Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Improve green steps to a blue APEC sky

By Wang Yiqing (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-07 07:53

For China, it's an important platform to showcase its diplomatic prowess. For Beijing residents, it has brought the gift of a six-day holiday and some inconvenience. For some Western media outlets, it's another occasion to criticize Beijing for hosting "meeting galas" at the cost of people's normal life. The "APEC week" means different things to different people.

To ensure that the capital gets blue skies during the APEC conference, Beijing, Tianjin and neighboring cities in Hebei province reduced the number of vehicles on the road by half, suspended production in factories, and some government departments and other organizations in Beijing granted a holiday to employees from Nov 7 to 12. And from Nov 6, emergency measures were expanded to six cities in Shandong province if needed.

"To have friends come from awayisn't that a joy?" is a famous saying attributed to Confucius. China believes in it and, hence, has taken all the necessary measures to ensure the "APEC guests" enjoy their stay in Beijing and the conference proceeds smoothly. Since more than 10,000 VIPs from across the world will attend the conference, Beijing has to impose strict traffic control and high-level security measures to ensure their safety and security. Therefore, declaring a six-day holiday is justified. Earlier APEC conference hosts such as Bangkok, Sydney and Lima too declared several days of public holiday.

As the largest developing country, China may take a long time to effectively reduce pollution and improve its air quality. So Beijing and its neighboring cities, which are criticized for their smog, have to take strict short-term measures to ensure blue skies during the "APEC week". Such efforts should be seen as an example of China's sense of responsibility as a rising power.

The Beijing municipal government has already made efforts to minimize the inconveniences caused to residents by the APEC meeting. For instance, it has issued an open letter calling for people's understanding and support, and increased the number of buses and frequency of subway trains.

However, the city authorities should have made more efforts to minimize the inconveniences, for many netizens have complained that marriage registrations and divorce settlements should not have been suspended. Indeed, the local authorities should have solicited public opinion before deciding which departments and organizations to close during the APEC meeting.

Such criticism is not unreasonable. It is important to pave the way for a successful APEC meeting, but the authorities should use better communication skills to win public support.

In mid-October, I was in Brisbane, which will host the G20 summit next week. Brisbane authorities have put up G20 Summit banners across the city and posted detailed re-scheduled timetables, accurate to a minute, at every bust stop. At bus terminals, volunteers distribute leaflets that give detail information about which bus routes will be affected by the summit. Such measures have been taken well in advance to help Brisbane residents to "re-arrange" their life during the summit.

This is not to say that Brisbane is more people-oriented than Beijing. But Brisbane has definitely shown that informing residents in advance about the changes in public services and schedules during major events minimizes inconvenience. For instance, all schools and kindergartensbut not all officeswill be closed during the APEC meeting, so had Beijing city authorities announced the "APEC holiday" well in advance, it would be easier for the parents who have to work during the six days to arrange for their children's care, or help those who are entitled to the extra holiday to make a better travel plan.

Involving more residents in the planning of an eventinstead of asking them to just make sacrificeswill win more public support.

As China is pushing ahead with the establishment of modern governance system, such a grand event as APEC meeting should be used as an opportunity to improve the governance and communication skills of local authorities.

The author is a writer with China Daily.

(China Daily 11/07/2014 page10)

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