Date
20 November 2017
Local administrations in China have tended to set up unnecessary, and sometimes weird, bureaus to address, mostly short-term problems.
Local administrations in China have tended to set up unnecessary, and sometimes weird, bureaus to address, mostly short-term problems.

China reforms squash ‘Office of Watermelon’, other bureaus

Chinese authorities have closed down across the nation more than 130,000 government bureaus that were deemed unnecessary or superfluous, as part of a broad campaign to improve administrative efficiency, according to state media.

The departments that were shut include an “Office of Watermelon” and an “Office to Prevent Drinking at Noon”, Xinhua news agency said. Both those departments were said to be in Henan province.

The move comes as local administrations had in the past often set up small agencies to deal with specific short-term issues. In knee-jerk fashion, officials set up various bodies, describing them as “leading group on XXX” or “Coordination office on XXX”.

However, many of them turned out to be unnecessary. The organizations actually lowered the overall administrative efficiency, or sometimes even caused additional hardship to market players.

The “Office of Watermelon”, for instance, was established in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, in 2006 to “coordinate sales of watermelon in the city by famers from suburban areas… and to provide post-sales services for the farmers”.

But a China Central Television investigation later showed that the office required farmers to collect four official “stamps” in order to sell their watermelons in Zhengzhou. The stamps, of course, came with a certain amount of “administrative fee”.

Also in Henan province, the county of Ningling set up an office in 2012 to ensure that public servants and staff of major public organizations do not drink in the middle of the day.

In another case, in February 2011, netizens were shocked as they encountered pictures of an “Office of Do it Right Now” in Jining city in Shandong province. Although the local government claimed that it was aimed at underlining work productivity and that it had delivered good results, the general public was not convinced.

A person told Xinhua that the threshold for setting a “leading group” is relatively low at local governments. Sometimes, the cadres just need to issue a notice of establishment. Some of the organizations that were set in this way did not even hold a formal meeting or do any substantial work before they “disappeared”, the person added.

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EJ Insight reporter

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