The suspension of new standards for electric bicycles announced before their implementation in the New Year is not just an embarrassment to the State Standardization Administration (SSA), it shows how problematic the decision-making process is in some government departments.
On the surface, it was the lack of consideration for the impact the new standards would have on electric bicycle users, manufacturers and urban traffic on the part of the SSA and relevant officials and experts that resulted in the embarrassing situation.
In essence, a lack of respect for public opinion and for the reasonable and scientific decision-making process was to blame.
When the public and bicycle associations challenged the standards immediately after they were released, the SSA authorities responded firmly that the standards were exactly in line with the required procedure. And they even said their feasibility had been elaborated time again by experts and the association of motor vehicles and motorcycles had extensively heard public opinion.
The way the SSA authorities gave their explanations gives the impression that they had done no wrong with the new standards which would certainly be implemented from January 2010.
When announcing the suspension of the standards, the SSA document says the electric bicycle is a new industry and points out that it will take time to make policies for its healthy development, so the implementation of new standards had to be suspended.
But the electric bicycle industry involves millions of workers and users and has been in existence for several years. Why did the SSA and new standards makers turn a blind eye to such a fact before they made the standards?
It is not that they do not know the facts. It is because they are more concerned with power behind a policy. They believe that any policy made by the government is arbitrary and must be carried out. Then they take it for granted that policies are feasible as long as they, the makers, think they are.
As everyone knows, there should never be a presumption that decisions are reasonable and feasible. Investigations must be conducted before a decision is made. Public opinion must be heard. And an extensive feasibility study must be conducted.
Had the SSA done all of that, the new standards it published would not have received the strong resistance they got.
A Chinese proverb says: "A fall in the pit, a gain in the wit." The SSA obviously made a mistake by pushing new standards that could not be implemented. But the SSA has shown no sign of regret, judging by what it said about the suspension.
It seems to believe it was not to blame for anything in this matter and policy from a State department can be something to play with - to announce it and then suspend its implementation if it finds it hard to implement or unfeasible.
Yet, that should not be the case. Someone should be held accountable for the situation. At least, the SSA should offer the public an apology.
(China Daily 01/06/2010 page8)