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1 Nov, 2014

Chinese austerity drive sees 25% of govt meetings cancelled

By An Baijie

Beijing, (China Daily), 2014-10-30 – China’s government departments have canceled 586,000 unnecessary meetings amid the “mass-line” campaign that aims to improve work style and get close to the people, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The canceled meetings account for about a quarter of the 2.38 million conferences held annually by government departments, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

If each meeting lasts about half an hour, it would take more than 33 years to finish the meetings that have been canceled.

The campaign, launched in June last year, requires government officials to clean up undesirable work styles such as formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance.

In December 2012, the newly elected leadership of the Communist Party of China, led by General Secretary Xi Jinping, called on the authorities to save costs and shorten government conferences.

A department-level official told People’s Daily that he had attended 1,068 meetings in 2012.

“Once I found 15 documents for conferences on my desk when I got to my office in the morning,” he was quoted as saying.

Zheng Bin, a civil servant in Rizhao, Shandong province, said that many officials like to hold meetings when they are required to implement rules from upper-level departments.

“Many government meetings are meaningless and tedious, but the officials have to attend them day after day,” he said.

The public has also criticized the low efficiency and high costs of government meetings in recent years.

According to the budget released in January by Huadu district of Guangzhou city, the local government planned to spend 28.5 million yuan ($4.66 million) on conferences this year. On average, there would be 110,000 yuan of public money spent on conferences every workday.

Zhou Shuzhen, a professor of anti-graft research at Renmin University of China, said that government departments should publicize detailed expenses of conferences for public supervision.

Many government departments spend a lot of money on conferences at the end of the year so they can apply for more funds for next year’s budget, she said.

Wang Qishan, secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, China’s top anti-graft watchdog, said on Friday that the CPC’s anti-graft campaign and its efforts to build a clean government will never end.

“The discipline of a ruling party with more than 86 million members is connected to its popularity among the people and the destiny of the country,” Wang said during a meeting with overseas members of the advisory board of Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management.