Global Times on Shifang, Qidong

The Global Times posted an article in Chinese on the Shifang and Qidong incidents. There is also an English version, but it lacks key passages, namely those saying "The 'Shifang-Qidong Model' must be broken." My translation (a rough one) of the original Chinese version is below, emphasis my own. The Global Times' translation is in other ways far superior to my own. 


The Shifang - Qidong model must be broken

Not a month after the Shifang incident, on the 28th, an almost identical incident occurred in Qidong, which is in Nantong, Jiangsu province. Some local residents protested in front of the local government office in order to stop the planned construction of the Nantong large-scale waste water project. The situation got out of control, and the governmental body was attacked. One of the main officials was stripped of his clothing and humiliated, and computers and vehicles were destroyed. Nantong city quickly announced that it had “forever cancelled” the project, and the incident was brought under control.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that protesters in Qidong were inspired and encouraged by the Shifang incident. They were just as intense as Shifang protesters, and like them, they achieved their objective and solved their problem. Qidong’s municipal government may have also learned from Shifang’s experience in being hard first and soft later, using “urgent crisis solving” to achieve a “soft landing” in a short amount of time.

However, the Qidong and Shifang incidents show a pattern. They have clearly shown this: when there is a problem with government decision making, the quickest way to completely resolve the issue is to have a violent protest. If this model gains traction, it poses a disastrous threat to China’s societal stability. It could encourage people to refuse to trust the government and use radical methods to ensure their demands for their own interests are met.


 The“Shifang-Qidong Model”must be broken. Decision making can no longer be in the hands of the leaders. The participation of the people must be ensured; they can no longer just go through the motions. After this kind of decision has been made, once it is met with opposition by groups, the leader can’t just step down when he likes, it must be able to stand in the face of opposition.


Shifang and Qidong show that a fear of environmental pollution exists in our society. Once this fear is set off, it will create a force of destruction that cares for nothing else. From now on, large projects that affect the environment will be face an extremely weak social psychology. If the “Shifang-Qidong Model” persists, it won’t just impact social stability. China’s future development will also face an unprecedented challenge.

An unfair or unreasonable strategic decision making process is the main reason that Qidong and Shifang governments were not confident in the face of those mass incidents. Billion-dollar projects can’t be scrapped whenever you like. Didn’t they hesitate even to deal with property damage according to the law? These two places may be peaceful now, but the precedent they set for the entire nation was terrible.

You can’t just blame the two local governments. As of yet there is no universal method for dealing with mass incidents. One they reach levels that the law would need to deal with them, there is already very powerful pressure from the sphere of debate as well as existing stability maintenance measures that put the local governments between a rock and a hard place. They are only able to perform triage in these instances, and can’t make any carefully thought out or ordered moves.

At present, local government bodies’ decisions about how to deal with mass incidents vary randomly all over the nation. Local governments always put an emphasis on concessions or suppressions, or at least that’s the impression one gets.

The establishment of policy in China can only take shape as it is a assaulted this way. In the end, it will result in the perfection of rule of law. Some everyday people will take to the streets because they don’t trust the local government to solve problems through normal channels. And the all-to-easy suspension of the Shifang and Qidong projects shows implicitly that the people are right not to trust them. The government must strengthen its communications with the people to correct decision making. That is a precondition for having the courage to stand firm when faced with opposition.

When the public has demands, they must be expressed. This is one of the most fundamental aspects of modern society. By giving them proper channels to express these demands, radicalization of problems can be avoided, and would ensure there is nothing to fear. One can only hope that these two incidents can be seen as an opportunity for China to realize a policy for the democratic negotiation of policy.

China has developed so quickly in these past few years. Even though demands regarding interests are spreading, and there are many problems, the stability of the government has a firm foundation. Now is the time and place to carry out true reform as we look at the two representative instances of the Shifang and Qidong incidents. All local governments should see this as an urgent opportunity and not a time to panic. As long as you truly serve the interests of the people, they will understand.

Source: Global Times



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