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Listen to Rural Voices
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On his inspection tour of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Premier Wen Jiabao stressed that building a new socialist countryside must proceed from reality, and the will of rural villagers must be respected.

What he said provides food for thought about both the interpretation of the core concept of the new socialist countryside and the way such an interpretation is realized.

Misinterpretation is usually how an otherwise good cause is led astray, potentially yielding disastrous results.

We have read examples of how local government officials force villagers to demolish their old houses to build new ones. In these cases, local government leaders interpret the campaign as building new houses for villagers and giving rural villages a nice look.

In some cases, corrupt officials intentionally misinterpret a policy or a concept for ulterior motives. Rather than taking "building new socialist countryside" as an opportunity to improve the living standards of rural villagers, some consider it a chance to make political achievements to boost their chances of promotion and some take it as an occasion to make profit for themselves.

When rural villagers do not benefit from whatever a local government does in the name of building new socialist countryside, it follows that the local leadership must have wrongly interpreted the policy.

"Respecting the will of villagers" could be understood as a demand for a pragmatic working style local government officials need to follow in building a new socialist countryside.

Whatever interpretation of the policy, local government leaders must keep rural villagers informed of their plans and heed their opinions because they will bear the brunt of whatever will be done.

The simple remarks by the premier send a message that building new socialist countryside is actually a very complicated process and there should never be a simple, universal solution.

Circumstances vary from township to township and even from village to village. Local leaders must conduct down-to-earth investigations to identify the specific problems on the way to the prosperity of villagers, and then make concrete plans to help villagers tackle them.

All this requires that local government leaders put the interest of villagers before everything in making and carrying out their plans.

We will not be able to realize the goal of building a better-off and harmonious society unless the living standards of rural villagers are considerably improved. In this sense, it is a weighty task for grass-roots government officials to make meaningful and pragmatic plans for building new socialist countryside.

If they can take Premier Wen's remarks seriously in their practical work, they will be able to do a good job.

(China Daily November 3, 2006)

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