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TV evaluation raises more questions than applause

(Global Times)    08:21, January 08, 2015

During a live TV broadcast in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province, which featured local officials facing questions from the public, a top district-level official was asked to recite the 24-character list of socialist core values that include national prosperity, civility, justice and the rule of law, and the individual values of patriotism and dedication. The official was recorded as being stuck at one point, but he finally managed to make it.

This has generated discussions about the way to evaluate officials' performances. Pushing officials into the spotlight has become a means for citizens and the media to supervise the government. In July, Wuhan broadcast a TV program to assess officials' mid-year performance, during which it was discovered that the commitment of many officials turned out to be empty promises.

Many Chinese officials, especially local ones, may feel awkward when questioned on TV. Compared with their American counterparts who acquire the ability to cater to the mass media, Chinese officials have not adapted to this new form of performance appraisal.

But it is too early to tell if it is good or bad that officials become accustomed to dealing with the media and the public. They might handle media scrutiny with cunning, but not actually carry out their duties.

So far, assessing the performance of officials on TV is still in the initial phase in China. It hasn't become a systematic way to judge their work and many people have asked whether it will only be a show where picky audience members try to make a spectacle out of nervous officials.

Meanwhile, it is easy to make a request to these officials, but it turns out it will be difficult to hold them accountable when they fail to fulfill their duties.

To avoid these TV programs turning into a sham, officials should always bear in mind that the public is watching them and they may risk losing their position if they don't shoulder their responsibilities.

In the US, TV programs may plant traps for politicians. Susan Rice, a national security advisor for US President Barack Obama, withdrew from consideration as secretary of state because of remarks she made on several TV programs on the September 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.

In China, communication channels between officials, the public and the media still need to be improved. Making officials face the public on TV is aimed at solving real issues for the public. It tests the sincerity of the government to gain public support for every decision it makes. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Zhang Qian)

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