A few weeks ago we heard about the Guangdong province Party chief changing the rules for land development, supposedly to a more sane way of doing it. Now the Guangdong Party deputy secretary is looking to remove some of the inhibitions on civil society according to Caijing and Shanghaiist:
At a press conference on Thursday, Zhu Mingguo (朱明国), deputy secretary of the provincial party committee and secretary of the provincial committee for discipline inspection, said the growth of civil society had been limited in the past because of a big government that was omnipresent in all matters big and small. Going forward, the Guangdong government would lower the barriers of entry for the registration of civil society groups, and these groups would be given the latitude and autonomy to manage and develop themselves.
By encouraging the active involvement of workers, youth and women, the government hoped to see the appearance of more civil society organisations. The goal by the end of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan was to have 5 civil society groups for every 10,000 people. This would require the involvement of 10% of Guangdong residents, or about 10 million.
The six strategic directions employed by the provincial government would be as follows:
1. To release as many powers as can be released,
2. To move from an ‘omnipotent’ government towards a limited government,
3. The government would be there to provide better services, and to ‘manage the managers’, and not to directly manage all matters in society. Society would be encouraged to manage itself through the civil society groups,
4. The government will pass on certain powers over to the civil society groups, which would have to operate within certain set rules,
5. The government will, through the purchase of services, encourage the movement of civil society groups,
6. The government will help train social workers and volunteers and encourage signups from graduates of relevant tertiary institutions
Zhu also said the government would encourage more migrant workers to become civil servants so as to make them feel they too are “valued by the party and the government”. In counties, townships and also companies where there are more migrant workers, they would be invited to participate as ad-hoc committee members or ad-hoc consultants so that they can better pass on the views of members of their community in matters such as public security.
The formula of the “four rights,” first promulgated by President Hu Jintao in 2007, also resurfaced in Zhu’s paper, even though they were completely absent in the president’s 90th anniversary speech. Apart from greater transparency in policy and a more active citizenry, Zhu assured workers, farmers, intellectuals and all other segments of society of their right to know (知情权), right to participate (参与权), right to express (表达权) and right to monitor (监督权).
If true, this is a big deal. If Guangdong actually puts this into practice and promotes the Four Rights and civil society, a successful experiment could pave the way for other parts of China to follow. Remember, the first Special Economic Zone was Shenzhen, also in Guangdong province. The economic revolution that exploded out of there changed China. We’ll see where this goes.