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China Daily Website

Govt officials wary of losing trust

Updated: 2012-09-04 11:28
( Xinhua)

BEIJING - Some local Chinese governments are prone to slip into a credibility crisis in the Internet era in which inadequate information access and poor explanation spur public blame and simmer distrust.

Despite governments' assertion of approved environmental assessments for several planned chemical projects recently in cities of Dalian, Shifang and Qidong, local residents, nonetheless, did not trust them and turned protests into violence in some extreme cases.

In one of the latest conflicts between a military officer family and a flight attendant as well as a nationwide huntdown of a most wanted serial killer, the public also tended to believe online rumors rather than official statements.

Publius Gornelius Tacitus (56-117 A.D.), a historian and a senator of the Roman Empire, said neither good nor bad policies would please the governed if the government is unwelcome, which was later called "Tacitus Trap" in political studies.

"Tacitus Trap" warns any leaders in power that when a government loses credibility, whether it tells the truth or a lie, to do good or bad, will be considered a lie, or to do bad.

There was a similar political adage in ancient China when Confucius (551-479 B.C.) told his followers that the people's trust is the top priority among all considerations of governance.

It is not enough for the government to publicize information concerning public interests, which was demanded by the above-mentioned residents in fear of environmental hazards. The public have the right to know at the beginning of the government's project plans and the right to participate in debating the project's feasibility.

To establish a sound government-people interaction will help accumulate public trust and make it easier to elaborate a bigger picture of economic and social development to the people.

Therefore, to win or lose public support seriously matters, for not only the better government-people relationship but also government's public image.