China’s top science and technology supervisory body will be reorganized as the country strives for technological breakthroughs and self-sufficiency.

This year’s national legislative meetings approved a massive government overhaul, which includes the second shakeup of the Ministry of Science and Technology since 2018. A new financial watchdog and a national data regulator are included in the overhaul.

The science and technology ministry will be spared from evaluating and managing specific research projects, some of its divisions will be divested and related responsibilities will be transferred to other government departments, and a central science and technology commission will be set up to oversee and coordinate science-related policymaking will be implemented.

According to the State Council’s overhaul plan, the reorganized ministry will play a larger role in coordinating science and technology with economic and social development, optimizing science and technology innovation, facilitating application, and mobilizing resources for technological breakthroughs.

Washington has been pressuring allies to join its actions to restrict high-tech exports to China, choking a growing list of Chinese companies. China faces growing challenges to access advanced technologies in developed countries amid growing competition with the United States.

In response to international competition in the field of science and technology as well as external containment and suppression, China’s State Councilor Xiao Jie advised lawmakers that the country needed to further refine its leadership and management system for work related to science and technology.

According to Xue Lan, dean of Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing, “the management of technology development is becoming more challenging while global competition heats up.” “The importance of technology innovation is growing with state input and social expectations.” The reshuffle indicates a desire to implement reform to address issues.

Thinning down

A feature of the upgrade is to reposition the service to continue its job as policymaker and rule-production substance while decreasing its support as a player, said Li Xia, head of the School of History and Culture of Study of Shanghai Jiao Tong College.

Li stated that the restructuring will result in changes to the enormous funds managed by the ministry and reallocation of resources among the ministry and other departments.

The science and technology ministry has played a variety of roles over the years, including macro planning and management of research funding as well as the formulation of technology policy. Among the 40 central government R&D funding management departments, the ministry managed the allocation of 45.3 billion yuan ($6.59 billion) for research and development in 2020, which was the largest. An additional 31.6 billion yuan was managed by its affiliate, the National Natural Science Foundation. Over half of China’s R&D funding comes from the science and technology ministry.

The science and technology ministry has long been criticized for its dual function of policymaker and research fund manager. An article written by Yao Yi, Lu Bai, and Zou Chenglu in 2004 called for the ministry’s policymaking and fund-management functions to be separated.

According to Li at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the restructuring will reduce the enormous amount of funding in the ministry’s portfolio.

A fundamental component of the update will be to strip a few explicit obligations and related subsidizing the board authority from the sci-tech service and move them to different divisions, including the Service of Horticulture and Provincial Issues, the Public Turn of events and Change Commission, the Service of Nature and Climate, the Public Wellbeing Commission and the Service of Industry and Data Innovation.

According to the plan, the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, which was established in 2018 within the science and technology ministry to oversee the importation of foreign talent, will be transferred to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

The sci-tech service will never again partake in the assessment and the executives of explicit examination projects, Xiao said during the administrative gathering. According to Xiao, the ministry will primarily be responsible for directing and supervising the management of scientific research professional organizations, directing the implementation of scientific research projects, and evaluating the results.

There are currently four affiliated organizations involved in the ministry’s day-to-day operations, fund management, and research project evaluation. The organizations will be split up and assigned to other departments under the plan for restructuring.

The restructuring, according to experts, will improve scientific project management efficiency. But some people said that the change isn’t enough. Li claims that the ministry will continue to oversee the National Science and Technology Major Project, which is funded by tens of billions of yuan. “Li stated that the majority of the money has not been spent.

Future function China’s reorganization of the ministry is also viewed as a crucial step toward bolstering a state-led effort to seek technological breakthroughs and advance the application of new technologies.

Experts stated that the establishment of a Central Science and Technology Commission in the ministry as part of the reshuffle plan would strengthen the Communist Party’s leadership in technological and scientific innovation and enhance top-level policy design capabilities.

According to Sun Yutao, a professor at the School of Economics and Management at Dalian University of Technology who has been studying China’s research funding policies for a long time, there have long been difficulties in the coordination of scientific and technological work because tasks are scattered across many departments within the State Council and the science and technology ministry had limited power to coordinate work with other ministries at the same level.

Sun stated that the ministry’s emphasis on scientific and technological advancement has increased despite the restructuring’s intention to streamline it. The Central Science and Technology Commission is high enough to work with other departments to coordinate their efforts.

Xue stated that the sci-tech ministry would become the commission’s executive body and that the commission would have greater authority in formulating scientific and technological policy as an entity directly under the Communist Party’s Central Committee.