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Web changes China's political environment
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11:04, June 05, 2009

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China looms large on the radar of the Western media these days; a great number of foreign journalists have been dispatched to Beijing, some carrying preconceived notions of what they might find in Tian'anmen Square. But they are bound to be disappointed.

China's political scene has developed greatly over the past decades. Chinese citizens are now more connected to their government than ever. For example, on June 1, Wang Min, Secretary of the Jilin Provincial CPC Committee, wrote a public letter to netizens, saying that he was indebted to their valuable comments and suggestions concerning Jilin's development, which they had posted in the “Local Leader Message Board” launched by People's Daily Online. He promised in the letter that netizens' messages would be taken seriously and incorporated into the provincial policymaking.

Wang's letter is not something novel: there have been 22 provincial Party secretaries who replied to netizens since People's Daily Online established this platform in July, 2008 to let officials and netizens exchange ideas.

And the platform is just the latest example of an emerging trend: the Internet is changing the relationship between the government and its people in China.

Before the Internet age, the communication channels between government officials and common people were few and far between.

Major policies were carried out in a top-down approach, with miscommunications left unresolved.

But both the government and people have learned from experience. The government sees the Internet as a tool to strengthen itself. The Internet is making the government more transparent, efficient, and democratic.
It is reported that since 2006, before any new major policy or law goes into force, a draft version has been put on the Internet for criticism to help make improvements. The reaction from Web users has been enthusiastic. Government officials solicited 170 million messages on China's law on employment contracts, for example.

The Internet has been a driving force to better the government, rather than destabilize it as many Westerners anticipated.

While they only expect to find anti-government sentiment on the Internet, many Chinese netizens are positive and supportive of their government. One explanation, among others, is that both common people and the government are more communicative than ever thanks to the Internet, nipping many problems in the bud.

Internet politics is a substantive sign of the progress the Chinese government has made in the political arena. Thus, as well-known scholar Li Junru has noted, it is a grave misunderstanding to say China has only achieved economic growth. In politics, betterment is happening day by day.
There is no breeding ground for major social and political crises. If a Westerner wants to be a serious student of Chinese politics, he or she should learn the whole picture of China's new political reality.

Source: The Global Times



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