|The Rethinking of the Reform of Government Functions und
1. Issues Raised
The phase characteristics of the “new normal” economy are steady economic growth, improved structure, and harmonious society. It calls for innovating the idea and ways of macro-control and nurturing the lasting driving force. Essentially, the “new normal” economy derives drive from reforming, support from adjusting structure, and potential from improving people’s livelihood. The government needs to transform its functions by stimulating economic growth, improving weak links, and strengthening the entity economy, so that the market can genuinely play its role. Through adopting effective policies, the government can increase the effective supply of public goods and improve its governance competence. The core features of the “new normal” economy are primarily emerging, which raises new challenges to the government’s social governance, such as the complicated relationship between the government and the market and between the government and the society, and the increasing differentiation of the diversity and gradation of the appeals of interest from different social groups. This article proposes that in transforming its functions under the background of the “new normal” economy, the government not only needs to clarify and reestablish its relationship with the market, streamline government and delegate authorities, and allow the market to play the decisive role, but also needs to change the way of performing its functions, from direct management to indirect management, and from control-oriented to service-oriented. The government should improve its competence, and shifting its ability from management to response, prospective planning, communication and cooperation. It should work on defining its functions, the way of fulfilling its functions and adjusting the ability structure.
2. Clarifying the Boundaries of Government Functions
The government functions are the responsibilities and faculties of the government organizations. In regards to what the government functions are, one answer is about what the government does, i.e., its responsibilities and duties. The government functions are the collection of responsibilities shouldered by the political subject in the state political life and social life to express public values and to achieve public interest in accordance with certain regulations and statutory procedures. They are generated from the state administrative organs’ position being the main body of administrative power and stipulated in the Constitution and other laws. The other answer to that question is the administrative organs’ basic responsibilities and functions in managing the social public affairs.
However, the above understanding of the government functions is only confined to a narrow sense. In the?World Development Report?(hereafter referred to as the “Report”) released by the World Bank in 1997, the state functions (the government functions) are classified into “minimal”, “medium” and “proactive”. The minimal functions refer to the provision of public goods, such as national defense, legal order, property rights, and justice promotion. The medium functions are responsive to the external factors, such as education, environmental protection, anti-monopolization, financial supervision and family allowance. The proactive functions are coordinating private activities, establishing the market and redistributing wealth.
Since states come into being, what the government should do and what role it should play in the social development have always been a focus for the government. In fact, the government functions are the basic responsibilities that the government shoulders to manage the country and social public affairs during a certain period. They define the limit, extent and manner how the government wields its power. The scope of government functions may change due to changes of politics, economy and governance modes in the social development. The change of government functions may be affected by various factors, especially by the relationship between the government and the society and between the government and the market.
Looking from the historical development, the contents and scale of what the government manages are becoming more and more complicated and tricky with the development of economy. According to Max Weber, a state is a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. Generally speaking, administration comes into being with the inception of states. The economic foundation of the slave society is that the slave-owners own all production means, including the slaves. The slaves are ruled by the slave-owners. In the feudal society, administration is seen as the continuation of the ruling of the slave society. It doesn’t change that administration is the direct instrument of political control. What changes is the ruling class which control administration. Either in the salve society or the feudal society, administration is taken for granted as the instrument the state employs to achieve the class rule. The basic function of administrative activities was to exert oppression. This kind of administration was called as “ruling administration” by Professor Zhang Kangzhi, and “it is a lower-level administration management model, in which political rights and administrative powers were not separated, and the supreme power was held in the sovereign, from whom all officials were delegated powers and to whom they pledged their loyalty. In the era of ruling administration, politics assumed a ruling position at the top of the social governance structure. Administration was not separated from and still subject to politics. Social governance was exclusive to the rulers, and civilians had no right to participate in this respect, let alone enjoying public services. Public powers were concentrated on the rulers, who solved problems by the compulsoriness of powers.
In the modern society, the state itself is differentiating more and more eminently with the development of society. Politics was no longer intermingled with administration and the state’s ruling functions were in passive correlation with administrative responsibilities.
In the dominant period of capitalism, especially after the World War II, the prevalence of Keynesianism provided theoretical foundation for the government’s intervention into the market. The government forwent its role as a night watch and started intervening into the social life comprehensively, which to some extent gave a touch of administration to the state. The “state administration” in the 1950s and the 60s was a vivid depiction of administrative egomanias. Afterwards, New Public Management Movement proposed to readjust the relationship between the government and the society and the market, and to narrow the scope of the government functions to make sure the government can manage well. The new public management theory sets public services as its core values and goal, requiring the government to provide responsive services according to the customers’ needs.
After the global financial crisis in 2008, what the economists’ top concern is what role the government should assume in the market economy countries. More and more people call for government intervention. In fact, not all market defects need government intervention, which might be more detrimental and costly.?
Those 30 years since the reform and opening up have witnessed the changes of our government functions. Not until the Communique and the?Decisions?of Third Plenary Session of the 18th?CPC Central Committee confirmed the leading role of the market and orientated the transformation of the government functions, China had been practicing planned economy and the administrative orders were dominating. In the new situation, the government functions should be proactive, re-coordinating or re-constructing the relationship between the government and the market, the government and the society, and the central government and the local government.
Proactive government functions demand us to look at the government functions from a multi-dimensional and dynamic angle. The government has many levels. The organization of the government of the lower level is correspondent to that of the higher level and similar to that of the same level. This way of organization makes the duty division between higher and lower level government unclear. Government of different level should have different responsibilities. Therefore, to improve the relationship between the central government and the local government, we should, on the one hand, strengthen the centralization of power, build fair, open and transparent market rules, and implement uniform market access system; on the other hand, we should divide power squarely between the central and the local government.
“Market-government-society” are the horizontal line in the government’s social governance. The government must withdraw from competitive fields and shift its focus to creating fair environment, so that it can better practice macro-economic control. In other respects, such as education reform, reform of income distribution mechanism, and reform of social security system, the government should put more efforts. The way of social management should change from management to governance, which represents equal cooperation and consultation between many subjects. In the relationship between the government, the market and the society, the government should adjust its position according to the needs of the market and social development and delegate power to the latter two.
3. Transforming the way of fulfilling government functions
From the history of administration theory studies, the connotation of administration is in line with the social development. Traditionally, administration has the shade of management. The thinking and logic of the traditional way of management are based on the separation of politics and administration. The public administration started from the 20th?century was the result of the evolution of the popular sovereignty. The characteristic of public administration is publicness, which means that the government’s administration and its process serve the public interest, represent the public will and provide public services. In the late 20th?century, the previous way of administration was no longer sustainable. The concept of “public administration” was introduced to describe the situation where the government and other social forces co-govern the society, advocating the diversity of the subjects of the public administration. The new public management movement advocated a market-oriented government, which push forwards reform through the market. The government is to serve, not to steer. The administrative officials are supposed to help civilians express their common interest and meet their needs, instead of trying to control the society to develop in another direction.
In the post-industrial society, the government must change its behavioral model from the control-oriented one to the guidance-oriented one when confronting various conflicts and problems. The guidance-oriented government can attract more parties to join into social governance, forming a governance structure where the government, the market, the society and the civilians can join together to interact with each other. The government will change its role from a ruler or regulator to a more equal and interactive subject. Meanwhile, it can attract other social force to join into social governance by guidance. The government positions itself as a server, which means it will undergo a fundamental transformation from management to service in the type of government as well as the administrative model.
The Decisions of Third Plenary Session of the 18th?CPC Central Committee pointed out that “we need to innovate the way of administrative management, strengthen the government’s public credibility and executive ability, so that we can build a progressing and service-oriented government. Chi Fulin believes that the key to building a service-oriented government is to push forwards the construction of the government centered to public service and the transformation of the government stick to delegating power, separating power and restricting power. The government not only needs to change its functions, but also needs to improve and innovate its way of performing its responsibilities. It should combine management and services, punishment and counselling, motives and results, and goals and processes. Meanwhile, it should change its administration from a direct and micro-interfering way to an indirect and macro-managing way, from a single administrative way to multiple governing way, from a compulsory and close way to an interactive and open way.
Streamlining government and delegating authorities are the breaking point for transforming the government functions. The reform of administrative practice is to change examining-and-approving style management to in-matter management and after-matter management. The modern market economy needs to regulate the failures of the market and the micro-economic subjects, while effective regulation is mainly after-matter supervision instead of pre-matter examination and approval. The goal of streamlining government and delegating authorities is to push forwards from reducing examination and approval to delegating authorities, supervision, and services. Hence, the crux of the reform of economic system is to deepen the reform of administrative examination and approval system and to further clarify the relationship between the government and the market. The relationship between delegating authorities and returning authorities must be handled properly. The aim of delegating authorities is to improve the relationship between different levels of government, eliminating the situation where authorities are over-centralized and the local government has no autonomy. The government returns authorities to the market and the society in order to nurture a better relationship with the other two sides. In this process, the government needs to further streamline examination and approval procedures and reduce chargeable items. Giving back authorities to the society needs to, on the one hand, rid of the restrictions imposed on the social organizations, and on the other hand, it needs to innovate the supply of public services, expanding the service loads that are procured from the society. As long as the market and the social organizations are fit, commission, outsource or give procurement to the market and the social organizations, so as to improve the efficiency and quality of the supply of public services.
4. Adjusting the ability structure of the government
With the advancement of governance era and the change of the administrative climate, it becomes more and more evident that the government needs to improve its governance ability. The government functions are concerned about responsibilities and abilities. The responsibilities are what the government needs to do, and the abilities are the government’s public administrative competence. If responsibilities are conferred upon, concerning what the government should do and shouldn’t do, abilities would be self-made, regarding how and when the government needs to solve problems. Responsibilities and abilities are mutually conditional and interdependent. In different countries or in different period of a country, the structure and strengths of the government’s abilities are different, as some government is very able in management, while weak in other fields.
The responsive ability is the ability to actively respond to people’s needs. It emphasizes the publicness of the public administration, i.e., meeting people’s and the society’s needs. The modern government is public conscious, continuously innovating its institution, organization and resource management to meet the demands of responsive ability from the pluralistic public interest, so as to win support from the people. The government’s response to people’s needs is not only an important criterion for evaluating the ability of the modern government, but also a factor for assessing its performance. The responsive ability is where the government needs to improve in the governance construction of the government.
However, in retrospect of the reform of the administrative management system since the reform and opening up, we can use the word “adjust” to describe the mainstream discourse of Chinese public administration most appropriately, such as “adjust to globalization”, and “adjust to the socialist market system”. In this adjusting model, the studies of public administration only remained on the stage about explaining the adjustment of function transformation and organization reform, but overlooked the development and object of administrative management. In the age of complexity and uncertainty, the government’s responsive abilities are already far behind the people’s needs. The government also need to equip itself with prospective abilities and executive abilities when it advocate responsive abilities.
Some scholar proposes that public administration should not only focus on efficiency and responsive abilities, but also nurture its ability to push forwards social development and dominate the trend of politics, economy and culture. In substitute of responsive abilities with prospective abilities, it doesn’t mean to discard responsive ability but only tries to position a new administrative ability. Responsive abilities and prospective abilities are included in the operational behavioral model of the government. The service-oriented government’s abilities should be more prospective than responsive, because the service-oriented government is based on the multi-centered governance structure, or say the multi-centered governance structure and the service-oriented government are interdependent. From the perspective of organization management, the government should change it way of social management, shifting from after-matter control and punishment to prospective consideration. It should become less of the firefighter, but improve it judgement and prediction of what might happen in the long run. Meanwhile, the government needs to improve its administrative decision-making ability. Through reform, innovation, system-building and policy-making, the government needs to address social problems and conflicts.
To achieve multi-centered social governance, we needs to reiterate the central position of administrative communication in public administration and give it due attention and respect. As for the public administration system, the biggest obstacle is the lack of confidence between different subjects, i.e., between the public administrative institutions and the people, or between different departments within the public administration system. The government departments need to build a good image through communication, and start and maintain the trustful relationship with other organizations. Through communication, the government departments can achieve mutual recognition and consensus with the people, so that they can work to the same end.
Jean-Marc Coicaud proposes that a state’s mission must be recognized, which is the gauge to political responsibilities. Hence, the legitimacy of the ruler is not only judged from what action and decisions he makes under the laws and principles of the society then, but also from whether he yields effective results. The effectiveness of the government in providing public goods is the basis of its legitimacy. In a multi-centered social governance structure, we must properly handle the relationship between the government and the market, and the government and the society. The government not only needs to play a leading role, but also ensures that the market plays a decisive role in resources distribution. The government needs to retreat itself from economic activities, transforming from an omnipotent government to a limited government and finally to a service-oriented government, so as to boost economic growth. We should make the best use of social organization in social governance, forming a cultural climate in which the government and the social forces are mutually recognized, trusted and respected. Therefore, an efficient government not only needs to streamline government and delegate authorities. The key is to improve the government’s social governance ability, adjust the government’s ability structure, and strengthen its prospective ability and communication and cooperation. The government should reform its functions, the way of function performance and function structure. Through systematic adjustment of government functions, the government can form a governance structure which support innovative development, coordinated development and sharing development.
Zhang Suhong, Ph. D. Candidate of the School of Government, Nangjing University, Deputy Director of the Office of Teaching Affairs, Jinlin Institute of Technology, Associate Professor
Prof. Kong Fanbin, Deputy Director of ZMT, Senior Researcher, Dean of the School of Government, Nanjing University, Doctoral Advisor
Note:This article is excerpted from “The Rethinking of the Reform of Government Functions under the New Normal Economy”, published in?The Journal of Jiangsu Administration Institute, No. 4, 2017.