Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr Specially Invites Professor Li Lianjiang from the Chinese University of Hong Kong to Give a Speech
A series of speeches entitled China in Transformation hosted by Confucius Institute Metropole Ruhr E.V. at the University of Duisburg-Essen moves on. The experts and scholars were specially invited to make objective introductions and explanations on China’s current state of political, social and economic development as well as China’s fundamental philosophies and ideas of culture for the interest of German people, to achieve the goal of mutual understanding.
With China’s sustained economic development and great changes within Chinese society, many Western people that have followed China’s development closely commonly share the view that the various issues which Chinese society faces will affect China’s government adversly. They suspect that Chinese people will likely become resentful of the Chinese political system as a result of disparities in the distribution of wealth and that their trust in the government will be lowered considerably. In response to these issues which German scholars and public have followed closely, the speeches will enable them to understand whether and to what degree the political leadership in Beijing enjoys the trust of China’s public and which political leadership is most trusted by Chinese people.
On July 6th, 2011, the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr E.V. at the University of Duisburg-Essen specially invited Chinese youth scholar and Social Policy Professor Mr. Li Lianjiang from Chinese University of Hong Kong to give a speech entitled Do Chinese People Believe in Their Own Government?. As he stated in his speech, this issue may not be resolved by expounding theories or through controversy, but with the use of data and seeking the truth to illuminate. Profess Li Lianjiang has focused upon and researched this subject for a long time. He has collected vast bodies of data and his research shows that Chinese people’s trust in central government is high- between 70% and 85%. In comparison with local Chinese governments and central governments of other countries, this approval rating is also high. For example, the confidence or level of trust of German people in their federal government is only 22%. As such, it is worth noting that since the early 1990s, Chinese people’s level of trust in central government has remained high and that they do not adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ or suspicious attitude towards governmental capacity in spite of the rapid development of the Chinese economy and great changes taking place at home and abroad.
Professor Li explained that the scientific explanations for the causes of these phenomena are different. Some scholars attribute the current high levels of trust in “government or central authorities” to those that existed in traditional Chinese culture, while others regard it to be the result of the management performance and success of the Chinese government in furthering economic development.
Professor Li also linked his lecture to the concept of “appealing to higher authorities for help” for Chinese people and has conducted extensive surveys on the issue. People commonly take a dim view of common people going to a provincial capital or a country’s capital to appeal for help. However, people present petitions to a government out of their trust in government: they are merely dissatisfied with local government and hope to get help from central government. In recent years, there has been a growing number of people that have appealed to the central government in Beijing for help. Therefore, Professor Li believes that on one hand this shows that the level of people’s trust in central government is higher than that of their trust in local government; on the other hand, it also shows that there is a kind of complaint letter and request handling system in contemporary China.
Professor Li also explained that the Chinese people’s concept of what counts as central government, is very vague. According to the opinion of the general public, if an administrative unit is labelled as being of “central” level but fails to assist in the solving of problems which are the subject of a petition, it must be deceiving the public in the use of the name “central” and may, in fact, not be “central” at all: true “central” government will assist them in solving problems. It shows that “appealing to higher authorities for help” is the manifestation of people’s basic belief in the benevolence of their political leadership. As a matter of fact, citizens’ concept of central government reduces the whole vast machine of all the ministries and commissions of Beijing government down to just a few leaders. It is, therefore, seen as greatly regretful that few common people are able to approach or locate these leaders. Finally, Professor Li explained that this situation can be turned to an advantage, utilziing this positive regard that exists so as to stabilize the political situation. Meanwhile, these findings have shown that there are different levels of public trust and confidence held in the government at all levels of the administrative system and political hierarchy.
During the lively discussion that ensued, there was great focus on the future reform of the political system and working relationships among all the levels of Chinese government. Professor Li Lianjiang does not rule out the possibility of Chinese people gradually losing their confidence in government. From his point of view, if the government fails to solve various challenges which they are facing at present in the long term, the public may feel disillusioned with the government.
A total of over 50 academics, undergraduates and local people attended the lecture. They responded positively to the speech and generally reacted by expressing the opinion that their understanding of China’s reality had improved, contributing to their further awareness and understanding of the country. The lecture was presided over by the German Director of the Confucius Institute and an expert in Chinese politics and sociology Professor Heberer.