of the family planning committee, which had overseen the now jettisoned One Child Policy, including forced abortions.
The culture and tourism ministries will merge to "improve national cultural soft power and Chinese cultural influence".
A new National Supervision Commission will conduct corruption investigations into management in all public institutions including schools and hospitals, as well as village level.
A ministry for veterans affairs will seek to placate disgruntled veterans after 300,000 positions were axed from the People's Liberation Army in recent years.
The number of ministries and vice ministries has been slashed by 15, leaving 26 ministries and commissions.