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China considers shakeup of bureaucracy to modernize government but faces obstacles

The Ministry of Railways operates ultramodern bullet trains but its singular focus on rail at a time of booming car ownership and air travel makes it a relic from an era when 100 ministries ran China's planned economy.

That could soon change. China's new communist leaders are considering another shake-up of a sprawling bureaucracy that has added market regulators and shed agencies that once dictated prices and told companies what to produce.

Modernizing the rail ministry — a Soviet-style behemoth with 2.1 million employees, its own courts and police and 1.7 billion passengers last year — by making it part of a transportation "super ministry" would be a likely priority.

Such change would be politically fraught since it threatens top jobs and influence, the lifeblood of party factions.