July 23, 2013

China bans construction of government buildings

Across China, grand government buildings with oversized offices and fancy lighting have mushroomed in many cities, alienating many ordinary citizens.

By Louise Watt / The Associated Press

BEIJING — China's leaders have banned the construction of government buildings for five years as another step in a frugality drive that aims to address public anger at corruption.

click image to enlarge

This building in Fuyang city in eastern China's Anhui province is an example of the grand government buildings that have proliferated across China in recent years.

AP

The general offices of the Communist Party's central committee and the State Council — China's Cabinet — jointly issued the directive Tuesday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. No directive was immediately available online.

Across China, grand government buildings with oversized offices and fancy lighting including chandeliers have mushroomed in many cities. They are often among the most impressive buildings in their own towns, drawing disapproval from the public.

President Xi Jinping has spearheaded a campaign to cut through pomp, formality and waste among senior officials that have alienated many ordinary citizens.

This year, high-end restaurants have reported a downturn in business as government departments and state-owned companies canceled banquets.

Xinhua reported that the directive orders an "across-the-board halt" to construction of official buildings, and "glitzy" structures built as training centers, hotels or government motels. Some government agencies have built such buildings in seaside resorts and other scenic spots as a perk for their officials and employees who can stay for free or at deeply discounted prices. They sometimes open to the public as profit-making ventures.

"Some office buildings use up a lot of money, there are operating costs and a lot of money is spent on people eating and drinking which all comes from government funds, so it's a kind of corruption," said Liu Shanying, a politics researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. The five-year construction ban is a significant move to fight corruption, he said.

The directive forbids luxury interior design and the expansion of office compounds that is done under the guise of repair work, according to Xinhua. It also says that officials with more than one post should have only one office while the offices of those who have retired or taken leave should be returned in time.

Xinhua said the directive noted that some departments and localities have built government office compounds in violation of regulations, which has tainted the image of the Communist Party and the government and stirred vehement public disapproval.

It added that the directive calls on party and government bodies to be frugal and ensure that government spending goes toward developing the economy and boosting living standards.

There have been restrictions on constructing new government buildings in the past, but they have not always been implemented well at local levels, said Liu.

Even the offices of some heads of rural counties are sometimes up to 200 square meters (2,150 square feet) in size, "maybe even bigger than the U.S. president's office," said Liu.

 

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