When statistician Li Deshui criticized local governments for suspicious statistics reports at the ongoing full session of China's top advisory body, more than one hundred Chinese newspapers ran the story on their frontpages.
Li's criticism, along with last year's "Audit Storm" and "Environmental Protection Storm," has revealed the trend that Chinese officials have abandoned the traditional practice of shielding each other.
Since China's central government launched tougher supervision on departments' responsibility last year, public criticism between government departments, or "bites between ministries," have become frequent in Chinese media.
"The GDP figures I received from various provincial governments were 2.66 trillion yuan (320 billion US dollars) more than the counting of my bureau," said Li, director of the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) and a member of China's top advisory body now in its annual full session in Beijing.
Li's open criticism reminded the public of "Audit Storm" last June, the nationwide auditing campaign to expose irregularities of major government departments.
The public audit report, involving a dozen of central departments and local governments, was opened to the public instead of old-time inner advice. The top auditor received ardent public supports from the public and media, which created a huge pressure on the related departments to rectify their misuse of the budget.
On Jan. 18, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) launched a campaign to clean up projects that run against the country's environmental impact assessment regulations, halting the construction of 139 projects involving billions of US dollars, including several hydroelectric projects related to the Three Gorges project.
The campaign was also hailed as an "Environmental Protection Storm" by Chinese media, as it was directed against powerful high-level polluters who habitually ignore environmental protection departments.
"The success of these so-call 'storms' can be attributed to the clear support of the central government and huge positive support from media and the public," said Wu Jiang, professor with the State Administration College.
Chinese media have reported a dozen similar disputes between government departments in the past year.
Last May, Chinese Commerce Ministry opened its disagreement on Shanghai's policy of controlling the amount of private autos by license plate auction, while a high official of Science and Technology Ministry openly criticized Beijing Municipality's decision to buy foreign soft last November.
The emergence of those unusual "bites between ministries" is not a reflection of some officials' temporary impulses, but an inevitable result of institutional reform initiated by the central government, Wu said.
The Administrative Licensing Law, which was believed as "self revolution of the government," took effect last July to streamline administrative approval procedures and clearly strengthen the supervision on administrative departments.
Early this year, the State Council amended and publicized the statute on its working rules especially requiring the cabinet to further promote administrative supervision and carry out administrative activities strictly according to laws.
Analysts here agree that all these efforts have helped curb rampant bureaucracy and abuse of power by increasing the transparency of administrative operations.
"The strong demand from both the top leadership and the public will stimulate more government departments to lash out at one another," said Professor Wu Jiang.