Media “Event” in January: The Two Meetings
Since mid-2003 efforts to portray a new “openness”
and “transparency” in government matters have been increasing. The “new openness” of government was a
theme of the “two meetings” 两会 (中国人民政治协商会上海市第十届委员会第二次会议，上海实十二届人民代表大会第二次会议) in January。More than was ever the case before, the plenary sessions and small
group discussions that occurred during these meetings were reported in detail
in the local newspapers, on radio, and on television. TV coverage was so extensive and
celebratory, the only way to describe it was a “media event.” The effort was clearly made to
show that the “people’s representatives” were earnestly expressing opinions
which reflected the real concerns of
At the close of the Two Meetings, the
“Regulations on Opening Government Information of Shanghai Municipality” （上海市政府信息公开规定）
A remarkable and important step in the process of opening government was the promulgation on January 20, 2004 of the “Regulations on Opening Government Information of Shanghai Municipality” （上海市政府信息公开规定）。 This regulation, adopted by the People’s Congress, provided for the first time clear and public guidelines for the kind of information that the government could and should provide to the citizens.
The上海市政府信息公开规定were put into effect on May 1, 2004. The main channel for providing information to the public is the website www.shanghai.gov.cn. This website and its links provide a wealth of information.
“Openness” Follows a Scandalous 2003
Returning to the question posed above, what
might be the reason for
Certainly the answer must be that Shanghai
city officials—and their predecessors like 江泽民，黄菊，吴邦国，朱镕基--who hold powerful
positions and continue to influence policy in Shanghai from Beijing—have felt
the need to take measures to ameliorate a worsening situation before it becomes
a crisis situation. What is the
situation? It is a loss of
confidence and support of the people toward the
The Zhou Zhengyi 周正义scandal last year was only one manifestation of the depth and breadth of corruption in Shanghai's government and the pernicious relationship between government officials and real estate developers. These days, both local residents and foreigners are equally appalled and annoyed by the extreme degree of corruption-driven over-development of residential flats everywhere, but particularly within the inner ring road. Grossly out-of-place, over-sized luxury flat developments--gifts to such well connected sponsors as the Tomson Group--have now almost ruined the potential aura of the Lujiazui "financial district," not to mention of potential aesthetic appeal of the Huangpu riverside.
Meanwhile, the city has done almost nothing
to widen secondary roads in anticipation of the glut of traffic that will
surely flow from high density development. Some residents excuse this as
owing to a lack of money. However,
the city forwent a huge amount of tax revenue during the period 1999 to 2003
when it allowed flat buyers to off-set any amount up to their entire personal
income tax liability with any money spent to buy residential
real estate. This was, in effect, a massive transfer of city
tax revenues to the developers, with pernicious effects of which on the
daily life of
Corruption Has Left a Legacy of Discontent and Troubled Citizens
After the Zhou Zhengyi scandal broke in May-June 2003 and an investigation team arrived from Beijing to discover that over 80% of local government (usually district 区 level) approvals for property development had been issued in secret in violation of regulations (essentially the approvals had been given “under the table” for bribes), and that violations of building height and density regulations were widespread (also allowed because of corruption), the Shanghai government and the Shanghai Communist Party committee held a series of internal meetings and self-analysis “study” sessions. The purpose of these meetings was to warn all cadres and officials that future violations of regulations and obvious corruption would be punished.
Of course, such meetings and warnings had been issued many times in the past, with little or no effect. In the course of “study” sessions it must have become clear to everyone that corruption and self-interest seeking by officials would never stop unless the secrecy and non-transparency of the decision making were changed. Thus new regulations were issued to require land development to be subject to public auction and that results be made public. Apparently, this idea developed a certain momentum, and it was realized that more general transparency and openness of government was necessary to effectively reduce or eliminate corruption and to improve the fairness and honesty of government.
The result was the “Regulations on Opening Government Information of Shanghai Municipality” （上海市政府信息公开规定）. How effective the new regulations will
be in improving government in