context: It is rare to see an authoritative commentary appear so quickly after a law has been released. Its appearance is likely because new regulations on civil servants caused consternation in some quarters. The increasingly invasive role of Party branches in some institutions, as well as calls for loyalty and ‘strong politics’, is of some concern to those who hope that expertise is at least as important as ideological fealty.

Zhong Zuwen 仲祖文 (pen name for Central Committee Organisation department) explains that the revised Civil Servants Law realises CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s 习近平 proposal for combining strict management and deep concern, encouragement and restraint, to extend civil servants better career prospects, and increase their motivation and sense of security regarding remuneration.

Unblocking career development channels and instituting a parallel system of duties and ranks is an important revision, says the commentary. Drawing on pilots, the reforms look to change non-leadership duties into ranks, link salaries to rank, and explain promotion conditions, thereby expanding the space in which civil servants, particularly those in the grassroots, can develop their careers and carry out their duties.

Improving mechanisms that guarantee the rights and interests of civil servants is a concrete realisation of concern for civil servants, the commentary notes. Acknowledging that civil servants have heavy workloads, are under great pressure and work overtime frequently, the commentary explains that they will receive compensation and time off in lieu. Civil servants can also exercise their legitimate rights to criticise, lodge appeals, bring charges and report offences.

The commentary insists that strict discipline and supervision builds a ‘firewall’ within which civil servants can carry out their duties correctly–that is, with a clearer sense of what is permissible and what is prohibited.