Decision-makers must be reasonably knowledgeable if they are to regularly come to informed conclusions. That is why in ancient China candidates for public office were sifted by the imperial examination system.
The Communist Party of China's initiative to incorporate contemporary Western theories about public administration in the training of high officials may not necessarily improve their decision-making capabilities. But there could be no better way to respond to the lack of knowledge and ossified way of thinking within the higher levels of the country's political hierarchy.
Over the decades, Party-sponsored training sessions have given overriding priority to indoctrination in Party orthodoxy.
Such "thought-unifying" sessions are conducive to creating political loyalty, or correctness.
But the Party needs - and wants - more than that. From their pledge to "advance with the times", to their vow to deliver "good governance", the Party's national leadership has shown a strong desire to refine its ability to govern. The Party's peculiar role and its aspiration to lead the nation's march toward rejuvenation demand such competence.
Despite its early invention of the imperial civil examination system, this country has lagged far behind advanced Western countries in both the theory and practice of civil administration. Exposing our officials to foreign ways and approaches and making them reflect on their own performance is a sensible addition to the traditional education about Party traditions.
For years, the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, which kicked off the discourse about "good governance", has been offering classes on such topics to high and intermediate level officials. The same idea has sent huge crowds of promising young officials overseas for educational purposes.
This country has suffered too much from poor decision-making. We appreciate all efforts to ensure better governance.
But ignorance and incompetence are not the most serious impediments to the Party's visions of good governance. Frequent scandals involving corruption and dereliction of duty are a warning sign of moral degradation within the ranks of public officials.
In most cases, public indignation has been reserved for cases of fraudulence, not lack of ability.
So it is equally, if not more, important to make sure officials use their abilities for the public good.
(China Daily 07/17/2007 page10)