Southwestern Guizhou province is again in the news, but this time for a good reason. Roland at ESWN translates a Xinhua article on China’s on-going experimentation with political reform as seen in the city of Guiyang. Guiyang is trying to appoint party secretaries to four districts and counties, and chose to do so in a more transparent, democratic way.
What exactly is the experiment? It’s not Western democracy, but it’s also not business as usual. A CCTV report (video below) explains the process:
- 82 candidates were publicly nominated for the four positions; 81 of them passed the initial screening process.
- a conference made up of “responsible figures” in the Guiyang city government, and Party representatives from different industries select five candidates for each position, 20 candidates in all.
- these 20 candidates appeared at a public conference, widely broadcast via TV and internet, and were graded for their performance. The candidates gave speeches, debated, and answered questions posed by the public.
- the 8 candidates (two per district) with the highest grades were selected to go on. The grading is broken down this way: “democratic nomination” (20%), “research report” (20%), “public speech and debate” (20%), “public opinion” (30%), “estimate of leadership capability” (10%).
- the final selection between these two candidates per district is made by the local People’s Congress.
Here is the news report from CCTV:
My first impression after watching the video… my god, these candidates are young.
My second and more meaningful thought… the very public attention from Xinhua and CCTV shows the central government is paying attention to this type of experiment. Although the process is still very awkward and not completely transparent (the grading process is very mysterious and open for abuse), I think it’s at least a step forward. Forcing officials to answer (difficult) questions from the people, forcing officials to publicly compete for a position will hopefully be a reminder of who their true bosses are supposed to be.
Clearly, the process can’t stop here. A long journey of continuous political reform will hopefully follow.
UPDATE: Doing a little more research, it looks like this mechanism has been used in the past for lower ranking officials. This is the first time it’s been raised up to the district or county party secretary spot, and certainly the first time this process have been so widely publicized before and after. Other mainland Chinese reports have pointed out that only a small group of local officials could even be nominated for the contest.
The reforms planned in Shenzhen and Guangzhou are likely more ground-breaking.