Innovation crucial for China

Updated: 2013-04-09 13:43

By Renata Dessallien (China Daily)

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China already has long-standing inbuilt systems to canvas the views of its citizens and, more recently, has experimented with a wide range of innovative approaches to citizens' involvement in public decision-making and problem-solving processes. In some areas and some places, this experimentation is very impressive indeed.

Through the Law on Legislation (2000), the government opened the legislative process for public comments through public hearings. Very important pieces of legislation have now received public comments before their enactment.

For more technical laws such as the amendments to the Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Law and Civil Procedure Law, the legislature organized a number of consultations to obtain feedback from experts on behalf of the public. More than 50 cities have also held public hearings on legislative reforms.

Various levels of government in different regions have experimented with soliciting citizens' views to inform public decision making, such as in Wenling, Zhejiang province, where it was introduced in 1999. Since then a system of regular citizens' consultations on important issues of public interest has taken shape and in 2005, fiscal budget allocations were added to the topics discussed.

The use of social media to promote better governance has become a well-known phenomenon in China. For example, in 2010 Beijing's municipal police launched its micro blog "Safe Beijing" to both disseminate information on public security and receive suggestions from the public. This micro blog now has more than 4.6 million followers. In 2011 alone, it received more than 180,000 comments from netizens, some with leads that helped settle over 170 urgent cases, including six live Web broadcasts on suicide attempts.

Other government bodies, such as the Ministry of Health, have also set up micro blogs. Micro blogs have become a powerful tool in the ongoing anti-corruption drive, revealing useful leads in cases that the government has subsequently acted on. This innovative approach is a major breakthrough, because it transforms communication between government and citizens into an interactive relationship.