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Interpreting a call for "Harmonious society"
By Wu Chong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-08 01:44

A government that commits itself to a co-operative and equal relationship with the diverse groups that make up its population lies at the core of building "a harmonious society."

So said Jing Tiankui of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in an interview with China Daily.

In his eyes, the top priority to building such a society is to change the role of government.

Jing said public officials must come to realize that respecting the rights of social groups and sharing responsibilities with them benefits everyone.

"Local governments should leave more space and rights for social groups to improve themselves and their management capabilities," the CPPCC member and director of the Institute of Sociology at CASS said.

On the other hand, Jing added, the government should take all necessary measures to support the growth of various social groups.

"China has seen profound economic development over the past two decades, so it has the ability to concentrate on social development at this time," Jing argued.

He said to achieve basic harmony, the government must increase financial spending on public welfare and to provide more people with access to quality education and proper medical treatment.

In late February, Jing and his colleague, Li Peilin, also from CASS, gave a joint lecture on the "harmonious society" topic to members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee.

The theme has become more or less a catch phrase in Chinese society this year, as suggested by a government work report delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao at this year's annual session of China's top legislature.

But Jing pointed out that there is a tendency to mistakenly apply the key phrase to almost everything.

"The connotation of 'a harmonious society' means harmony in social relations, human relations, the social atmosphere and social causes," Jing explained.

"It is a concept that parallels the economy, politics and culture, which are all independent and closely related to one another at the same time.

"It features democracy, the rule of law, equity, justice, sincerity, amity and vitality, as President Hu Jintao previously defined it."

By putting forward such a concept, the Chinese Government is manifesting its determination to attach equal importance to economic and social development, as well as to alter its way of dealing with problems from a command position to a "people first" approach, Jing said.

He said during the 25 years after the country implemented its First Five-Year Plan in 1953, social development was not even mentioned.

"Beginning with the Sixth Five-Year Plan starting in 1980, however, the country began to enact plans for both economic and social development, yet still in an unbalanced way," Jing said.

Reforms and opening-up over the past two and a half decades have brought prosperity for many Chinese citizens. But at the same time, problems, such as corrupt officials, the widening gap between the rich and poor, conflict between an increasing demand for energy and exhausting natural resources available, and a lack of an effective social welfare system, keep crying out for solutions.

Complaints are arising and mutual trust is collapsing, while "relations between the government and the people are being threatened," Jing said.

"People are often heard complaining about a mountain of problems, such as unemployment, loss of farmland or the forced tearing-down of their houses, which create discord in society," Jing said. A "harmonious society" will not tolerate these issues.

Jing also called on every citizen to realize their individual responsibility to society and join in the building of better relations between people and the government.

(China Daily 03/08/2005 page3)

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