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Promote 'participatory' openness in government affairs

(People's Daily)

17:07, August 26, 2011

Edited and Translated by People's Daily Online

The recent measures taken by central government departments to make their expenditures, budgets and data on key construction projects transparent have attracted particular attention and will further advance the implementation of the regulations on the openness in government affairs. The move is not only due to changes in ideas about governance and methods of government departments but also speaks to the strong roles played by public participation. Both concerns and doubts about the openness in government affairs have advanced the gradual process of building a transparent government.

The masses are active participators rather than passive recipients when it comes to the openness in government affairs. Only broad public participation can constantly inject dynamics into the openness of government affairs. Thanks to the wide public discussions and continued attention paid by the citizens, the movement for transparency has advanced from asking the question of whether or not affairs should be made transparent to how to make them transparent.

Beijing city has released the regulations on the uniform time, formats, explanation and channels relating to the disclosure of information on "expenditures, budgets and data on key construction projects" of its municipal-level departments based on public discussions after central government departments disclosed their related information. This "joint" participation is just a large-scale, sustainable and constructive force promoting openness in government affairs.

More participating citizens are needed to further promote transparency in government affairs. Certain people in Chengdu have been frequently employed to attend public hearings partly because most people have lost trust in public hearings and thus do not want to participate. As an important tool for promoting government transparency and participatory citizenship, the public hearings system will enjoy constant improvements if more citizens are willing to participate.

Every citizen has the right to doubt information provided by governments, but it will be wrong to go to the extremes of doubting every piece of information from government sources not to mention that mere doubts are useless. Citizens should make constructive suggestions to solve problems and to improve related systems. Democracy will be further promoted in China if more citizens actively participate in civic affairs.

Transparency in government affairs does not only mean giving out information. It should also include interaction and cooperation between government bodies and the public. If the government is heedless of people's doubts and criticism, transparency will be just a "rights bubble," and the public will be deeply disappointed and indignant.

Samuel Huntington once gave a formula: political institutionalization/political participation is equal to social stability. If the political institutionalization level is lower than the political participation level, social turbulence will tend to appear. Currently, the range of political participation is expanding and the enthusiasm for political participation is increasing in China, and only if China perfects the participation channels and enlarges the participation platform can the possible turbulence be avoided.

The report of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China points out that China must expand its citizens' orderly political participation at every level and in every area. Therefore, governments of China must discard the idea and practice of making government affairs transparent only in form and must institutionalize and standardize the government affair transparency and guide the citizens to orderly participation in the politics.

If we say supervising the authority and optimizing the administration are the most significant direct aspects of government affairs transparency, then the connection of the politics and society is its typical spillover effect. The sunshine budget can make more people pay attention to the government’s purse and the list of authorities can make the whole society supervise the law enforcement of the government departments.

The participation, interaction and co-construction brought by the government affair transparency will lead to a kind of common consciousness, which will remedy the lack of trust. Only in this way can public affairs transparency have the significance of modern political civilization and be an important link for promoting political system reform.


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