China's Environmental Super Ministry Reform: Background, Challenges and the Future

21 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2008

See all articles by Mark Qiu

Mark Qiu

Vermont Law School

Honglin Li

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: September 24, 2008


On March 15, 2008, China's 11th National People's Congress passed the super ministry reform (SMR) motion proposed by the State Council and created five "super ministries," mostly combinations of two or more previous ministries or departments. The main purpose of this SMR was to avoid overlapping governmental responsibilities by combining departments with similar authority and closely related functions. One of the highlights was the elevation of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) to the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), which we also refer to as the environmental super ministry reform.

The reference to "super ministry" is short-hand for the creation of a "comprehensive responsibilities super administrative ministry framework". In order to promote comprehensive management and coordination, several departments are merged into a new entity, the "super ministry", based on their similar goals and responsibilities. By enlarging the ministry's responsibilities and authority, the reform essentially turns some inter-department tasks to intra-department issues, so one single department can cope with comprehensive problems from multiple perspectives, avoiding overlapping responsibilities and authority. Thus, administrative efficiency is increased and administrative costs are reduced.

During this super ministry reform, MEP was upgraded and was the only department to retain its organizational structure and governmental responsibilities. This demonstrates the strong political will and commitment of China's central government to environmental protection.

This article first introduces the background of the SMR, followed by a discussion of the motivations and positive impacts of the SMR in the environmental protection sector. The authors then analyze significant problems of the current environmental protection administrative framework, which the environmental super ministry reform can potentially solve but so far has not touched. Finally, the article presents recommendations on key issues for future development.

Keywords: China super ministry reform, China Ministry of Environmental Protection, Environmental Regulation in China, institutional reform

JEL Classification: K23, K32, L51, L52

Suggested Citation

Qiu, Mark and Li, Honglin, China's Environmental Super Ministry Reform: Background, Challenges and the Future (September 24, 2008). Environmental Law Reporter, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Mark Qiu (Contact Author)

Vermont Law School ( email )

68 North Windsor Street
P.O. Box 60
South Royalton, VT 05068
United States


Honglin Li

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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