China's sci-tech ministry reform aimed at breakthroughs, better resource allocation
The Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China, April 11, 2022. /CFP
The Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China, April 11, 2022. /CFP

The Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China, April 11, 2022. /CFP

China's State Council announced a series of plans for restructuring its bureaus on Tuesday, which includes reforms aimed at better allocation of resources for core technologies at the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The restructured ministry will play a bigger role in developing a new system for mobilizing the nation to make technological breakthroughs, optimizing sci-tech innovation, facilitating application of sci-tech advances, and coordinating science and technology with socioeconomic development, according to a reform plan of the State Council institutions submitted to China's national legislature for deliberation on Tuesday.

A number of existing management responsibilities and several agencies subordinate to the Ministry of Science and Technology will be transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the National Health Commission, and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

In addition, the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, which was integrated with the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2018, will be operated under the State Council and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

More importantly, the reorganized ministry will no longer be involved in the evaluation and management of specific scientific research projects, the plan said.

"Facing international sci-tech competition and external containment and suppression, China needs to further smooth its leadership and management system for science and technology-related work," said State Councilor Xiao Jie when explaining the reform plan to national lawmakers. 

A streamlined ministry

Prior to this restructuring, the ministry was like a "big house" for everything related to science and technology, including the oversight of technological breakthroughs, funds allocation and foreign experts recruitment and management, said Qu Qiang, the assistant director of the International Monetary Institute at Renmin University.

"Right now they are trying to streamline the functions, and be centralized and more focused on technological breakthroughs," Qu said in a interview with CGTN.

Echoing with Qu's viewpoint, Li Zhimin, the former director of the Science and Technology Development Center of the Ministry of Education, said that many of the ministry's responsibilities were misplaced as technological problems of each industry are best known by themselves.

After the reorganization, the ministry will still be overseeing the basic science research and managing major national science and technology projects as they usually "require pooled resources and unified leadership to advance," said Xue Lan, the dean of Schwarzman College and director of the China Institute for Science and Technology Policy at Tsinghua University.

"The ministry can focus more on managing major special projects in the future to address these more important issues," Xue said.

Also included in the plan is the establishment of a central science and technology commission, which Xue deemed the "key" in this restructuring.

Xue said that the commission "can strengthen the Party Central Committee's leadership over science and technology innovation and enhance its capability for top-level design of related work."

(CGTN's Zhao Chenchen and Gao Yun contributed to the story.)

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