Lack of funding, China’s local governments are struggling to cut staff as Beijing demands increased security and surveillance of citizens.
In recent years, under President Xi Jinping, local authorities have hired millions of people to gather information on residents, identify security risks, and communicate national policy. seek to strengthen social control.
These same officials also said last year that Beijing’s zero-corona policy curbed growth, Made them pay for mass testing and quarantine.
their income hit hard by the real estate market crash — Land sales account for about a quarter of all local government revenues, responsible for everything from roads to health care to education.
As a result, local governments are under pressure to cut staff and cut costs. State Council, ChinaThe cabinet last month announced plans to cut its workforce by 5%.
Ming Xia, a professor of political science at the City University of New York, said, “There is a conflict between reducing civil servants and tightening scrutiny of all citizens.
According to official data, the number of government employees at the end of 2021 was 46.5 million, up 10% from 2016. .
“It’s hard to cut spending like this,” the China Academy of Finance Sciences, a finance ministry think tank, said in a report this year.
China has made great efforts in recent years to bring communities under government surveillance. The effort has gained urgency during a pandemic that has required considerable manpower to implement her stringent Covid-19 control measures, such as frequent lockdowns and mass PCR testing.
“President Xi’s decision to strengthen grassroots governance means that more community workers are needed, despite tight fiscal budgets,” CAFS researchers said.
Local governments have employed more than 4.5 million “grid managers” and “community inspection liaison officers” since 2018, according to official statistics. These officials work on everything from gathering public opinion to reporting crime and corruption in specific neighborhoods and residential buildings.
“I keep the government and the residents of my building informed of each other,” said a central Wuhan power grid administrator.
This grassroots governance overhaul has made it difficult for local governments to evict people. “The authorities don’t think people can govern themselves,” said a Shanghai-based academic and former official. “This will require governments to get bigger so they can cope with an increasingly complex society.”
With that in mind, many cities continue to expand their contract workforce despite tight budgets.
In Yongchuan District, southwestern Chongqing, where land sales fell by more than 10% last year, local authorities this week posted vacancies for 196 grid managers to create a “modern governance system.”
“Despite the limited budget, we are not in a position to cut staff,” said a Yongcheon official.
In some cities, cash shortages are so severe that they are forced to cut staff. The northeastern city of Harbin, which fell 80% last year after a 20% decline in 2021, announced in March plans to eliminate contract workers within five years to “reduce management costs.”
The city of Shiyan in central Hubei province announced this month that it had laid off 9% of its government contractors, saving 15 million yuan a year.
“We have to implement [central government’s] It is a requirement to live a frugal life,” said the Shiyan Institutional Organization Office in a statement.
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