People who know about leaking roofs are the ones who stay under such a roof. But the people who know the faults of governance are the ones working in rural lands, staying aloof from the government. “That’s why you are here.”
This is what Premier Li Keqiang said in Beijing while welcoming a group of people he had invited on Jan 27 to give their suggestions on a draft Government Work Report, the Chinese Cabinet’s most important sum-up of the year.
It has been an annual practice of Chinese premiers to solicit suggestions from people from all walks of life on the Government Work Report, which is submitted to the deputies of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, to seek their approval when they meet for their annual session. This year, it is scheduled for early March.
The suggestions of Premier Li’s guests included increasing the allocation on education to more than 4 percent of GDP despite the budgetary constraints and taking measures to develop the country’s sports industry. Apart from Li, the others present at the meeting included vice-premiers, state councilors and ministers, who were seen busily jotting down the suggestions given by Li’s guests.
Unlike think-tank experts or professional political advisory bodies, Li’s guests, made up of publishers, teachers, doctors, actors, farmers, writers, sports people, laid-off workers, and college students, were more straightforward and sharp in their opinions. The guests included a farmer from Central China’s Henan province and a laid-off worker from Lanzhou in Northwest China’s Gansu province, both of whom spoke in the local dialects.
To help his guests get the bigger picture of the economy and society, Li described his experience of what happened at the recently concluded World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. Surprisingly, few of them tried to flatter Li or praise the government’s work. Instead, they took every second of the six minutes given to each of them to voice their suggestions borne out of their personal experiences, to which the premier responded thoughtfully.
Li has asked the ministers and report drafters to carefully analyze the dozens of suggestions of the people on the frontline of industrial and agricultural production, and the service sector.
The apparent mutual trust between the host Premier Li and the guests could not have been stronger, as proved by the equilateral dialogue that was carried out at the meeting. And the guests’ suggestions, when taken, will add value to the government report.
As Li said, China’s development has reached a stage where it has become necessary for decision-makers to draw on the wisdom of the people in order to find the best solutions that would maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages. Drawing on experiences of people from all walks of life will also pave the way for smooth implementation of the solutions.
The premier conveyed to his guests that amid all the domestic and international economic difficulties, the country has the wisdom and capacity to realize the smooth transformation of its economy and society as long as the government works to serve the people. This is a message he presumed the guests would carry back to their peers.
With the annual sessions of the NPC and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, China’s top political advisory body, to be held in March, Li has set a good example for government officials to solicit public opinions before taking major policy decisions. These moves form part of the sound mechanisms of governance based on scientific decision-making.
Hopefully, like Li’s guests, other people will also supervise government operations and provide constructive suggestions for the decision-makers, who are keen on absorbing people’s wisdom to lead forward a fast-developing country like China.