Snapshot of public concerns

Updated: 2014-12-10 07:30

(China Daily)

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Online voting is now open for the "TOP 10 Policies of the State Council 2014".

This is not the first time for the central government to interact with the public via the Internet and social media. There has even been a special online message board for people to communicate their concerns directly to the premier. But ordinary citizens have never been invited to rate government policies.

By casting ballots and identifying the policies they are most concerned about, or those that have caused the biggest changes in their lives, 10 randomly chosen voters will become special guests at the headquarters of the State Council, where they will attend a discussion on government policies and performance.

For its interactiveness alone, this is a worthy move.

In a year when "interconnectivity" has been all the rage in Chinese diplomatic rhetoric, a move like this is no doubt conducive to government-public "interconnectivity" at home. With corruption eroding public confidence in public offices, such interconnectivity will mean a lot for the government.

Though the balloting is meant basically to rank policies in terms of perceived significance, like enumerating them as "better" and "best", the information collected may still provide clues to what people truly care about.

Topping the lists on the three voting platforms as of now are healthcare reform, unification of rural and urban social security guarantees, household registration reform, further streamlining of bureaucratic red tape and reshuffling of administrative approval procedures, and, of course, the measures to control air pollution.

Except for the anti-corruption campaign, those are about the most talked-about topics closely related to people's livelihood these days. That means the poll can be a valid barometer of public concerns.

It is good for central decision-makers to know how the public perceives the policies they have made and implemented. But it would be even better if they know what people have to say about those policies - whether they have loopholes, if they have been carried out faithfully and produced anticipated outcomes, or how they can be improved.

It would also be more meaningful if an open-ended poll is conducted, asking people to contribute ideas about policymaking in the future.

The most constructive way to encourage and engage public participation in policy-making, however, is to make sure there are proper channels for every citizen to contribute his or her wisdom, anytime, anywhere, and for all contributions, whether or not they are pleasant to the ear, to be embraced with an open mind.

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