Some problems, such as environmental issues, migrant worker issues, food security issues, etc., have become increasingly apparent as China’s economic development progresses. But while these issues are becoming more and more pressing, the capability to solve them seems unbalanced.
However, while the government is trying to solve these social issues, they are too difficult to be handled by the government alone. The government has assumed a role that is like traditional parents in China who try to take responsibility for their children, no matter whether they are minors or adults, doing everything to help solve the problems in their lives. It is a never-ending task, and maybe, little success.
In traditional Chinese culture, citizens regarded government officials like parents taking charge of all problems of their children. The citizens will approach government officials as soon as they face unfair treatment or to protect their own interests. Therefore, petitions and sitting in front of government buildings to ask for help are popular in China as people seek to solve problems with salary arrears, the seizure of land, and pollution.
But research, both from within and outside China, shows that the attitudes and opinions of citizens to some social issues are different from those of the government. The government wants to reduce tariffs to promote trade, but the country’s producers don’t; the local government would like to increase the export of vegetables but this will cause price hikes; the national policy that transmits electricity from the western areas to eastern China causes a rise in cost for local consumers.
The government seems to ignore the potential of civil society in seeking solutions to the country’s problems, whether it be individuals, groups, enterprises or other non-governmental organizations, even though civil society in China is playing a more and more impotent role in China’s economy, politics and culture.
Civil society, such as social organizations, participates in all kinds of economic activities and can help promote development by standardizing industry and maintaining market order.
The effects of civil society in the political arena can be shown by the growing presence of public opinion. For instance, Yao Jiaxin’s execution, was not only the verdict of China’s judicial system, but also, to some extent, the result of public opinion on the Internet, which has become a channel of communication between the government and the public and helps promote reasonable and democratic decision-making.
The government’s decision-making is coming under more and more pressure, which requires them not only to operate in thousands of social governance areas, but also to honor their political promises effectively. Meanwhile, the new social media and the Internet mean that the media’s role is expanding and becoming increasingly independent, for example, the recent revelations about food safety.
China’s civil society still faces restrictions and lacks a comprehensive legal framework. However, the country’s civil society has obviously improved, as citizens’ awareness has increased. Social organizations now boast better talents, better institutions and administration, as well as more funds than in the past. However, China’s civil society still has some problems such as self-discipline.
The government should stop playing the role of a parent and try its best to help the civil society in China develop so it can play a greater role in solving the country’s social issues.
Yang Jingmin is an editor of M4.cn and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org