Are officials mingling with the public or showboating?
High-ranking local officials have hit the headlines with their attempts at frugality, but are these real improvements to work styles or simply posturing?
In one case, a TV journalist came across Wu Tianjun, Party chief of Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, taking the subway back to his office on Monday after a meeting.
Xu Jin from Zhengzhou TV told Xinhua on Thursday that he watched Wu queue to buy a ticket then followed him as he boarded the train. Some citizens recognized Wu and chatted with him during his trip.
Wu told Xu his office was near a subway station, so he took the subway back there.
In another case, Fu Zhenghua, vice-minister of public security and head of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, was seen patrolling with other officers on a busy commercial street in downtown Beijing on Wednesday evening.
This is not the first time that he has been seen on patrol in downtown Beijing.
“He often visits police stations and meets patrolling police officers without informing them in advance,” said a Beijing officer who declined to be identified.
When they come to light, such “incognito” trips usually become a focus for discussion among netizens. Some say Wu’s story is too coincidental to be true and claim the official did it simply for show.
Others support Wu and expect more officials to follow suit, not as a cost-cutting measure, but as a way of mixing with the general public and hearing their views.
Xu insisted his subway journey was not a stage-managed event, while the journalist said he has been reporting on the opening of the new subway line when he spotted Wu.
“Party members and officials, while they are servants of the public, are also members of the public,” said Wang Shushan, Party chief of Xuchang, Henan. “Leading officials should mingle with the masses more often, without advance notification, and listen to their views to know
Leading officials should mingle with the masses more often, without advance notification, and listen to their views to know the true situation.” WANG SHUSHAN PARTY CHIEF OF XUCHANG IN HENAN PROVINCE
the true situation.”
This is one of the better traditions of our Party and we should adhere to it, he said.
Police chief Fu is not known as an official who stays cooped up in his office. According to his officers, he often joins them on patrol.
First, it showcases the importance of the capital’s security work. Second, it can lead other senior officials to change their work style, they say.
The Chinese leadership launched a “mass line” education campaign last year to further ties between Party members and the general public, cleaning up work styles deemed undesirable, such as formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance.
Such journeys made by officials are normal and should be encouraged so that the Party can build closer ties with the people, said Fang Ning from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Officials should make use of every available means to strengthen their relations with the public, he added.
“Undoubtedly, officials should serve the people,” said Yan Jirong, a professor of politics at Peking University. “Therefore, they should get out of their offices a lot and engage with the masses to understand their needs.”
These excursions should not just be labeled as exhibitions, said Yan. The key is to differentiate between publicity stunts and good governance, he added.