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An article by H.E. Ambassador Wu Hailong on European Voice
2012/10/04
  How China communicates

Some friends in Europe once asked me that since the Chinese political system, being different from the European system, makes the Communist Party of China (CPC) the long time ruling party of China, how could it possible to achieve in China effective communication between the government and the people so as to adequately safeguard the rights and interests of the people.

 

In my view, despite the differences in many aspects, there is one thing in common between China and Europe--both sides value the importance of smooth communication between the government and the people, and both sides regard the need to fully protect the rights and interests of the people to express and appeal in policy making as a must of modern democracy and an integral part of the efforts to protect and promote human rights.

 

In fact, the practice of the government reaching out to its people has always been a time-honored tradition of the Chinese civilization as can be found in many wise teachings in Chinese literature. The adage of "water can carry a boat, but also sink a boat" speaks of the profound understanding of the relationship between popular support and the sustainability of a government. The Confucius teachings of "One shall not go against the people" and "Those who win the hearts of the people win the earth under heaven" also stress the significance of those in power to respond timely to the popular opinion. 

 

The CPC became the ruling party of China based on popular support, and has since always attached great importance to connecting to the people. The first President of the People's Republic of China, President Mao Zedong has laid down solidly the basic governing principle to "work closely with the people" and to "serve the people whole-heartedly". As the nation enters the new historical period, the Chinese government has moved forward by putting forward the ideas of "putting people first" and "governing for the people".

 

In China, the government reaches out to the people through extensive, diverse and effective means. First, we have adopted the system of the National People's Congress (NPC) as the basis of democratic politics. Under such a system, the people could express their views through delegates to the People's Congress at municipal, provincial and national levels, who would express on people's behalf the suggestions and appeals to corresponding level government offices and demand policy formulation or adjustments. For instance, during the Fourth Session of the 11th NPC in 2011, delegates have in total motioned 8043 proposals, which had then been assigned to 177 government departments and agencies to deliver. By the opening of the Fifth Session of the 11th NPC, 100% of the proposals have been responded by appropriate offices, and 77.2% have been resolved or in the process of handling.  

 

Second, we have adopted a unique democratic political system of multiparty cooperation and political consultative conference led by the CPC. There are eight democratic parties that are actively involved in the Chinese political affairs. As an important channel for people to express their views, the eight democratic parties exercise the duty of democratic oversight and bear the task to participate in and to deliberate on political decisions. During the Fifth Session of the 11th Chinese Political Consultative Conference in 2012, a total of 6069 proposals have been made, covering a variety of issues ranging from national development strategies to the improvement of people's livelihood, fully reflecting the realistic concerns of the people.

 

Third, through years of practical experience, the Chinese government has developed a unique set of policy tools to engage with the general public. The government has established offices dedicated to answer letters and phone calls and receive visits by people who wish to appeal to higher authorities. Government officials are also required to make regular visits and field trips to local communities and rural villages to gather first-hand information on people's livelihood and everyday problems so as to make proper policy adjustment. Such a way of communication ensures in-depth and level exchange and enables emotional bonds between government workers and ordinary people, making it the most direct and effective means for exchange and information gathering. 

 

In China, there are over 2,000 county-level administrative denominations. Premier Wen Jiabao of the State Council has paid work visits to over 1800 of them. Regional governments have also made quantified targets for officials to conduct similar work visits. For instance, in Jiangxi Province, provincial level officials are required spend at least one month a year, and prefecture level chief officials at least two months a year, doing work visits at local communities. Mayors and other senior local officials are also asked to organize public reception day events to meet with people and to answer their questions. 

 

The advancement of technology has created new ways for the government and the people to get messages across. The rapid growth of internet accessibility is a particular case in point. China has the largest number of internet users. By the end of 2011, the number has registered a total of 513,000,000, with nearly half as microbloggers. 

 

The Chinese government has identified internet as a new way to promote democracy and the rule of law, and has actively made internet a direct, spontaneous, and effective channel of interaction. The Chinese President Hu Jintao and a number of other senior leaders have attended online chatting sessions with netizens. An overwhelming majority of government offices have put up official websites, launched online forums, and set up spokesperson positions. More than 50,000 government workers have opened microblog under official functions. Internet has become an important avenue for the Chinese public to exercise the right to be informed, to participate, to express, and to oversight. Such developments has effectively facilitated the efforts of the Chinese government to increase transparency, efficiency, and public accountability.

 

Having mentioned the positive achievements, it also needs to be pointed out that there is still room for progress before we could realize complete barrier-free communication between the people and the government--there are still bureaucratic officials who would turn deaf ears to public voices. Nevertheless, the leadership of the Chinese government is always sober-minded that close ties with the people is the basis for public support, the tool for effective governance, and the means to achieve the durable goal of serving the people.

 

We in China fully understand that the issue of effective communication is a shared challenge faced by all governments. Despite the differences between China and Europe in national conditions and culture, China is willing to carry out dialogues and exchange with Europe based on reason, equality, and mutual respect. We are ready to work with Europe to draw strengths from each other, improve democratic systems, and promote the progress of universal human rights.

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