Follow the Guidance of the Third Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China III Updated: 2021-12-29

Follow the Guidance of the Third Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee* 

February 28, 2018 

Here, I'd like to make a few points on how we should implement the decision of the plenary session from the perspective of the guiding philosophy, overall plans, objectives and tasks it has set out. 

First, we must be clear on the fundamental issue of upholding the authority and the centralized, unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee. Upholding and strengthening overall Party leadership is an intrinsic requirement and an important element of further reform of Party and state institutions. It is a political theme that underpins the entire process of reform. It was clearly stated at the Party's 19th National Congress last year that the primary task in reinforcing the Party's political foundations is to ensure that the whole Party obeys the Central Committee and upholds its authority and centralized, unified leadership. The power of making principles and guidelines of the Party and the state rests with the Central Committee, and the whole Party must safeguard the final and sole authority of the Central Committee through concrete action. Any organization and member of the Party, whatever their level or field and wherever they are, must obey the centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee. All the work under the charge of central departments and local authorities must be planned and implemented in a context of resolutely implementing the decisions and plans of the Central Committee, so that all the orders from the top are carried out.

"Governing a country is like planting a tree. If the roots are firm, the branches and leaves flourish."1 The roots of our governance are the leadership of the Party and the Chinese socialist system. We must pronounce it confidently and unequivocally. Party leadership must be comprehensive, systematic and holistic, and it must be followed in all respects – economic, political, cultural, social and eco-environmental progress, national defense and armed forces, national reunification, foreign affairs and strengthening the Party. If it were absent or weakened in any field, respect or stage, the Party's strength and the causes of our Party and country would be undermined.

Our emphasis on upholding the authority and the centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee does not mean that democratic centralism and intra-Party democracy can be ignored. It is wrong to regard the two as mutually contradictory. Promoting intra-Party democracy and exercising centralized, unified leadership are consistent rather than contradictory. Democratic centralism is the Party's fundamental organizational principle, and intra-Party democracy its lifeline. Our democratic centralism is a system in which we have both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of will and personal ease of mind. It is a system that integrates democracy and centralism.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the Central Committee has attached great importance to developing intra-Party democracy and drawing on collective wisdom. Before issuing important materials – reports to the Party's congresses, documents of the plenary sessions of the Central Committee, important documents and major decisions of the Party, reports on the work of the government, key measures for reform and development, and important documents on the work of central departments – we always solicit opinions from a certain number of Party members. In some cases we solicit several rounds of opinions. Sometimes, the range of solicitation covers all the provinces and equivalent administrative units, or dozens of departments of the Central Committee and the central government. When reviewing major decisions, the Central Committee requires that the opinions collected are reported, whether they are favorable or not.

The Central Committee strictly follows these institutionalized and standardized procedures. Of course, after collecting opinions and advice from all parties involved, it is the Central Committee that makes the final decision. During the process of deliberation and discussion, we give broad rein to democracy and let everyone speak up their mind freely. Once a decision is made by the Central Committee, however, it must be implemented without fail. During the course of implementation, complaints and problems may be reported in accordance with the relevant intra-Party procedures to higher-level authorities and even to the Central Committee.

With such a huge Party in a vast country like ours, if the final and sole authority of the Central Committee were undermined, the decisions of the Central Committee were ignored, and everyone followed their own way of thinking and worked their own way, nothing would be achieved. We adopt centralism on the basis of giving broad rein to democracy and upholding the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee, so that we can pool the wisdom of the entire Party and reflect the will of all Party members. This is one of our Party's great innovations – it is a major strength of Party leadership and the socialist system. It is conducive to rational, democratic and law-based decision-making and avoiding major – or even worse, fatal – mistakes; it can also help us overcome segmentation and a silo mentality and avoid a situation where there is only deliberation but no decision or where decisions are made but not implemented. It can help form a powerful synergy propelling the development of the Party and the country.

The relationship between the Party and the government is not only a major theoretical issue; it is also an important practical one. After the beginning of reform and opening up in 1978 we discussed the separation of the Party and the government with the goal of solving the problems of low efficiency, excessive and overstaffed departments and a dilatory approach to work. Admittedly, at that time we lacked both theoretical understanding and practical experience, and our efforts to solve our problems of governance and governing capability were tentative. Since the beginning of reform and opening up, whatever adjustments have been made to the relationship between the Party and the government, there has been one unchanging principle, which was stated by Deng Xiaoping, "We must uphold leadership by the Party and never abandon it, but the Party should exercise its leadership effectively."2 On this subject of leadership, Deng quoted Vladimir Lenin, "The dictatorship of the proletariat means a persistent struggle – bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative – against the forces and traditions of the old society…. Without a party of iron that has been tempered in the struggle, a party enjoying the confidence of all honest people in the class in question, a party capable of watching and influencing the mood of the masses, such a struggle cannot be waged successfully."3 Deng emphasized that this truth expressed by Lenin still holds.

When it comes to properly handling the relationship between the Party and the government, the first and foremost principle is to uphold the leadership of the Party. This is a precondition for the division of functions. Furthermore, no matter how functions are divided, the prime purpose is to uphold and improve the leadership of the Party. As the CPC is the ruling Party in our country, its leadership position and ruling status are closely linked. The Party's power to exercise centralized, unified leadership cannot be divided. We cannot talk about the separation of the Party and the government or the integration of the two in a simplistic way. Rather, we should constantly improve the way the Party exercises leadership and governance according to specific features and basic conditions in different fields.

In this round of reform of Party and state institutions, we have reflected deeply on strengthening the overall leadership of the Party, taking a holistic approach to the setup of Party and government institutions, and improving the efficiency of the Party and the government in the new era. The focus of our efforts is to design and organize institutions to ensure stronger leadership by the Party over all areas. We will adjust those Party and government institutions whose jurisdiction is too narrow and whose functions overlap, and place the offices of some CPC Central Committee's bodies for decision-making, deliberation and coordination in government departments, in an effort to remove the demarcation between the Party and the government and have one matter dealt with in a joint manner. Our purpose is to strengthen the leadership of the Party, improve the government's capacity to deliver, smooth out the relationship between the Party and the government, and establish and improve the decision-making and coordination mechanisms of the Central Committee for important work. This is a major decision made by the Central Committee based on positive and negative past experiences.

For local Party committees at various levels, strengthening leadership over important work means improving their capacity for organization and coordination so as to ensure the effective implementation of major decisions and plans of the Central Committee. They can set up specific institutions in light of local conditions. Other than those Party and government institutions and functions that fall under the centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee and those concerning consistency of the legal regime, administrative orders and policies, and market management, other institutions and functions at local levels do not have to correspond to national ones. In addition, local authorities should identify priorities and address themselves to tasks with a decisive bearing on reform and development in their localities, and refrain from trying to attend to major and minor issues at one and the same time.

Second, we must understand the goal of further reform of Party and state institutions. It was determined at this plenary session that the objective of further reform of Party and state institutions is to establish a functional system of these institutions that is complete, well-conceived, standard and efficient; a Party leadership system that ensures the Party's core role in exercising overall leadership and coordinating the efforts of all; a law-based administrative governance system with clear functions and responsibilities; world-class armed forces with Chinese characteristics; and a sound system of people's organizations for bridging and serving the general populace. With these systems in place, we will be able to promote coordinated actions and form synergy among the people's congresses, governments, political advisory bodies, and supervisory, judicial and prosecuting organs, people's organizations, enterprises, public institutions, and social groups under the unified leadership of the CPC, so as to comprehensively raise the national governance capacity.

As an important part of socialist system with Chinese characteristics, the functional system of Party and state institutions encompasses the administrative activities of the Party and state at various stages and levels and in various fields, the interactive relationship between them, and the intrinsic connections within them. By reforming and improving the systems of Party leadership, government administration, the armed forces, and people's organizations, we need to promote the integration of various institutions and functions, improve coordination and efficiency in the handling of Party and state affairs, and establish a basic framework of Party and state institutional setup and functional allocation that adapts to the requirements of the new tasks in the new era. The Party leadership system that ensures the Party exercises overall leadership and coordinates the efforts of all is of primary importance, covering all areas and elements. Under the leadership of the Party, people's congresses, governments, political advisory bodies, and supervisory, judicial and prosecuting organs, people's organizations, enterprises, public institutions, social groups, and armed forces fulfill their respective duties and responsibilities and coordinate with one another in an orderly manner. This ensures that the central and local authorities have consistent policies that are implemented smoothly, effectively and with vitality.

Looking to realize the Two Centenary Goals and implementing both the Five-sphere Integrated Plan and the Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy in a coordinated way, we have defined farsighted institutional strategies in this round of further reform of Party and state institutions, with the goal of establishing the basic framework of the setup and functions of Party and state institutions and achieving optimization, coordination and efficiency. Optimization means that the setup and functions must be well-conceived and rational, and power must be matched with responsibilities. Coordination means the need to balance central leadership and the delegation of power, and the need to address priority areas. Efficiency means good performance and smooth procedures. To meet these requirements, we should properly handle the following bilateral relationships.

The relationship between centralized leadership and delegation of power. In further reform of Party and state institutions, the two are inherently coherent. With proper centralization we can ensure that departments function methodically and avoid acting in disunity, thus improving the overall efficiency of the system. Through proper delegation of power, we can stimulate the enthusiasm, initiative and creativity of every unit and every sub-system. In this round of further reform, we will establish and improve the systems and mechanisms by which the Party exercises leadership over major tasks, and optimize the Central Committee's bodies for decision-making, deliberation and coordination, which are responsible for top-level design, overall planning, coordination and promotion of major work. We will also strengthen and optimize the Party's leadership over tasks regarding further reform, law-based governance, the economy, agriculture and rural areas, discipline inspection and supervision, organization, communication and culture, national security, the judiciary and law enforcement, the united front, ethnic and religious affairs, education, science and technology, cybersecurity and information technology, foreign affairs, and auditing. These arrangements are intended to enable the Party to exercise more effective leadership and coordination over major initiatives that have an overall bearing on the undertakings of the Party and the state, exert stronger centralized leadership at a higher level, better wield its power, and fulfill its responsibilities, so as to improve efficiency and ensure that all of its decisions are implemented. It is important to note that the Party exercises overall leadership over major issues rather than attending to all matters big and small.

The relationship between the part and the whole and between the present and the future. Further reform of Party and state institutions has an overall bearing on the undertakings of the Party and the state and involves all areas and aspects of economic and social development. In this round of further reform, some departments need to be strengthened, some will be merged, some are to be dissolved, some will be placed under new or other superior bodies, and so forth. If one takes a local perspective and sees from the existing organizational makeup and authorization, they may well come up with a lot of reasons for maintaining the status quo. However, faced with new circumstances and tasks and the need for long-term development, if we follow the old mentality and believe that it is fine to remain the same and there is no need to reform, we will be unable to solve the outstanding problems and may even create problems. In this round of further reform, we plan to establish the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Ministry of Veterans Affairs, Ministry of Emergency Management, National Healthcare Security Administration, China International Development Cooperation Agency, National Immigration Administration and other institutions. To set up these agencies, we have taken into consideration both the need to solve the most prominent problems of the present stage and the need to adapt to developing trends in future. As plans made for the overall progress of the undertakings of the Party and the state, they are meant to address both pressing current problems and also preset measures for some strategic goals, so as to meet the long-term needs of the Party and the state.

The relationship between large and small departments. An important goal of this round of further reform is to solve the problem of overlapping and fragmented departmental functions, and to set up institutions in a coordinated and integrated manner so as to better tap into their efficiency and strengths. To achieve this goal, we have taken substantial steps towards establishing larger government departments, and this should be carried out steadily. Not all departments need to be large, since some are specialized and some are comprehensive. Even for comprehensive ones, large size does not fit all, nor is it essential to put all related functions in a single department. The key is to group functions in a rational manner in line with reality that facilitates work and improves efficiency. Large or small, it all depends on needs.

The relationship between optimization and coordination. This round of further reform involves Party, government, military and people's organizations and is related to economic, political, cultural, social, and eco-environmental systems and the development of the Party. The transfer of functions and adjustments of institutional setup are closely linked, and the internal correlation and interaction between various reforms is strong. Each reform will have an impact on other reforms and need their support. This requires us to place greater importance on advancing different reforms in a coordinated and mutually reinforcing manner while optimizing institutional setup and functional assignment, so that institutional efficiency is improved across the board.

Third, we must understand the direction and requirement of the reform of the socialist market economy and see to it that the market plays the decisive role in resource allocation and that the government plays its role more effectively. All rounds of institutional reform since the beginning of reform and opening up in 1978 have focused on reform of our economic system featuring the separation of government functions from the management of enterprises, state assets, public institutions, and social groups. They have promoted reform and opening up and socialist modernization. Currently, there are still many institutional obstacles holding up our high-quality development, and the potential of economic reform needs to be further tapped. We need to accelerate reform under the precondition of keeping overall economic and social stability, and work hard to develop an economy with more effective market mechanisms, dynamic micro-entities, and sound macro-regulation, so as to provide institutional support for high-quality development.

In this round of further reform, we have made substantial adjustments to institutions and their functions in the fields of macro-management and market regulation. This is meant to give full play to the strengths of the market and the government so that they complement and coordinate with each other for better quality, more efficient, fairer and more sustainable development. The reform emphasizes the need to reduce micro-management and the number of items subject to government approval, and minimize the government's direct allocation of market resources and direct intervention in economic activities. The aim is to realize effective incentives generated from property rights and ensure free flows of factors, flexible prices, fair and orderly competition, and business survival based on competition, so that market players have more room to develop the economy and create wealth with vigor and vitality and to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of resource allocation.

Ensuring that the market plays the decisive role in resource allocation does not mean the government has no role to play. It should do what is needed and never go beyond its purview. Since our country applies a system of socialist market economy, we should do full justice to the strengths of its socialist system by allowing the Party and the government to play an active role in matters beyond the market's capability.

To achieve innovation and improvement in macro-control, we have taken big steps to reduce micro-management and the number of items subject to approval. Responsible departments should shift their main focus to macro-management of the economy. They should improve the system for macro-control, employ national development plans for strategic guidance, improve coordination between economic policies in the fields of finance, monetary management, industry, and regional development, and make macro-control more forward-looking, targeted and coordinated.

To strengthen market regulation, we have created a top-level design geared to dealing with pressing current problems and the need for future development. Therefore, we have decided to set up the State Administration for Market Regulation, which will integrate the main functions of the departments for industry and commerce, quality supervision, and food and drug administration. We have devised clear requirements for comprehensive law enforcement in market regulation and maintained unified anti-monopoly law enforcement and IPR protection in a centralized manner. These measures will reduce government-imposed transaction costs for businesses and give more powerful impetus to economic and social development.

Fourth, we must understand the people-centered philosophy of development and address the most pressing and immediate problems that concern the people the most. To ensure that the people enjoy a happy life is the ultimate goal of all our work and is an important manifestation of our Party's fundamental purpose of serving the people wholeheartedly. For this reason, we must follow the people-centered philosophy of development in furthering institutional reform and fulfill the people's expectation for a better life.

This round of further reform focuses on improving people's wellbeing in key areas, aiming to make the social security system and access to public services fairer and more sustainable. We will redouble our efforts to reorganize and optimize the setup of the institutions and establish a number of new agencies in areas of public concern such as education, culture, public health, medical insurance, veteran affairs, immigration service, eco-environmental protection, and emergency management. These measures are meant to reinforce government functions in public services and social management, ensure and improve public wellbeing, and safeguard public security in a better way. Relevant departments should have a strong sense of purpose, mission and responsibility. They should see improving people's lives as their greatest achievement, treat people's concerns and worries as their own, and serve to meet people's urgent needs. They should quicken their pace to straighten out their functions and activities, so as to form synergy as soon as possible and do a good and solid job for the benefit of the people.

Law enforcement is an important way for administrative organs to fulfill their governmental functions. To resolve serious problems of failure to enforce the law in a procedure-based, strict, transparent and non-abusive manner as well as nonfeasance and malfeasance in law enforcement, we must step up our pace in establishing a law-based administrative system that matches power with responsibility and is authoritative and efficient. Reform in law enforcement is a special task in this round of further reform. Law enforcement teams are to be established in market regulation, eco-environmental protection, the cultural industry, transport, and agriculture on the basis of integrating relevant functions. We will make a substantial reduction in the categories of law enforcement teams, and allocate law enforcement forces on a rational basis, address the problem of laws being enforced by multiple departments at different levels, and work to ensure strict, procedure-based, impartial, and non-abusive law enforcement. All provincial authorities and central departments should improve the system for listing their powers and obligations, speed up the codification of institutional setup, functions, purviews, procedures and responsibilities, strengthen checks on and oversight over administrative power, and see to it that power is designated, disciplined, restricted and supervised in accordance with the law.

Fifth, we must understand the importance of keeping both central and local authorities motivated. The relationship between central and local authorities is always critical in our political life. In April 1956, Mao Zedong pointed out in the important report titled "On the Ten Major Relationships": "… our attention should now be focused on how to enlarge the powers of the local authorities to some extent, give them greater independence and let them do more, all on the basis that the unified leadership of the central authorities is to be strengthened. This will be advantageous to our task of building a powerful socialist country. Our territory is so vast, our population is so large and the conditions are so complex that it is far better to have the initiative come from both the central and the local authorities than from one source alone." Giving full play to the initiative of both central and local authorities has always been a fundamental principle.

We must uphold the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee when carrying out institutional reform at local levels. This is essential for ensuring the smooth implementation of policies and orders from the central authorities across the country. As a unitary state, local Party committees and governments must first of all ensure effective implementation of the decisions and plans of the Central Committee. The nature of our state and the duties of local authorities determine that the setup of key institutions at the provincial, city and county levels must basically correspond with that of the central authorities and should not be multifarious. Other than this, local authorities should be allowed to set up institutions in certain fields in accordance with local conditions, so as to adapt to the needs of social management and public services and bring into full play the initiative of the localities. In recent years, some central departments have interfered with the setup of local institutions, some exerting control through projects and finance, others through assessments and inspections, and still others through speaking directly to provincial Party secretaries and governors. Although the intention of these departments is to maintain the coherence of the vertical institutional setup, and to make their own systems operate well, they should not ignore the overall situation and harm the initiatives of local authorities. Here I declare that other than as authorized by the Central Committee, no department shall intervene in any way in the setup of local institutions.

Quotas on the number of institutions represent the main binding limit on institutional setup at the provincial, city and county levels, and an issue of common concern to localities. Reform must follow strict and standard management and give sufficient consideration to local realities. The number of Party institutions and government agencies should be counted together and must not exceed the total quota, and Party and government institutions at sub-department, sub-division and sub-section levels under provincial, city and county governments as well as public institutions with administrative functions are to be included in quota management. The current quotas should be adjusted accordingly. All local authorities must meet their quota by dissolving departments established without proper procedures, ending the malpractice of "cloning" organizations4 , and doing away with "public institutions" set up without authorization.

In this round of reform, based on the experience of pilot reform projects in some localities, we have set a new requirement of establishing community-level administrative systems that are simple and highly efficient. Our main idea is to integrate community-level institutions for approvals, services and law enforcement, use institutional staffing resources in a coordinated manner, and establish comprehensive institutions by integrating relevant functions. We should try our best to let community-level institutions have access to resources, provide services and be vested with management responsibilities. We must ensure that community affairs are run by communities themselves, that community-level powers are delegated to communities, and that there are people responsible for community affairs. We should make life convenient for the public by ensuring that they can get problems solved at one single department and with one-stop service. It is made clear in this round of reform that higher-level institutions need to improve their leadership over community-level institutions. Both the "one to many" model in which one community-level institution undertakes assignments from multiple superior institutions and the "many to one" model in which different community-level institutions request instructions from and report to the same higher-level institution can coexist.

* Part of the speech at the second full assembly of the Third Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee.


1 Wu Jing: Governance of the Zhenguan Period (Zhen Guan Zheng Yao)

2 Deng Xiaoping: "On Reform of the Political Structure", Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Vol. III, Eng. ed., Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1994, p. 181. 

V. I. Lenin: "'Left-Wing' Communism – an Infantile Disorder", V. I. Lenin: Collected Works, Vol. 31, Eng. ed., Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966, pp. 44-45. 

4 Some Party or government institutions have a principal title and one or more subsidiary names, which might be used for non-core activities. "Cloning" occurs when a subsidiary name is converted into a real organization and provided with staff and other resources, for the purpose of expanding areas of jurisdiction and power. – Tr.

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