Officials' candor a pleasant surprise

By Li Xing
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, March 11, 2011
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The annual sessions of China's legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), and advisory body, the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), have traditionally been opportunities for journalists to glean the views of officials on major issues of public concern.

In years past, these efforts were often frustrated, as officials shun journalists, spoke in officialese, or dodged questions.

At this year's NPC and CPPCC sessions, journalists have been pleasantly surprised by officials who have been open and forthright, and who talk in everyday language about state affairs with NPC deputies, CPPCC members and the press.

On Saturday afternoon, for instance, Vice-Premier Wang Qishan discussed the food safety problem, which has kept the public on edge these past few years.

"About this (food safety), we (the government) are embarrassed, very embarrassed. Why? There's a lot of good food these days, but (people) worry when they eat this food," he said.

"Today, the problem is not whether there is enough food or enough variety; the problem is whether the food causes concern," he said, adding that the government has not yet overcome public concern over food safety, despite strenuous efforts over the past few years.

I myself was surprised at a press conference on Sunday with Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and two of his deputies, when I asked the last couple of questions.

Besides querying him on what measures China would take to ensure energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, I asked about the blackouts residents suffered last year when local administrators tried to meet a target for cutting CO2 emissions per unit of GDP. When the media reported this last year, the NDRC immediately issued a circular ordering a stop to this practice.

Zhang Ping did not dodge my question. "I must apologize for these acts, because we, as the department responsible, did not provide proper guidance," he said. "This was not what we'd intended."

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