Public opinion and good governance

In June 24, Chinese expert Xin Xiangyang who is from Chinese Academy of Social Science wrote in an article published on the website of the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention of China. The article pointed out the new features of corruption in China and suggested that China should make it legally binding for officials to declare their family assets, something that is already required in many developed countries.

He points out that the new features of corruption in China are: a change from hard corruption, accepting money or property, to soft corruption, accepting services or overseas travel; seeking illegal benefits for groups and squandering public funds; foreign investment corruption, which means foreign companies participate in the corruption; and expanding from single cases of corruption to group cases.

He suggests that China should immediately require officials to report any family assets, including cash, bank savings, marketable securities, real estate, autos, credit and debts.

These kinds of articles and the anti-corruption efforts of citizens and government might be the vital to the life of a ruling party.

Good governance, which essentially is the cooperation between the government and civil society, seeks to maximize the public interest. The rule of law and the supervision of government officials are the most important parts of good governance.

Without supervision, the power of many government officials will be unscrupulously focused on pursuing their own interests. They forget the real responsibility of their position: government of the people, by the people, for the people.

So good governance requires legitimacy, transparency, accountability, rule of law and responsiveness.

Legitimacy is the awareness of and obedience to the social order and the authority of the government.

Transparency is the openness and availability of information with regard the process of legislation, policy-making and execution, administrative budgets and public expenditure. The citizens have the right to supervise the public administration whether it is effective or not.

Accountability is responsibility administration officials and institutions take in fulfilling their obligations to the public. The more accountability officials take, the higher the level of governance is.

The rule of law means no one is above the law, which represents the highest standards of public administration. All citizens, including government officials, should obey the law and be equal before the law, so that it can fully protect citizens’ rights and the social order. Without the rule of law and subsequent respect for the law there can be no good governance.

Responsiveness is related to accountability, public officials and institutions must respond in a timely manner to the requests of citizens without any procrastination and fear of the consequences.

Good governance thus comes from the will of the government and the supervision to its officials.

Since the establishment of new China, it can be seen that the government has devoted itself to achieving good governance in China. However, some social issues have accompanied the nation’s development. Government officials are increasingly accused of corruption and criticized for being irresponsible and abuses of power. The problems arising from the behavior of officials is now the most serious grudge between citizens and the government.

Greater supervision is required in order to solve the problem of government officials who abrogate their responsibilities and duties. However, this leads to questions: How should government officials be supervised? And, who will play the role of supervisor?

In the ancient China, supervision was generally accomplished within the government, such as through the highly praised system of ju xiaolian, which entailed selecting the persons who are most famous for filial piety and honesty, during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD).

The Ke Ju, or imperial examination system, employed in the Sui Dynasty (Ad 581-618) and the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), enabled the government to choose talent to be officials. At that time the Cheng Xiang, the pre-ministers, could balance the emperor’s power and give advice. But the system was discarded by emperor Zhu Yuanzhang in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

But supervision from within the government failed to achieve good governance. So the party and government officials should be supervised by public opinion to prevent corruption and abuse of power. To this end, new media are becoming a special strength to the public opinion.

It is ridiculous that some officials think supervision by public opinion is an invasion of their privacy. Once the officials accept their position as party or government officials they should be supervised by the citizens they serve and never forget that they serve the people.

The key element of good governance is the official should be supervised, not only from within the party or government but also by the public. The criteria to determine the political achievements of the officials should be decided by the public and the party and government should be more willing to accept the opinions from civil society and have the confidence to choose the right ones to ensure good governance.

Yang Jingmin is an editor of and can be reached at

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