President Xi calls for improvements in China's ability to prevent, defuse risks
President Xi Jinping has underlined the importance of improving the country's emergency management, which he called a crucial element in capacity for governance.
Xi presided over a group study session of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on Friday when it examined the country's emergency management systems and capabilities.
Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said China has suffered some of the world's most serious natural disasters and faces an increasing number of factors that endanger public safety. He called for strengthening emergency management for the long run.
China is exposed to an array of natural hazards, including droughts, earthquakes, floods, heat waves, landslides, severe cold, typhoons and volcanoes. In recent decades, frequent natural disasters have caused high loss of life and damage to property in the country, endangering the country's development gains.
Xi said this reflects the important responsibility of the government to prevent and defuse major safety risks and cope with various hazards in a timely manner, as well as to fulfill the important missions of protecting people's lives and property and maintaining social stability.
Noting that the country's systems and capabilities for handling natural disasters and dealing with accidents in the workplace have been improving, Xi urged additional efforts to further modernize by giving full play to the systems' features and advantages.
The country should improve its mechanisms for preventing and defusing risks, strengthen safety assessments in key sectors - for example, hazardous chemicals, mining, road transportation and firefighting - and enhance its capabilities in comprehensive monitoring and early warning for various hazards, Xi said.
He also called for strengthening emergency plan management, precise administration and law-based management, adding that public safety awareness should be intensified through education.
The SARS epidemic in 2003 was the trigger leading to a reform of China's emergency management system.
China has designed a "one plan plus three systems" framework, namely the emergency response plan, emergency legislation system, emergency institutional system and the emergency regulatory system, said Xue Lan, an expert at the Center for Crisis Management Research of Tsinghua University in Beijing.
These comprehensive systems and contingency plans will lead to an integrated response during emergencies.
In 2007, the Chinese government adopted and enacted the Emergency Response Law. The purpose of the law is to prevent and reduce the occurrence of emergencies; control, mitigate and eliminate the serious social harm caused by emergencies; regulate activities in response to emergencies; protect the lives and property of the people; and maintain national security, public security, environmental safety and public order.
Xi highlighted the need for China to strengthen its emergency rescue teams with qualified and highly professional and skilled people capable of effective action, including enhanced air rescue ability.
He also called for strengthening technological support for emergency equipment through research and development to optimize and integrate various science and technology resources and promote independent technological innovation. Leveraging information technology is also essential, he said.
Xi urged Party committees and governments at all levels to take major responsibility and devote themselves to the task.
Xue, who is also the dean of the School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University, recommended that the government clearly assign defined functions in contingency planning in order to acknowledge and engage relevant stakeholders, such as individual citizens, and to enhance community participation to build up community resilience.
The Sichuan earthquake in 2008 catalyzed the enactment of the National Emergency Response Plan for Natural Disaster Relief in October 2011, which has reinforced the leading role of the government, especially the central government, in disaster relief work.
China's reinstitution of the disaster management system since 2008 proved to be effective in mobilizing the top-down bureaucracy to cope with the earthquake that hit Lushan county, Sichuan province, in April 2013.
In 2018, the Chinese government inaugurated a new ministry of emergency management as part of its massive government overhaul. The new ministry has played an important role in solving existing problems within the state architecture.
The new ministry has taken on disaster management powers and resources that were previously spread over 13 other ministerial departments, thus becoming the sole agency in charge of emergency response.
The State Council, China's Cabinet, has entrusted the new ministry with the responsibility for compiling and implementing emergency management plans, as well as organizing rescue and relief for disasters and workplace accidents.
Liu Bing, a staff member of the School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University, said some local authorities have taken the initiative in building emergency management committees, which include local Party, government and military officials. As ad hoc institutions, they hold meetings for solutions when contingencies emerge.
"It is a successful approach that brings the Party, government and military together for coordinated efforts," Liu said.
At Friday's session, Xi said care should be taken to ensure that rescue teams feel honored in their chosen career, given that rescue efforts require great dedication and sacrifice.