Opinion / Editorials

Improving trustworthiness

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-02 07:56

IT SEEMS THAT THE PROPOSED PARAXYLENE plant in Maoming city, Guangdong province, is following in the footsteps of Xiamen, Ningbo and Kunming, where plans were aborted in the face of fierce opposition from local residents.

A protest was staged against the project in Maoming on Sunday, which developed into a disturbance. Although the incident was soon brought under control, the local government has now promised that the plant will not be established if the majority of residents oppose it.

If such plants are a hazard to the environment and people's health, why do the Republic of Korea and Singapore have them and export their products to China?

With China's increasing demand for the chemical material, it is of vital importance it has its own plant. However, it seems unlikely that without improved understanding such a project will be able to settle anywhere because of the opposition from local residents.

For a local government, it is not a matter of just dissuading local residents from opposing the project, it is a matter of establishing their own trustworthiness among local residents.

Against the background of the increasingly deteriorating environment in many parts of the country because of pollution, many residents believe that local governments choose to introduce polluting industries regardless of the cost to the environment and residents' health.

The polluted rivers and the heavy smog are hard evidence that many local governments have placed economic growth before environmental concerns in the past. And the lack of transparency in the process of introducing such industrial projects has helped cement this perception of local governments and local leaders. People need to be convinced that local leaders have changed their mentality.

What makes things even worse is the fact that many local governments are yet to develop the habit of communicating openly with residents. Neither do most of them have the awareness that transparency can be a way to reduce and dispel the mistrust between them and residents.

To simply give up on such projects will do little to build confidence in the trustworthiness of a local government, rather it will only convince residents that their opposition makes a difference.

When will it dawn on local governments that they need to improve their transparency to strengthen their trustworthiness? If there are public concerns about a project, they must make an honest response and reassure residents that there are real benefits and a guarantee of safety, instead of just defending it by accusing residents of a lack of knowledge.