The Communist Party of China on Sunday wrote the "scientific outlook of development" into its amended Constitution to make it the keynote of the country's overall development in years to come, but observers say the implementation of the policy is not an easy job.
Possible challenges to the central government's authority might come from some local governments and enterprises which have their own interests, the observers warn.
Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the Central Committee of CPC, has called at the Party's 17th National Congress on cadres and people across the nation to change their minds to meet the scientific development, and the new perception of development should be spread in every corner of the country.
The congress, which concluded Sunday, urged that major problems that hinder the implementation of the scientific outlook of development should be solved.
The perception was put forward by the CPC Central Committee in 2003 and has since become China's national strategy aimed at balanced and sustainable growth, as the country, the fourth largest economy in the world, is suffering from deterioration of environment and an enlarged poor-wealthy gap.
Chinese leaders have been repeatedly calling for coordinated development between urban and rural areas, among different regions, between economic and social development, between the development of man and nature, and between domestic development and opening up to the outside world.
But achieving scientific development has been an arduous task, to which challenges come from profit-seeking local governments and officials, observers believed.
On Aug.19, a molten aluminium spill occurred at a workshop under Weiqiao Pioneering Group Co., Ltd. in Zouping County, east China's Shandong Province. The accident, which happened only one month after the production facility had began operation, killed 16 people and injured another 59 with a direct economic loss estimated at more than 6.6 million yuan (about 860,000 U.S. dollars).
According to the State Administration of Work Safety and a working teleconference held by the provincial government, the 4.2- million-yuan workshop, built in less than one year and came on stream in July 2007, was designed by an unqualified local agency with major designing defects and was approved against laws and regulations.
Reports said the accident stemmed from efforts to seek development in a blind way, which put the money first instead of putting the people first, a direct offense to the central government's order. False value of officials' performance and poor policy execution were also the factors behind.
More astonishing was that on the official website of the county government, an article went so far as to praise the workshop's parent company, which contributed to 50 percent of the county's fiscal revenue, for its persistence in expansion against state policies and authorities' objections.
According to Jiang Daming, the acting governor of Shandong, the parent company of the fatal facility, was an influential tax payer locally, which was protected by local governments and defied supervision by superior authorities.
The company was far from unique. Earlier this year, the State Environmental Protection Administration unveiled a blacklist of 82 projects that seriously violated environmental protection assessment rules. Involving combined investment of 1.12 trillion yuan, the big budget projects were protected by local governments as they were cash cows.
Environmental protection agencies and other departments had imposed penalties on some projects, but the penalties were not executed due to local protection.
"In the past, policy enforcement relied on political conviction and the authority and power of the central government. But now, in a free market economy, things have changed a lot. Local governments and enterprises put interests first," said Wang Xiaoguang, head of the economic operation and development section of the Research Institute of Economy under the National Development and Reform Commission.
Behind the poor implementation of policies were thirst for growth and interests of local governments, the observers said.
According to Zhuang Jian, senior economist of ADB's (Asian Development Bank) China Resident Mission, the interests of local governments sometimes went against central government's consideration, which was largely a result of the current financial system.
Zhuang said under the system, local governments only had power of administration but without authority to dispose of money allocated by the central government. Therefore, they could only rely on their own revenues and tended to rake in as more money as they could through local investment and GDP growth. The financial system should be reformed, Zhuang added.
Echoing Zhuang, many economists believed, not only the scientific outlook of development should be emphasized, but also corresponding institutional arrangements should be made.
"While helping local governments and officials establish value of performance in line with the strategy, the assessment mechanism of officials' performance should be put under control in a scientific way," said Zhou Tianyong, deputy head of the research office under the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC.
Zhou added that the general public should be authorized to participate in the assessment. To achieve this goal, political reform should be deepened, so to give ordinary people more power to supervise the government and companies.
However, some role model local governments have performed well, particularly in energy and resources conservation, for example, southern China's Guangdong Province.
In the late 1990s, Guangdong began to accelerate industrial restructuring and put energy-efficient services and new and high- tech sectors high on its development agenda.
In the first half of 2006, the service sector accounted for approximately 60 percent of the province's total fixed assets investment.
Meanwhile, Guangdong phased out outmoded production facilities. In 2005, more than 390 small businesses that failed to meet industrial standards were shut down. The same year saw Guangdong's energy consumption for every 10,000 yuan of GDP stand at 0.79 tons of standard coal, the lowest in China and equivalent of 65.8 percent of the national average.
In the first half of 2006, the national per-unit energy consumption went up 0.8 percent on average, but the indicator in Guangdong went down 2.5 percent. The observers accredited these achievements to efficient policy execution by the provincial government.
Wang Xiaoguang believed the scientific outlook on development was a result of the fact that economic and social development had entered a new era and it summed up experiences of China's reform and opening up over the past three decades. It also resulted from the integration of concepts of development in economy, society, politics and cultures, he added.
As a new measure to practice the scientific outlook of development, the State Council, China's cabinet, has recently approved the masterplan of urban and rural development of southwestern China's Chongqing. It was the nation's first masterplan for coordinated development of urban and rural areas.
The plan aims to eliminate discrimination against rural people, which was partly caused by the current residence registration system, and to narrow the income gap between the urban and rural residents.
Under the masterplan, redundant labors in rural areas will be encouraged to flow into urban areas, migrant workers will be facilitated to turn into urban residents, resources will be distributed in a balanced way between urban and rural areas, and the residence registration system and land control and land use regime will be reformed.
Attending the 17th CPC National Congress, Huang Daowei, party chief of Qinzhou City, southern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said,"The scientific concept of development is not a catchphrase, but an orientation of China's future development, which conforms to the experience and trend of global development. To achieve scientific development, we should do our work in real earnest."
(Xinhua News Agency October 21, 2007)