In an extraordinary move, the Chinese government has moved to ban construction of all new government buildings for the next five years and disallow the Communist Party of China (CPC) and any government organisations from collaborating on construction projects.
On Tuesday, Chinese official news agency Xinhua reported that central authorities had issued a directive calling for an across the board halt to all new developments of government buildings and expensive government structures and banning both the CPC and banning government organisations from receiving any form of construction or donations or collaborating with private enterprise on construction projects.
Furthermore, while restoration of existing buildings is allowed, the directive specifies these must be aimed solely at addressing safety concerns and restoring office functions, with luxury interior decoration prohibited and no work allowed on buildings with reception functions.
The latest move, which was first flagged as early as March, comes as China’s new President Zi Jinping aims to demonstrate his sincerity in addressing corruption and wasting public money.
Corruption has long been considered a problem in China, which is ranked 80th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (2012) and 27th out of 28 countries in TI’s Bribe Payers Index (2011). TI ranks China's budget openness as ‘scant or none.’
Xi has pledged to crack down on corruption at all levels, saying it threatens the future of the Communist Party.
A number of low and mid-ranked officials have been investigated since he became the leader of the CPC in November.
Public sector building projects have been a specific area of concern. According to the directive, "some departments and localities have built government office compounds in violation of regulations."
Furthermore, public tensions have arisen in recent years amid reports of extravagant buildings, including a local government office in poverty-stricken Anhui province covering an area larger than the US Pentagon and a government building in central Jiangxi province with a $US45 million ($AU48.9 million) mechanical clock tower.
The new directive also comes as the government seeks to restore balance to the country’s economy, which is overly reliant on investment - especially public sector investment - as opposed to consumption.