Gov't must lead drive toward greater honesty

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail People's Daily, October 24, 2011
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The plan for the social credit system developed and deployed at the recent standing meeting of the State Council points out that dishonesty is still persistent in society, and incidents of business fraud, counterfeiting, fraudulent claims and academic misconduct still remain widespread after repeated prohibitions, which has lead to dissatisfaction among the people.

A Western philosopher once said, "Trust is what we must preserve, for it is just like air and water. The society we live in will fall apart once it is damaged." It may not go so far as to "fall apart," but we really have had enough of the bitter wine made of the lack of honesty and low public mutual trust. When society has reached a point where one is not sure whether he or she should help a fallen elderly person, the time has come when social honesty must be examined and reconstructed.

The government should be the establisher, implementer and maintainer of social credibility and also a model of public credibility and the wind vane of all social credibility. Such an orientation determines that governmental creditability is the first credibility of society and the core of the entire social credit system.

The philosopher Thomas Hobbes once said that honesty and credibility are the main principles and foundations of government and the social order. If government credibility is lost, the entire building of credibility will collapse. Then enterprise credibility and individual credibility will be lost too. The old saying, "The village watches the village, the household watches the household. and the masses watch the cadre," is a reflection of this principle.

However, one thing that is an embarrassment to China is that the government's credibility and reputation are actually very bad in some places. An investigation made by the Xiao Kang magazine in 2010 shows that more than 70 percent of the respondents expressed that they did not trust their basic level governments and a little more than 80 percent of respondents chose the local governmental officials as the group with lowest credibility. It is really an irony that the ones that should have the highest credibility are actually the ones that have the lowest credibility in the opinion of the public.

If China wants to solve this intensifying social credibility crisis and reverse the decline of social credibility, government credibility must be changed first. The problem of government credibility could be solved by two measures: rules and supervision. Francis Fukuyama, a U.S. scholar, believes that the main difference between the East and the West in the area of credibility is that the credibility relies on the law, regulations, systems and religious beliefs in the West, but it relies on the mutual trust among the people in the East.

As society becomes more complicated and a society of acquaintances changes into a society of strangers, creditability maintained by interpersonal relations will not be reliable any more. Therefore, in order to rebuild credibility, the supplies of laws, regulation and systems must be increased. The benefit from creditability should be increased, the cost of non-creditability must be increased too and credibility should accord with the principle of cost-benefit direct proportion.

Only when governmental creditability gets out of the closed "one-man show" system and puts itself in the whole creditability system can it be supervised and promoted. In other words, in order to promote governmental creditability, China must create conditions to enable the public to widely participate in the decision-making of and supervision on the governmental public affairs. Only in this way can the sufficiency of the power of building up and maintaining governmental creditability be guaranteed.

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