Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gave instructions to “open the door for supervision and inspection” (开门搞督查), and it looks like the General Office of the Chinese State Council is heeding his words. On the official website of the PRC — gov.cn — the State Council is officially soliciting suggestions from the public through a two-month project called “I give suggestions for the general inspection survey” (我为大督查提建议 wǒ wéi dà dū chá tí jiànyì). This is the third “general inspection survey” — the previous ones were in 2014 and 2015 — conducted by the State Council, whose function is to carry out the principles and policies of the party.
There is a wide range of topics open to public critique, from rural development to technical innovation, from public service to people’s livelihoods. The stated mission of this sweeping project is to “adequately listen to the voice of the people,” “actively receive the supervision of society,” and “detect protruding problems,” according to the official website of the Chinese government.
When it comes to important policy proposals, the government will often publish a draft online and open it up for public comments. But this “general inspection survey” is different in that it is a mass survey that covers 12 main areas (重点方向 zhòngdiǎn fāngxiàng) — each of which is soliciting advice — and is not tied to any specific policy.
As outlined on Gov.cn, those giving feedback should stick to addressing at least one of the following issues:
- Policies not being fully implemented;
- Government regulations and services not being in place or unsatisfying;
- Related departments / offices not doing their jobs or doing them belatedly or arbitrarily.
People have the option to either leave messages on the government’s official website, use an extended application on WeChat, or mail paper documents to the government’s mailbox. Name, ID number, phone number, email, and occupation are all required. Only Chinese nationals are allowed to comment.
On the project’s official webpage, some exemplary suggestions are displayed.
One citizen from Beijing complained about the complex procedure for obtaining a travel permit to Hong Kong, explaining her need to frequently visit her elderly parents. The Ministry of Public Security (公安部 gōng’ān bù) responded by telling her what new policies they have recently adopted to help travelers going to Hong Kong.
Another citizen from Liaoning said that he is unable to access many public places, such as grocery stores and restaurants, because he is wheelchair-bound. The China Disabled Persons’ Federation (中国残联 zhōngguó cán lián) replied by acknowledging the inadequacy of the country’s infrastructure for disabled people and promising to build more facilities to serve them, especially at public venues such as shops, hotels, banks, and transit stations.
So far, more than 60,000 suggestions have been collected, and the number is still growing. The government promises that some lucky contributors will get the chance to meet Premier Li Keqiang in person. This is exactly what happened in January of this year, when a courier from Shanxi Province, who left an online message, got to meet the premier. “It felt like being in a movie, but it was real life,” he said. “I sent an appeal to the government, and the government heard it.”
This survey isn’t a trending topic on Chinese social media, but some users, naturally, have expressed skepticism.
“This is like shadowboxing,” one person wrote on July 12, using the Chinese slang “shadowboxing” (太极拳 tàijíquán) which means to do something in a vague or ambiguous way without revealing clear intentions. “Our complaints can find its way back to our local government’s hands. It’s best to be careful, everyone!”