“How to deal with the CCP’s “fourth danger”?”

Chinese Media Project has a good post here, urging the Chinese government to embrace more transparent governance. After detailing other problems listed by Hu Jintao himself, they tie it all together:

But I would suggest that all of these recent scandals illustrate a fifth danger, one that in various ways is now being debated with deep ambivalence within the Party — and that is lack of openness and transparency.

The need for openness was of course a critical issue in the recent wave of public anger surrounding the July 23 train collision in Wenzhou. But the Party’s hesitancy was illustrated in chiaroscuro on July 28 and 29.

Visiting the site of the crash, Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to get to the bottom of the collision and its causes, holding those responsible to account. But Chinese media had scarcely begun to exploit the opportunity for openness afforded by Wen’s visit before the Central Propaganda Department came down hard.

Plenty of Party leaders have argued in recent years that openness of information is a key part of good governance and instrumental to stemming public opinion crises. In 2008, Wang Yang (汪洋), Guangdong’s party secretary, called for greater openness as he likened stifled public opinion to the dangerous “barrier lakes” forming along rivers near the epicenter of the Sichuan earthquake. He said leaders must listen to the words of the people, and not build up “language barrier lakes” (言塞湖) that might threaten to burst (arguably exactly what happened after the July 23 train collision).

But the more farsighted priority of pushing openness to tackle key issues and build legitimacy is most often frustrated in the shortsighted present by the need to maintain social and political stability by enforcing media controls, or “correct guidance of public opinion” (a lesson from June 4, 1989, that the CCP has never forgotten).

The failure to allow open information and debate on key issues like corruption and political reform is therefore a fifth danger facing the Party. In the face of continued controls on China’s press, calls for greater openness like the “Notice” announced by Xinhua, and Wen Jiabao’s pledge to get to the bottom of the July 23 crash, look very much like “openness” behind closed doors.

And that’s unlikely to appease the clawing crowd outside.

That tendency, to ignore the long-term consequences in pursuit of short-term gain, is a hallmark of Communist Party rule here. It’s also sadly one thing they refuse to reduce their reliance on.

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Filed under Communist Party, corruption

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