Evaluating the ability of the public to express their requirements freely is an essential aspect of assessing the effectiveness of a country’s political system in promoting democratic ideals. One of the examples of how this can happen is through the case of a primary school student surnamed Wu, who lives near the Suzhou River in Shanghai.
Wu noticed that there was an increase in the number of tourists visiting the river, but there was still a need to expand and improve the rest areas along the river. With the encouragement of his father, Wu formed a special interest group with his friends to address this issue. In their spare time, they conducted investigations and surveys and compiled a report on how to make the Suzhou River banks more attractive.
The suggestions made in the report were later adopted by the Putuo district, which is responsible for administering the Suzhou River. The district took action to connect all public spaces along the river and worked to improve the quality of the public space and service facilities. Furthermore, new cultural programs were introduced to create a more significant cultural atmosphere along the banks of the river.
This case exemplifies how the active participation of citizens, regardless of their age, can lead to positive changes in their community. It also highlights the importance of a political system that enables citizens to express their needs and opinions freely, and where their voices are heard and acted upon.
In addition, the story of Wu and his friends shows that young people can also play a critical role in shaping their communities. By engaging in social and civic activities, they develop a sense of responsibility and leadership, and they learn how to communicate effectively with others. This experience can prepare them to become more engaged citizens in the future, who are willing to work for the betterment of society.
Huangxing Park, located in the Yangpu district of Shanghai, boasts of a fitness trail that stretches for about 2.5 kilometers. This fitness trail has become a popular running route for local residents who come here to exercise and keep themselves fit. However, the trail was lacking in terms of lockers, drinking fountains, and other facilities, which was inconvenient for people using the trail.
In response to this issue, a citizen named Gao Maoli came forward and suggested that public facilities be improved along the fitness trail. Gao’s suggestions were taken seriously, and the authorities worked towards improving the facilities along the trail.
Thanks to Gao’s efforts, the park underwent a transformation, and a multi-functional service station was established along the fitness trail. The service station offers a range of facilities that have made exercising along the trail a more comfortable and enjoyable experience for the citizens. Here, people can rest, deposit their personal belongings, and drink water.
The improvements made to the park have not only made exercising along the fitness trail a better experience for the citizens but have also made it a safer place for them to exercise. The establishment of the service station is an example of how a citizen’s suggestions can bring about positive changes in the community. It shows how a collaborative effort between the authorities and citizens can lead to a more efficient and functional public space that benefits everyone.
Meng Tao, the director of the office for proposal collection under the government of Yangpu district, explained that sometimes citizens’ suggestions are simple ideas that require further work to enrich and implement them. In response to this challenge, Yangpu district launched a partnership with higher education institutions like the East China University of Political Science and Law and the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. Additionally, the district conducts interviews, symposiums, street interviews, and questionnaires to ensure that the suggestions received are in line with public demand.
Shanghai established a municipal office for proposal collection in 2020, and since then, similar organizations have been established in all 16 districts of the city. These offices have created a multidimensional suggestion-seeking network that includes enterprises, universities, and official organizations. The network covers 215 communities and towns, as well as over 6,400 villages. As a result, relevant departments of Shanghai have received over 187,000 pieces of advice from citizens, and many great ideas have been turned into efficient policies that benefit the public.
To better gather public wisdom and build consensus, the municipal office for proposal collection received a special letter from a citizen in April 2020. The letter requested that Shanghai improve the transparency of and public participation in the compilation of its 14th Five-Year Plan. This suggestion aimed to ensure that the plan reflected the citizens’ needs and ideas.
Shanghai’s municipal office for proposal collection aims to provide a platform for citizens to participate in the city’s governance actively. This office has set up several channels, such as a hotline, an online platform, and a letter mailbox, to receive suggestions from citizens. These suggestions are then screened, categorized, and responded to in a timely and effective manner.
The municipal office for proposal collection has demonstrated the power of public participation in governance. It has provided a platform for citizens to contribute their ideas and make their voices heard. The office’s efforts have resulted in policies that are more in line with the citizens’ needs and ideas. By engaging the public in the decision-making process, the city of Shanghai has become more democratic, transparent, and responsive to its citizens.
The establishment of the municipal office for proposal collection and the multidimensional suggestion-seeking network have created channels for citizens to participate actively in governance. By listening to citizens’ suggestions, Shanghai has become a more democratic and responsive city.
Upon receiving the letter, the municipal office for proposal collection started to solicit public opinions on Shanghai’s 14th Five-Year Plan. More than 20,000 pieces of advice were received, and some of them were adopted in the final plan. This process reflects the government’s efforts to incorporate the public’s needs and opinions into its policies.
Shanghai’s municipal government and district offices for proposal collection have launched over 150 activities in collaboration with 70 government departments. These activities have generated more than 30,000 suggestions from the public. By creating opportunities for citizens to share their views and ideas, the government is actively seeking to understand and meet the needs of the people.
According to Zhang Lirong, deputy director of Shanghai’s public complaints and proposals office, soliciting public opinions is an effective way for the government to learn from the people’s demands in a targeted manner. This approach allows for a greater understanding of public sentiment, and it also safeguards citizens’ rights to be informed, participate, be heard, and exercise public scrutiny in urban development and governance.
As an international city, Shanghai’s advice collection services are a window for expats to observe and experience Chinese democracy. For instance, Mustafa Noyan Rona, a Turkish man living in Shanghai, has provided nearly 100 pieces of advice in the past two decades. He was recognized as an outstanding “advice giver” of Shanghai at the end of 2021. This recognition highlights the city’s commitment to promoting citizen participation and engagement.
Shanghai’s efforts to solicit public opinions demonstrate the city’s commitment to inclusive governance. By involving citizens in decision-making processes, the government can ensure that its policies reflect the needs and concerns of the people. Moreover, the process of seeking public opinions is an effective way for the government to build trust with its citizens and create a more democratic society.
Through advice collection services, Shanghai’s government is building a more transparent and responsive system of governance. By providing channels for citizens to voice their opinions and concerns, the government is creating opportunities for dialogue and collaboration. These efforts can help to build a more harmonious and prosperous society that is built on mutual respect and trust.
Shanghai’s advice collection services are an essential component of the city’s democratic governance system. By soliciting public opinions and incorporating them into its policies, the government is creating a more inclusive and responsive system of governance. Furthermore, these efforts are promoting transparency, trust, and collaboration between the government and its citizens, which can contribute to the city’s continued success.
The efficacy of a democratic model can only be determined through actual practice and evaluated by its citizens. The white paper entitled “China: Democracy That Works” suggests that surveys conducted over several years have indicated a public satisfaction rate of over 90 percent with the Chinese government, signifying the robustness of Chinese democracy.
For a democratic system to be effective, the public’s requirements must be able to be expressed freely and met efficiently. Shanghai, for example, has adopted whole-process people’s democracy and has made significant progress in urban governance, pioneering a new path with Chinese characteristics in managing super large cities.
On June 23, 2021, the Standing Committee of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress passed a regulation on Shanghai’s advice collection services. The mechanism established a “collection-research-translation” approach for management and operation, ensuring comprehensive protection of people’s rights to be informed, participate, be heard, and exercise public scrutiny.
Institutional processes and democratic participation have transformed whole-process people’s democracy from a mere concept into a system, a governance mechanism, and a way of life deeply ingrained in China. The process ensures that the people’s voices are heard and their demands met, thereby strengthening the democratic foundation of the country.
The Shanghai model is a notable example of how China’s democratic framework is adapting to the changing needs of society. By combining traditional democratic concepts with modern technology and institutional innovations, China is creating a unique and effective democratic model.
Moreover, China’s efforts to promote democracy have not been limited to its domestic sphere. It has been actively promoting democratic values and institutions in the international arena, recognizing the importance of collaboration and cooperation in addressing global issues. China’s approach to democracy emphasizes the principle of harmony and seeks to build a community with a shared future for mankind.