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Ensuring public’s right to enjoy balanced development

Author  :  Peng Dapeng     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-11-07

Since the reform and opening up, China has made remarkable achievements that have captured global attention, such as the meteoric rise of its GDP, which now ranks second globally. The country’s comprehensive national power has grown substantially and its international prestige has as well. 

However, as General Secretary of CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping pointed out in the 19th CPC National Congress report, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, and the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved. What it now faces is the contradiction between unbalanced, inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing demand for a better life. This historic change that concerns the whole national picture has raised new requirements for the Party and the country.

The public’s demand for a better life is not only associated with a burgeoning awareness of civil rights but also closely correlates with the fulfillment and maintenance of civil rights. To satisfy the public’s assertion of their lawful rights, such as environmental protection and food safety, is to meet their demands for a better life, and this also is the goal of social development. 

The rule of law is considered the effective means by which the fundamental rights of citizens can be acknowledged and ensured. For instance, the Second Session of the 10th National People’s Congress examined and approved the fourth constitutional amendment. Clauses such as “the legitimate private property of citizens is inviolable” and “the nation respects and protects human rights” were written into the constitution. This adapted to the objective needs of protecting property rights and other basic rights of citizens, which, conducive to advancing rule of law, also injects confidence into social development and promotes the building of a harmonious society.

The increased awareness of rights has made the local governments more scrupulous and less capricious when making decisions, particularly when approving projects that can have a significant impact on the natural environment and public interest. Such decisions need to be repeatedly deliberated by consulting both the advice of experts and the opinions of the general public. This seems to have made the procedures complicated and lowered the efficiency, but in the long term and from a holistic perspective, decisions that are made after repeated assessment have higher efficacy and are more scientific and reasonable, which serves the interest of the majority. In this way, the shortsighted economic growth model which seeks instant benefit and profit at the expense of the natural environment and social harmony will be abandoned. 

Though the past growth model that solely pursued economic benefit also served the wellbeing of all people, the “people” here is usually understood as an abstract idea, and the true needs and wishes of each individual or group are overlooked in the process. Accordingly, the management-oriented government that partially emphasizes GDP growth and takes administrative control as the chief means of governing must transform itself into a service-oriented government to serve the people wholeheartedly in seeking the maximization of social and public interests.

The government is not an institution that can rise above society. A service-oriented government is directed by public demand, and its political priority is to respond to the demands from citizens. China is currently in a critical stage in terms of transforming its growth model, improving its economic structure and fostering new drivers of growth, which means that comprehensive social development should replace pure economic growth. Therefore, government agencies at each level should—based on the correct understanding of the salient features of the current stage of economic development in China—reaffirm their determination and commitment to model transformation and structural adjustment to solve the existing contradictions and obvious problems. 

In the past, the public’s demands were mainly limited to basic needs like livelihood. But in recent years they have continued to evolve to include quality of life, equality and justice. Only when human development is consistent with economic, social and political development, can development be defined as balanced, comprehensive and sustainable. But can we build consensus among the public amid a diversity of personal values in the process of building a harmonious society? A consensus is not to say that everyone has the same view because public interest does not mean the exact same interest among all social members but the greatest common divisor, which is reached in the form of democracy amid pluralistic values and interests.

 

Peng Dapeng is an associate professor and deputy director of the New Rural Construction Research Center at the Party School of Sichuan Committee of the CPC.

Editor: Yu Hui

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