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China reduces red tape
For Carma Elliot, the British Consulate General to the west China metropolitan of Chongqing, one of the primary reason that she has never been bored by hosting frequent diplomatic activities is that she does not need to go through time-consuming approvals.
The diplomat who arrived in China two years ago said that she is a beneficiary of China's reform of simplifying administrative examination and approval procedures.
Now, Elliot is an ardent sponsor of numerous Sino-British symposiums, exhibitions and other forms of exchanges. Her contacts with the cultural, construction and environment protection departments of Chongqing have never been hindered by the complexity of seals of approval.
"This is a sharp contrast to 18 years ago," Elliot said.
At that time as a student enrolled by the Fudan University in Shanghai to study Chinese she was kept waiting for more than two months before she could get her wish and be allowed to come to China. Later when she wanted to travel from Shanghai to Yunnan Province in southwest China, she had to have an introduction letter stamped with over a dozen seals.
Foreigners coming to China nowadays have only to wait one week, and over 20 entry ports in China grant provisional visas to foreigners who apply for instant entry.
China's accession into the World Trade Organization has given the impetus to the country's administrative reforms. In Chongqing, the municipal government discontinued 110 examination procedures over the past two years, and announced that government departments must finish routine approval procedures within seven working days. Procedures that need more than 15 working days should be reported to higher authorities.
When Du Jiang, a native Chongqing resident, returned from studying for his master's degree in computer science in the Republic of Korea, he was astounded by the government's one-off approval service for his newly established software business in the city's high-tech development zone.
Before he left the country two years ago, he heard that a bridge builder had to spend one year obtaining over 120 seals to get a contract for a construction project. Hearing this, Du almost decided not to come home to set up his business.
Inherited from the planning economic era, officials seals with the power of approval not only damage the investment environment in regions where investment is urgently needed, but also nurture a breeding ground for corruption.
Li Guang, a software expert with the Wuhan University in central China's Hubei Province, said that current international economic competition is a contest of the administrative efficiency of governments. This presents a big challenge to China.
In large Chinese cities like Beijing, Tianjin and Shenzhen, administrative reforms have entered the second phase, during which governments in these cities are trying out various ways to become more efficient ranging from opening approval centers and one-off approval halls to offering examinations and approvals on-line in order to hasten government approval services and expedite government efficiency.
"The improved administrative environment has injected a great vitality into Chongqing's economic growth, which saw a nine percent GDP growth rate last year," said Bao Xuding, mayor of Chongqing, China's most populous metropolitan.
Simplifying government approval authorizations has not weakened the governments' administrative power, but has allowed it to concentrate on more important and urgent matters such as maintaining the market order and protecting the environment, the mayor said.
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