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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: December 13, 2010 NO. 50 DECEMBER 16, 2010
What Can Officials Learn From Temporary Overseas Civil Service?

It's still too early to judge whether this program is good or bad. If it's good, let's continue; if not, let's drop it.

Be cautious

Chen Yizhou (www.china.com.cn): Would a U.S. president be a good county head in China? Theoretically, people may think it's a waste of talent. But a U.S. president is very likely to end up as a failure as a county head in China, and the reason is simple: There are cultural and institutional differences between our two countries.

So why should we spend money on the officials' temporary overseas service program? Even if all Chinese officials are trained to be as capable as the U.S. president, they will find they have to start everything from scratch at home. If it's to learn governance, it's unnecessary to spend so much money training officials overseas. There are so many teaching materials available on the Internet.

If the temporary overseas civil service program is to be used as a platform to learn about the differences between systems in China and in other countries, so as to pave the way for future reform in China, it's better to send scholars first, not officials.

Zhang Tianpan (Yangtze Evening News): This era demands lifelong learning for everyone, especially civil servants, who are supposed to serve people better with updated knowledge. But, by no means should the government pay for these officials' overseas experiences, because ultimately the costs are met from tax payments from ordinary people.

Government is not an institution for talent training and development. Schools are responsible for that. If the government needs certain types of talent, it may cooperate with educational institutions or invite teachers to give classes to officials. But, instead of doing so, the government of Dongcheng District chooses to send officials abroad for temporary civil service. This is undoubtedly a huge waste of administrative resources. It is also actually suspect as another perk of the job for civil servants: either traveling abroad or studying abroad at government expense.

Civil servants are not supposed to be privileged over the people. Their responsibility is to take care of their own business. Temporary civil service abroad will not necessarily produce civil servants meeting the public's requirements.

He Rufeng (www.hinews.cn): Although China's Civil Service Law allows civil servants to serve temporarily in posts at higher- or lower-level government departments or even state-owned enterprises, it does not say civil servants can go to government sectors in other countries. Obviously, to send officials abroad as temporary civil servants is without legal grounds.

China is not lacking in talented people. For years, China has sent students to developed countries for further education and many of them have come back home, with some of them being recruited by the government, so their skills can be fully taken advantage of by placing them in important posts. China is not rich yet and its government expenses are huge. Particularly, people are very angry at officials' traveling abroad at taxpayers' expense. No one can be assured the officials will surely pick up useful experience in government sectors in other countries. Probably, it will be a huge waste of taxpayers' money.

Han Fudong (Chinese Business View): As for enterprises, they provide their employees with opportunities for training in or visiting other countries to improve employees' personal capabilities. Enterprises can directly benefit from such programs, although first of all these programs are considered perks for the employees. Different from enterprises' overseas training programs for their employees, civil servants' overseas training should be carried out after careful consideration. Dongcheng District's temporary overseas civil service program for civil servants will cost taxpayers 50 million yuan every year. Every one of the 563,000 permanent residents in Dongcheng District will have to contribute 100 yuan ($15) every year to these civil servants, for them to enjoy better treatment and move to higher social positions.

In this era of globalization, it's actually very easy for Chinese officials to learn about governance methods in developed countries. To learn useful governance from the Internet or other kinds of economical ways will be more efficient than sending officials abroad. It's not that Dongcheng District's plan is totally wrong, but while there is still no effective supervision over government expenses, this program will bring more negative results than positive ones, just like many other programs that feature overseas travel.

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