China bans new government buildings to curb waste

BEIJING - China has introduced a five-year ban on the construction of new government offices, state media reported on Tuesday, following public anger at reports of extravagant official buildings.

The move came as part of a publicity campaign led by newly-installed President Xi Jinping, aimed at showing that the ruling Communist Party is cracking down on corruption and not wasting public money.

The ban, ratified by the State Council, China's cabinet, also covers expensive structures built as training centres or hotels, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

Reports of extravagant public 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 $45 million mechanical clock tower -- provoked anger online in recent years.

As well as being linked with official graft, the buildings were seen as signs of the ruling party's reliance on construction projects as a means of boosting growth, which economists have said is unsustainable.

The government has said it hopes to reduce the proportion of its economic growth generated by investment, and boost the share taken by consumption.

Officials will still be able to spend money on restoring government offices, Xinhua said.

Plans for the building moratorium were first announced by Premier Li Keqiang at a press conference in March.

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 for corruption since he took the top party post in November.

Analysts have said it will be difficult to clean up politics without reforms such as removing restrictions on the media's reporting of corruption and making courts independent.