Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Apparently, the Central government is finally phasing in popularity polls as a cadre evaluation method. The Central Organization Department has been experimenting with this for quite some time, and I guess Hu Jintao now finally agrees to implement this nationa-wide. I personally don't think it will have a great impact, but on the margin, it might improve the quality of governance. Below, I answers some questions posed by a reporter, and include the Reuters piece on it.

1. What, in your opinion, is the reason for this announcement?

Hu Jintao is trying to gain legitimacy through this move. Also, I suspect that it is also an attempt to remove or at least undermine the legitimacy of several Jiang crony who are currently provincial party secretaries, such as Guangdong's Zhang Dejiang. He is probably not very popular these days.

2. Do you think this is feasible, and why/why not?

First, the Central Organization Department (COD) has been talking about this for quite some time. In fact, experiments using polls to evaluate cadres have been carried out for several years. The CCP will probably implement it nation-wide. I actually think the impact won't be that great. First, if the surveys are carried out by the local Organization Department, they will be meaningless since the local party secretary can control the outcome. I wonder if the COD will carry out its own survey on an annual basis across all the counties in China. It is actually much easier to do this than it sounds. Many Chinese governemnt and academic organizations (as well as western ones) have been doing mass surveys in China for years. I don't think the polling will be centralized for political reason. There would be too much opposition to it.

Even if they do the surveys, it will only be around 20% of the overall "grade" of the official. Evaluation by co-workers and superiors, as well as age, education, and administrative accomplishments, will still be important.

3. If it is not too speculative, how can this be implemented?

Like I said, it wouldn't be that hard. The COD can set up survey teams in every provincial capital, and they can carry out an annual survey of randomly chosen households in that province every autumn or spring (harvest and spring festivals are the two stress points during the year).

4. In your opinion, will "social stability" lose its importance to the new criteria in cadre performance reviews?

No, social stability will always be the number one priority in evaluating a cadre. There is no sign that this criterion is slipping.

China to use public opinion in party reshuffles

Wednesday, March 8, 2006; 1:08 AM

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is planning a massive reshuffle of local politicians, linking promotion to how well they adhere to the central leadership's bid to address social imbalances, an official newspaper said on Wednesday.

The moves may affect over 100,000 officials in township, county, city and provincial posts ahead of a party congress in 2007 that is likely to seal changes in the country's ruling circle under President Hu Jintao.

"The criteria for promotion will not only look to GDP growth and other political achievements, it will also look to the level of popular satisfaction with their administration," the overseas edition of the People's Daily, the Communist Party's mouthpiece, said, citing comments by the party's organization chief, He Guoqiang.

It said the decisions about promotions and demotions would apply the "scientific outlook on development" -- the party's catchphrase for balanced economic and social growth that places fresh emphasis on social equality, especially for China's poor farmers.

"The goal is to properly select appropriate officials to provide an organizational guarantee for China's future development, and it has major significance for the Chinese Communist Party's 17th Congress in 2007," the paper said.

Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao have overseen a new five-year national development program currently before China's parliament.

That program promises improved incomes, health, education and housing for the country's 750 million farmers, but it has ignited internal debate about how to combine economic growth and equity, say observers.

He, the organization chief, said 14 provincial-level governments would be reshuffled later this year, and 17 in the first half of next year. Party congresses are held every five years, usually late in the year.

He did not specify what provinces would be changed first, but the leaders of several have been widely discussed as potential successors to Hu and Wen.

The paper said the selection process would include public opinion polls, on-the-ground investigations, and interviews with officials.

Although I think it is big news that this was even allowed to go national, the other big news was indications by He that the CPC 17th Congress would be in 2008, not 2007.
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