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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

Government must look before it leaps

(Global Times)

13:40, November 28, 2011

A furor was sparked among Chinese netizens recently when it emerged that Chinese foreign ministry had donated 23 school buses to Macedonia. The news came out as the Chinese public is still questioning the fatal school bus incident in Gansu Province on November 19. This coincidental clash of information should have been avoided. The ministry needs to learn from this.

However, China cannot simply stop its aid programs to foreign countries. There is no evidence to prove the excess of these programs. The school bus donation to Macedonia would have gone unnoticed if the Gansu incident had never happened. The foreign ministry has its own duties and priorities. Its work is to create a healthy international environment for the development of the country. It has no obligation to shoulder the responsibility that belongs to the ministry of civil affairs.

However, the foreign ministry needs to keep an eye on the public domain, as should every government department should increase their awareness to public concerns. The Chinese public deserves to have their voices heard. It is time for the bureaucratic working ethic to end.

Public opinion has become more diversified in recent years. The rhetoric of public criticism has also become stronger and sometimes even aggressive, if not "subversive."  While it may be hard to judge whether these changes are "good" or "bad," the government needs to accept these changes and adjust accordingly.

From an optimistic point of view, tougher public scrutiny can bring unprecedented changes. It can push governments in China to reform their approaches and ethics in works.

It is predictable that harsh criticism will significantly improve the working environment of the government in the long run. When that happens, it will not only raise public supervision, but also profoundly transform Chinese society.

Although it is hard to say whether each of these criticisms are reasonable and appropriate, the government needs to learn how to live with it. Some "disturbance" from the public is not bad to the government. The government needs to adjust itself to suit the public, not the other way round.

Harsh criticism will not allow inefficiency. It can train officials as to how to balance the interests of the nation and its people. These are the necessities for quality governance.

The public opinion also needs to learn how to restrain itself. Chinese society, as well as its issues, is now measured by international standards. But it is unrealistic to force the society to fit in. The changes it calls for are too dramatic and China cannot swallow them all at once.

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