By Zhang Cong, Ju Yunpeng, People’s Daily
To observe whether the public can express their requirements without hindrance is an important way to evaluate whether a country’s political system is democratic and efficient.
Last year, a primary school student surnamed Wu, who lives by the Suzhou River in Shanghai, found that there were more and more tourists visiting the river, but rest areas along the river still needed to be expanded and improved.
Encouraged by his father, Wu established a special interest group together with his friends. Upon investigations and surveys, they compiled a report on making the Suzhou River banks more attractive in their spare time.
Suggestions in the report were later adopted by Putuo district, which administers the Suzhou River. The district, connected all public space along the river and worked to improve the quality of the public space and service facilities. Besides, new cultural programs were introduced to nurture a thicker cultural atmosphere along the banks of the river.
In the Huangxing Park in Yangpu district of Shanghai, there is a fitness trail stretching about 2.5 kilometers. It is a popular running route for local residents. However, it was underserviced in terms of lockers, drinking fountains and some other facilities. Therefore, a citizen named Gao Maoli suggested that public facilities be improved along the trail.
Gao’s suggestions brought new changes to the park. A multi-functional service station where citizens can rest, deposit personal belongings and drink water has been established along the fitness trail.
Meng Tao, director of an office for proposal collection under the government of Yangpu district, told People’s Daily that sometimes the suggestions made by citizens are just simple ideas, so extra work is needed to enrich them and finally implement them.
Therefore, Yangpu district has launched cooperation with East China University of Political Science and Law, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology and other higher institutions. Besides, relevant interviews, symposiums, random street interviews and questionnaires are always held in the district to ensure that suggestions made are in line with the demand of the public.
Since Shanghai set up a municipal office for proposal collection in 2020, similar organizations have been established in all 16 districts of the city. The city has forged a multidimensional suggestion-seeking network that reaches enterprises, universities and official organizations. The network covers 215 communities and towns, as well as over 6,000 villages. So far, relevant departments of Shanghai at all levels have received 187,000 pieces of advice, and a large batch of great ideas of the citizens have been turned into efficient policies that benefit the people.
In April 2020, Shanghai’s municipal office for proposal collection received a special letter from a citizen, which hoped that Shanghai could improve the transparency of and public participation in the compilation of its 14th Five-Year Plan, so that the plan would better build consensus and gather public wisdom.
After receiving the letter, the office soon started soliciting public opinions on the compilation of Shanghai’s 14th Five-Year Plan. A total of more than 20,000 pieces of advice were received by the office, and some of them were finally adopted in the plan.
It is learned that the municipal government of Shanghai and district offices for proposal collection have launched over 150 activities in cooperation with some 70 government departments, receiving more than 30,000 suggestions from the people.
Zhang Lirong, deputy director of Shanghai’s public complaints and proposals office, told People’s Daily that soliciting public opinions enables the government to learn from people’s demands in a targeted manner and seek understanding from the public, adding that advice collection services forcefully safeguard people’s rights to be informed, to participate, to be heard and to exercise public scrutiny in urban development and governance.
Shanghai is an international city. Its advice collection services are a window for expats to observe and experience Chinese democracy. Mustafa Noyan Rona, a Turkish man living in Shanghai, has made nearly 100 pieces of advice in the past two decades. He was awarded as an outstanding “advice giver” of Shanghai at the end of 2021.
Whether a model of democracy works should be tested in actual practice and judged by the people. According to the white paper titled “China: Democracy That Works”, surveys have shown that the level of public satisfaction with the government has remained above 90 percent for many years in China. This mirrors the strong vitality of Chinese democracy.
Requirements of the public should be able to be expressed without hindrance and be met effectively. Shanghai, while practicing whole-process people’s democracy and constantly improving urban governance, has blazed a new trail with Chinese characteristics in terms of the management of super large cities.
On June 23, 2021, the Standing Committee of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress approved a regulation on Shanghai’s advice collection services, which established a “collection-research-translation” mechanism for management and operation, so that people’s rights to be informed, to participate, to be heard and to exercise public scrutiny could be ensured comprehensively.
Complete institutional procedures and democratic participation have turned whole-process people’s democracy from a concept into a system, a governance mechanism and people’s lifestyle deeply rooted in China.