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Small reforms could change whole society
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-02 08:37

In fast-changing China, local governments have made many brave reforms and innovations in the way they operate. And seemingly small changes at the grass-roots level may lead to larger political progress in China, said Yu Keping, a famous political-science professor.

Yu said innovations within local governments included changes in providing public services, administrative reforms and political transparency. They also include grass-roots democracy and scientific decision-making.

Some of the innovations have been recommended by higher authorities, said Yu, who is the head of the China Centre for Comparative Politics and Economics.

"An independent government deeds' evaluation system should be established in China," said Yu, who launched the non-profit awards programme for Innovation and Excellence in Local Chinese Governance in 2001.

The biennial awards, aimed at finding and spreading excellence in governance, started a new selection round yesterday.

"All the innovations by local governments, non-governmental organizations and other civil associations under the provincial level are welcome to participate in the third award for 2005-06," said Yu.

"We have six selection criteria for the awards," Yu added.

The first one requires a project to be innovative. "It also cannot be carried out in accordance with orders or arrangements by higher authorities," Yu added.

Second, a project must be helpful in strengthening civic participation in local decision-making.

The third and the fourth criteria focus on the social effects and the significance of a project.

The projects must also be cost-effective, and must be transferable.

"We hope that the awards programme may not only encourage local governments to introduce creative and innovative reforms, but also help us evaluate local authorities," said Yu.

He said nearly 600 innovative projects qualified for the last two rounds of awards and in each session 10 winners were selected.

"We have followed up the development of the projects to see whether they were sustainable and are still working, whether they have been copied, and whether they have resulted in improvements," said Yu.

For instance, direct elections for village committee members, initiated by Lishu County in Northeast China's Jilin Province, has been taken up in many rural areas and has helped thousands of farmers.

"Innovation is the soul of a nation's progress. Small changes are happening everywhere around us, and these changes may lead to larger reforms in our society," said Yu.

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