Super-MII on its way

01 Apr 2008

Farewell MII. Hello MII.

After ten years, China's Ministry for Information Industry has been phased out. In its place, reflecting the government's new emphasis on 'industralization' and 'informatization', is the Ministry for Industry and Information.

The new MII retains all its old functions of administering telecom carriers, hardware and software firms, setting IT and comms standards and regulating internet content.

But as one of five new 'super-ministries', it now has carriage of industry development across all of the telecom, IT and electronics sectors. And tobacco.

It is taking off the hands of its arch-rival, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), all of the industry development functions it formerly held.

Broader focus

The NDRC, which has challenged the MII for control over telecom and IT development in the last half decade, has been told to focus on the macro-economy. It will 'fade out from involvement in micromanagement of the economy and reduce its examination and approval of specific projects,' state news agency Xinhua reported.

The two departments went head to head last year over regulation of the over-supplied and under-performing domestic handset sector. While the MII called for a halt in the issue of new licenses, the NDRC deregulated to allow the market to drive consolidation.

The MII also acquired the functions of the State Council Informatization Office, the defense science and technology group Costindo and the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration. It has set up a new State Defense Technologies Industry Bureau to develop defense and security-related ICTs.

The department's new minister is Li Yizhong, the current head of the State Administration of Work Safety and a former deputy director of the state asset management agency SASAC.
The creation of the new MII is part of an effort to reshape the central government bureaucracy. However, the restructure, which was approved by the National People's Congress on March 15, managed to cut the number of agencies under the State Council from 28 to 27.

The new department is unlikely to be fully-operational until the third quarter, by which time it will be expected to have slimmed the number of carriers from six to three and to have issued 3G licenses.

In the face of this work overload, a group of NPC delegates has called for the creation of an independent telecom regulatory body within the MII.

The delegates, comprising China Netcom Henan general manager Shen Mingcai and 17 others, propose setting up a dedicated regulator to carry out research and planning, direct communications during major crises, regulate standards, and administer telecoms trade issues, among other things.

They said the industry's scale and scope required needed a unified national administration. They noted that independent regulators had been established in more than 100 markets worldwide, and were standard in most developed economies.

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