Song Tao(second right), Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee(IDCPC), and Luo Huining(right), Secretary of the CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee, sit for a Q&A session, hosted by Guo Yezhou, Vice Minister of IDCPC, on June 30 (COURTESY OF IDCPC)
North China’s Shanxi Province is one of the hardest-hit regions in the nationwide anti-corruption campaign implemented by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee since the end of 2012. Seven provincial-level officials in Shanxi were sentenced. A lot of lower-ranking officials have also been placed under investigation for alleged graft. The fall of these officials was likened to an "earthquake" in Shanxi's officialdom.
The "earthquake" also dealt a heavy blow to the local economy. The coal mining industry, which used to be the main driving force for Shanxi's economic growth, was affected because many mine bosses were probed on suspicion of bribery.
However, the blow was just temporary. Led by a disciplined Party committee, Shanxi has seen improvements in both its political ecology and economic development. The current CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee shared its experiences in governance at a seminar held by the International Department of the CPC Central Committee on June 30.
With Building a Well-disciplined Party in All Aspects: The Practice of Shanxi being its theme, the seminar attracted political party leaders, ambassadors and representatives from various countries, representatives from related institutions, and a number of China Study researchers.
Daniel A. Bell, author of The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, and Dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration of Shandong University, had thought China’s anti-corruption campaign could only make corruption become less but officials would be reluctant to make bold changes. “But my trip to Shanxi amazed me with so many capable officials,” he told Beijing Review on the sidelines of the seminar.
Selection of officials
In response to the country's stringent anti-corruption campaign, Shanxi has adopted rigorous rules and transparent systems to regulate local governance and Party organizations.
At the seminar, the CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee introduced its procedure for selecting and appointing government officials.
Sun Dajun, Executive Vice Chairman of the Organization Department of the CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee, said there are 10 steps--including checking qualifications, inspection, public polls and deliberation--when deciding on promotions.
Candidates competing for higher posts should reveal their true financial status, including their assets, equities and other property. Their official status comes under keen public oversight, especially from areas where they have served.
"What we need are committed, clean and responsible officials," Sun said, adding that to qualify for promotion, government officials should have sufficient experience working in different positions. "The essential value of our democratic system is generally the same as the rest of the world’s, even though we take different paths. I don't think all countries must have the democracy that comes only in the form of direct elections."
He said the organization department needs to heed public views to select the most qualified official. This costs substantially less than direct elections.
Hu Yuting, Secretary of the CPC Jinzhong Municipal Committee, said the selection is transparent, as the qualifications of candidates--including their education background, work experience, accreditations and health condition--are all made public.
Hu said Jinzhong has adopted a mission-oriented principle. All selected officials must be open to supervision. In 2016, the CPC Jinzhong Municipal Committee selected six county mayors out of 118 candidates.
Luo Huining, Secretary of the CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee, said that Shanxi’s practice is proof that the CPC Central Committee's decision to build a well-disciplined Party in all aspects is correct. Through self-purification and self-improvement, a political party can maintain its vigor and vitality.
Alejandra Reynoso Sánchez, Secretary of the Board of the Chamber of Deputies of Mexico, said fighting corruption and winning people's hearts is the mission of all parties and governments. "A comprehensive anti-corruption [campaign] is needed because a regime or a party can attain legitimacy only from discipline, honesty and keeping in close touch with the masses," said Sánchez.
After Bell finished his tour to Shanxi, he proposed that officials with more knowledge about Shanxi's local culture and history should be elevated, in order to better preserve its distinctive cultural legacy.
More women officials and better treatment of civil servants would also help in strengthening Party discipline, he added.
A Q&A session during the seminar (COURTESY OF IDCPC)
Boosting local economy
Besides building a healthy political ecology, Shanxi has also deepened its supply-side structural reform to maintain economic growth, Luo said.
"We have conducted nine specialized programs to speed up facilitation of investment and promote contract execution; for contracted projects outside the government-approved investment projects catalogue, we try out an enterprise responsibility system to reduce approval procedures,"Luo said. "With these initiatives, we are building a good environment for investors and businessmen."In the latter half of 2016, the campaign Ten Thousand Party Cadres on Assistance to Enterprises was launched in Shanxi. Over 14,000 cadres went to 4,580 enterprises to provide needed services and help address difficulties, according to the other sub-seminar, held at the same time.
Liu Yanzhong, Deputy Secretary of the Jinzhong Municipal Government, was sent to Mingsheng Foundry Co., a private manufacturer in Taiming County of Jinzhong. However, there was a lack of understanding and communication at the beginning. Step by step, Liu came to understand the shortcomings of the family-run company: institutional irregularities and narrow vision.
Finally, Liu and other officials sent to the company managed to help the company set standards and build its own brand.
Kabir Hashim, General-Secretary of the United National Party of Sri Lanka, who had just finished an on-the-spot investigation of Shanxi, said the campaign was extremely important and rich in human touch.
"In many countries, people are suffering from poverty and inequality and many of them hold feelings of resentment against political parties,” Hashim said. “After my trip to Shanxi, I found that the CPC, with Xi Jinping at its core, has solved such problems through reform." Hashim highlighted the local CPC committee’s measures to relocate over 10,000 workers laid off during the transformation of Taiyuan Steel Corp.
These efforts by the CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee have helped boost local economic growth. According to Luo, in the first quarter of 2017, Shanxi's GDP rose by 6.1 percent, a 3.1-percentage-point rise from last year. Public budget revenue increased by 12.6 percent and added value in strategic emerging industries grew 14.9 percent compared with the same period last year.
Shanxi is transforming from a fossil energy-centered economy to a new economic model increasingly driven by innovation and conservation, with the growth of non-coal sectors reaching 9.8 percent in the first five months of 2017.
The province’s net outflow of skilled personnel has also been effectively contained. By June this year, Shanxi had attracted 101 overseas high-level talents. Luo also noted that investors in search of good returns are increasingly coming to Shanxi.
"The development of society relies on the good operation of the ruling party. The CPC’s actions in building a well-disciplined Party are beneficial to China's further development. It's a practice we,the Mexico Government, should learn from," Enrique Escorza, Minister at the Mexican Embassy in Beijing, told Beijing Review.
Copyedited by Chris Surtees
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