Hopes high for new era

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, March 15, 2013
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With Xi Jinping taking over from Hu Jintao as the head of State and the military on Thursday, the Chinese national leadership is one small step away from completing its smooth generational transfer.

Hopes are running high for the coming decade, as Xi has made a stir with his refreshing no-nonsense style since he took the helm of the Communist Party of China in November. His popularity is partly because of his people-friendly approach to work and down-to-earth style of speaking which people can relate to.

For example, when he participated in a discussion with the National People's Congress delegates from Jiangsu province on Friday, he reminded the mayor of Suzhou, who had outlined a plan to make "substantial improvements" in the water quality of the city's lakes, that netizens' yardstick for acceptable water quality would be whether the mayor dared to jump in and swim.

In February, concerned about the quality of the water in a local river, a resident in Rui'an, Zhejiang province, challenged the head of the local environmental protection bureau to swim in the polluted river, offering a 200,000-yuan ($31,884) reward if he did. Since then, people in several other places have followed suit.

To date, no official has taken up any of these challenges, although the reward has risen to 300,000 yuan in one place. However, this is not surprising given how polluted our rivers and lakes have become.

But while such dares may seem to have fallen on deaf ears, they have produced some results. The mayor of Wenzhou, whose jurisdiction includes Rui'an, told a news conference that his city will carry out a clean-up to make the local rivers safe enough for people to swim in five years from now.

Such actions are already being linked to the changes Xi and his colleagues have been trying hard to maneuver.

Xi's comment during the panel discussion with Jiangsu deputies could be taken as a casual joke showing a man-of-the-people's sense of humor. Yet, judging from online comments, many people believe that this apparently casual line conveys something much bigger and more profound: Xi knows what is happening, and he is concerned.

In his awareness of people's concerns and his responsiveness to them, Xi is setting a fine example. We wish all the country's public servants could follow his example.

Such understanding and responsiveness have to be the hallmarks of the new era we are all anticipating.

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