Saturday, November 3, 2012






What the people think of their leadership and government will be increasingly reflected not in the traditional print and TV media, but in the digital media and in the blogs and micro-blogs of the digital world. The digital image of China in the international net community will increasingly influence governmental and non-governmental perceptions of China. Future prejudices of China will be born not in the columns of the print media and in the radio and TV reports, but in the mushrooming blogs and micro-blogs of the digital world. It is important for leaders and policy-makers to pay attention to what is being discussed in the digital world and to be able to interact with the digital world. Future stability will depend not only on what happens in the real world, but also on what happens in the digital world.

2. These are some of the features of the world of the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) being highlighted by the analysts of the prelude to the Congress which is starting at Beijing on November 8,2012. An article by Dennis Pamlin of 21st New Frontiers, a consultancy organization in Sweden, carried by the “China Daily” on November 2,2012, says:

“In the coming years China's image will be increasingly shaped in a connected world, a world in which people will not only be passive consumers of information, many of them will be active providers of information through different social media. In a connected world people will trust their social networks more than traditional media, and the social networks with the most trust will create a virtual image of China.

“This digital image of China will be determined by the images, stories, comments, blogs and videos posted online, rather than through the print media, television and radio. So China must pay attention to its "digital twin".

“In a connected world it is no longer enough to do good things and tell people about them, it is also necessary to engage in dialogue with people around the world. If China does not engage in these dialogues, its digital twin will end up distorted.

“We are rapidly moving into a hyper-connected society where transparency and enormous amounts of information are creating new opportunities and new challenges. In order to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities it is important that China, and those with an understanding of China, explore new ways to encourage dialogue so that its digital twin is not shaped to suit others' agendas.” 

3. According to the “China Daily”, on November 1,2012, many party functionaries opened their own micro-blogs in their real names and started interacting directly with party cadres and people. One of those who has thus started interacting is Yu Zhengsheng, Secretary of the Shanfghai Municipal Committee of the CPC and a member of the CPC Politbureau, who is being tipped to join the new Standing Committee of the Politbureau as one of its seven members.

4. In a message posted on his micro-blog, he said: "It is the responsibility, instead of the power, that the official position gives to us. We're not special. We cannot be above the law. Assuming the responsibility of serving the people is the key of an official's work.” According to the “China Daily”, this is not the first time he is directly interacting through the web with party cadres and  the general public. He has been doing it before.

5.Zhang Qingli, secretary of the Hebei Provincial Committee of the CPC, said in his microblog: "We should provide a chance for people who have a desire to work, a stage for people with working capabilities, and important posts for those who have had achievements before. What we should do is to encourage diligent officials, criticize the ones who can only deliver lip service, and deal with those who create disorder on our team. We cannot arrange idle positions and feed idlers. The key is to implement what we say in conferences and write on documents."

6.Zhang Baoshun, secretary of the Anhui Provincial Committee of the CPC, microblogged:   “Officials at all levels should be modest and close to the public. Our posts and power are not for showing off. We'd better have more closeness to residents and avoid bureaucracy. As for fact-finding trips to grassroots areas, high-level officials should not ask people to accompany them. Instead, we should dispense with all unnecessary formalities, and not burden and disturb local people."

7. The China Daily has quoted Zhou Xiaopeng, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Sina, an online microblogging service, as saying that though many Chinese officials and governmental departments began to use micro blogs to interact with netizens two years ago, "it is only now that so many high-level officials interact with Web users via a popular online platform.”

8. In addition to encouraging the party functionaries and officials to use the social media sites for direct and continuous interactions with party cadres and the public, the Chinese Government has also been closely monitoring the use of these sites by foreign embassies in Beijing for digital interactions with the people in order to influence their perceptions.

9.The “China Daily” reported on November 3,2012:

“ The micro blogs have become an important platform for foreign governments to promote public diplomacy in China and pose an increasing influence on China's Internet, said the first research report on foreign governments' micro blogs in China, which was released on Friday. ( November 2)

“According to the report, the number of foreign government micro blogs surged in 2011, bringing the total by the end of June to 165 on the top four micro-blogging sites - Sina, Tencent, Netease and Sohu. Those of the United States and Britain were the most influential, said the report. "These micro blogs have cast enormous influence on the Chinese public, especially the Chinese netizen. The foreign governments promote not only their culture, education and tourism resources through the micro blogs, but also forge close interaction with Chinese netizens and opinion leaders on ideology," said Zhang Zhi'an, associate professor of the School of Communication and Design under Sun Yat-sen University. "Social media evokes public passion to talk about some serious issues which we don't often talk about in our daily life, and that's the way these foreign governments' micro blogs influence Chinese netizens in a subtle way that they didn't even notice," said Zhang, who led the research.

10.A t\rigidly-controlled State like China has realised the importance of direct interactions between policy-makers and social media users for perception management, for identifying and addressing the grievances of the people and for creating a greater level of trust and comfort between the people and the leadership. Because of our over-cautious and conservative policies relating to the use of social media networks for direct and active interaction with the people, we in India continue to treat them more as a source of danger than as an asset for building public confidence in the leadership and the policy-makers. There is an urgent need for a change in our attitudes and policies. ( 4-11-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)






The 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is all set to meet at Beijing from November 8, 2012. Hu Jintao will be handing over as the General Secretary of the Party to Xi Jinping at the Congress and a new Standing Committee of the Politbureau, a new Politbureau and a new Central Committee will be elected at the Congress. They will be in office till the 19th Congress  in 2017. Normally, a new Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Party should also be elected at the Congress.

2. Normally, the members of the new party organs are chosen through consensus by the outgoing Central Committee and formally elected by the new Congress. The outgoing party organs, which assumed office  at the 17th Congress in 2007, are presently meeting in Beijing to reach a consensus on the composition of the new party organs to be formally elected next week and to approve the report on the work done by the outgoing organs for submission to the 18th Congress.

3. Hu Jintao as the outgoing General Secretary and Xi Jinping as his successor should be playing the leading role in finalising the composition of the new party organs. Speculation from Beijing indicates that Jiang Zemin, a strong personality from Shanghai, who was the predecessor of Hu as the Party Secretary and as the Chairman of the Party CMC and who still wields considerable influence in the party circles in Shanghai,  has been playing an important role in the finalisation of the composition of the new party organs and that under his influence, a neo conservative political leadership, which wants to go slow on political reforms, seems to be well-poised to occupy key positions under Xi.

4. The importance of political reforms to sustain the economic reforms, which was the keynote of the policies advocated by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, has been given less importance in the deliberations preceding the new Party Congress. Improving people’s livelihood, incremental political reforms and innovative democracy are the keynotes of the new policy being advocated.

5. Any idea of a multi-party democracy is firmly rejected. The firm leadership of the Communist party, the modernisation of the functioning of the party and the improvement of inner party democracy to provide for greater transparency in its functioning, better choice for the party cadres in the election of the party functionaries and greater accountability of the functionaries to the cadres and the people are now stressed as the new features of innovative democracy.

6. The new party functionaries, who are expected to take over under XI, are projected in the speculation as  advocates of a play safe policy in respect of political reforms. Economic and political stability and not political experimentation will be their objective.

7. In an article published on November 3,2012 , the “People’s Daily”, the party daily, said: “The social unrest caused by Russia’s “shock therapy,” Latin America’s “radical reform,” or certain African countries’ copying of the U.S. political system proves that slavish imitation of Western democracy will lead to turmoil. Democracy takes various forms according to different national condition, and good democracy should first suit a country’s national conditions. China has attached great importance to the people’s livelihood and incremental reform, and pursued suitable democracy through gradual innovation in a pragmatic manner. Democracy is not only a system of government, but also a way of life which meets people’s needs. Admittedly, as public awareness of the rights to know and participate as well as the rule of law increases, democracy in China has not reached the level many people expect. However, the country is making steady progress in improving its democracy.”

8. Thus, the new party leadership, which will be taking over next week, is trying to reduce expectations of a Chinese spring or a brave new world of Chinese democracy. This is not the time for political experimentation. That is the message that has been coming out from Beijing. ( 3-11-12)


(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)