BEIJING, Dec. 11-- China's official evaluation system has abandoned GDP-obsessed assessments and puts more emphasis on public well-being and the environment.
"It's a historical turning point that shows solid steps to deepen reform," said Wang Yukai, professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, who believes the new system will help CPC members do a better job.
Gross regional product and its growth will no longer be the main determinants of local administrators' success or failure, according to a circular on improving evaluation of local authorities, released on Monday.
The GDP growth has been the major index for assessing local performance for many years and has led to blind pursuit of growth by some local authorities at the cost of the environment and residents' livelihoods.
The document issued by the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, gives greater emphasis to indices related to the waste of resources, environmental protection, excess capacity and production safety. Evaluation of scientific innovation, education, culture, employment, social insurance and health should all be encouraged, it said.
The new assessment regime will make use of indices of sustainable economic development, quality of life, social harmony and ecological protection, said Xie Chuntao, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.
The circular echoes a key reform decision made by the CPC Central Committee last month, part of which vowed to improve the evaluation system.
President Xi Jinping suggested in June that the CPC find a better gauge of official success instead of the blunt instrument of pure growth.
The new rules do exactly that: detail evaluation criteria that hit at the heart of one of many problems facing China in its quest for revitalization.
"Many people suffer pollution brought by a long period of unhealthy economic growth regardless of the environmental effects," said Dai Yanjun, another professor with the Party School.
Indices related to quality of air and water will transform the unsustainable development model, Dai added.
Local government debt will become an important measure of performance as will transparent auditing of how loans are raised. Figures provided by the National Audit Office show debts of about 3.85 trillion yuan (634 billion U.S. dollars) owned by 36 local governments at the end of 2012, up 13 percent from 2010.
The new regulation should deal with the habit of raising huge amounts of debt to develop vanity projects, said Dai. Blind pursuit of short-term returns causes waste and has greatly harmed development, he added.
The growth model has already been dismantled in some provinces. After decades of double-digit GDP growth in South China's economic hub Guangdong, in 2008 the system was transformed by reducing the weighting of economic growth to 30 percent.
However, each region should be assessed on the basis of reality on the ground when it comes to specifying the proportions of each measure. The CPC has been updating the evaluation system, and began pilot programs in some areas in 2004, according to Wu Zhongmin, also professor of the Party School.