Saturday, January 25, 2020

Grain Bureau Secrecy Earns Recognition

China's Grain Reserve Bureau was recognized for its "secrecy work" by the State Secrets bureau, a reminder that China's promises of "openness" and free-flow of information are still constrained by an Orwellian bureaucracy that outsiders never see.

The Administration of Food and Commodity Reserves announced on its web site that it had been designated an "advanced collective in National secrecy work," by the National Administration of State Secrets Protection. The award given in January 2019 is a recognition of the bureau's work in maintaining secrecy that is given out only once every five years. The reserves administration is responsible for overseeing the procurement, storage and distribution of government grain and cotton reserves.
In a training class held in 2019, local grain reserve officials are reminded that
the communist party dictates what information should be kept secret.
Photo from Ningxia Autonomous Region administration of grain and commodity reserves.

The grain reserve bureau's secrecy work was described as a matter of national food security and business reform. The bureau's director general, acting in his role as chairman of the bureau's "secrecy committee," issued many directives related to secrecy, heard reports, and dealt with many secrecy problems in a timely manner, according to the bureau's announcement.

"Secrecy is no small matter" was one of the instructions given to grain officials at Tianjin municipality's grain bureau attending a training session given by the director of the local State Secrets Bureau in November 2018. A similar training for grain officials in Ningxia Autonomous Region in July 2019 had a theme of "support party management of secrets, strictly handle secrets according to law." Secrecy bureau directors at both trainings advised officials of the "grim situation" facing secrecy work in the "new era."

Secrecy training is linked to a government information disclosure initiative launched by Premier Li Keqiang in 2016 that allows public requests for information similar to the U.S. "Freedom of Information Act," but secrets remain. The grain reserve bureau's web site includes regulations for setting up a secrecy review system. staffed by personnel whose chief qualification is "political quality."

For example, the State Administration of Grain and Commodity Reserves conducted a national audit of publicly-held grain reserves last year, but never released any concrete information on the amount of grain or its condition. The program for carrying out the audit included instructions to keep secret grain testing results, prevent information leaks, and to choose secrecy personnel based primarily on their "political quality."
Broken bags of aging rice in a government reserve warehouse photographed by official news media in 2017. Original source: China News Net, photo obtained from microblog.

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