context: When Beijing has wanted to engage in self-criticism, officials have not been shy about airing their views, even in the past few years when some debate has clearly been stifled. But given the widely acknowledged slowdown, discussions of problems in economic policy-making had largely been off-limits. That period appears to be at an end.

At the China Economists 50 Forum on 16 Feb 2019, Xu Zhong 徐忠 People’s Bank of China Research Bureau director-general said that some policy documents avoid difficult areas of reform and eschew practical issues which need resolution. He attributes these tendencies to

  • process of policy document formulation and mechanisms of accountability
    • division chiefs lead drafting; departmental interests and differences in understanding make coordination difficult
    • issues on which they disagree are removed from documents due to specified and hard deadlines for issuing reform plans
  • documents aiming to be all-inclusive, which makes them vague on how things should be done
    • relevant departments are required to introduce implementation details
    • many documents are issued and when the intended purpose is not achieved that impacts market entities
  • documents lacking in market-orientation and incentives
  • administrative departments having great discretion
    • issuing laws, regulations and systems requires communication and coordination from top to bottom in legislative departments
    • divergent opinions are not written into law
    • administrative departments issue rules, standards and operating procedures