On December 28 2019 the Conference on Ecological and Social Governance of Beijing was held in the Yifu Buildings, Renmin University of China. The conference was sponsored by the Beijing International Ecological Economic Promotion Association (IEEPA) and co-organized by the Beijing Academy of Development and Strategy, Renmin University of China (hereafter referred to as RUC BADS) and the Center for Research on Social System Engineering, National Academy of Development and Strategy, Renmin University of China (hereafter referred to as RUC NADS).
In attendance at the meeting were: Wang Daguang, Director of the Research Center for Party Building Studies affiliated to the Organization Department of Beijing City Committee of the CPC; Sun Tao, Professor and Dean, Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University; Li Wenzhao, Vice Dean of the RUC BADS; Zhang Yunfei, Researcher at the RUC BADS, Professor, School of Marxism Studies; Chen Anguo, Professor, National Academy of Governance; Yuan Zhenlong, Director of the Capital Institute of Public Security Comprehensive Administration, Beijing Academy of Social Science; Huang Xiaofang, Associate Professor, Beijing Administration Institute; Dai Rongli, Head of Publicity Department, China Railway Construction Engineering Group.
Li Junyang, Executive Vice-President of the IEEPA, Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Environmental Science and Engineering of Tsinghua University, Senior Research Fellow at Environment Science and Engineering Institute of Nankai University, chaired the meeting and explained the report's purpose. The report provides an in-depth understanding of the spirit of the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th Party Central Committee's focus on the development of national ecological governance systems and implementation against the background of the "Governance of China's" 13 principles; how to promote the development of ecological social governance and address the imperative question of how national forms of social governance should progress; usher in a new era of "party-building + professionalism" modes, jointly creating the "red empowerment" party-building brand, leading a new type of ecological humanistic grass-roots governance, facing new challenges and opportunities.
Researcher Li Junyang emphasized that the modernization of national systems of governance and governance capacities firstly requires an in-depth analysis of the ecological connotations and structures of urban governance at a grassroots level. The introduction of systematic engineering ideas to build new forms of ecological and humanities governance at the grassroots level is especially important. Actively encouraging and supporting societal forces to take leadership to give full play to the spirit of "do my bit in bettering the national capital", adhering to the party's leadership and sticking to the grassroots, and carrying out the construction of the capital's ecological and humane demonstration are also all top priorities. Li Junyang also emphasized the need to give full play to the advantages of combining party building and professionalism and setting up the "ecological, harmonious, humanistic, unsurpassed, and liveable" model in grassroots communities to demonstrate the effects of societal leadership and the need to work together to promote the development of a law-abiding, promising, shared government in Beijing. Creating a capital with new forms of social governance that are built together, governed together and shared to create a first-class, internationally-acclaimed, harmonious and livable capital.
Li Junyang pointed out that analyzing the strengths of grassroots governance will stimulate the vitality of grassroots governance, consolidate the strength of grassroots governance, and capture the development of grassroots governance models. For example, when addressing governance issues in city management and community safety, we must focus on the development of smart platforms. To address the issue of the weak links in the business environment we must develop a one-stop, cross-department, multi-sector sharing consultation and docking mechanism. To improve quality issues for residents, we must focus on the construction of civilized practices. To respond to the problems handed down by history and difficulties faced by ordinary people and other difficult questions, we must focus on the development of linkage mechanisms to carry out comprehensive governance, integrate multiple plans, coordinate multi-dimensional development demands, implement policies and plans, and connect all regions with an overall plan. Social organizations should be encouraged to participate in grassroots governance through the party-building model while the government creates a social evaluation system to gauge the effectiveness of street office work. The key to assessing the effectiveness of policy implementation is to actively collect feedback from grassroots activists and ensure that policy implementation is conducted in a timely manner.
Wang Daguang, Director of the Party Construction Research Institute of the Organization Department of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee believes that IEEPA's "National Ecological System and Grassroots Social Governance in the Capital Report" can be used to inform wider society about the ways in which social groups can strengthen the influence of government decision-making. This is particularly evident in Beijing, where "Regulations on Street Offices", “Regulations on Property Management” and “Regulations on Waste Classification”, have been combined with "Grassroots Ecological and Human Governance" demonstrating how the party can lead and produce better results.
Sun Tao pointed out that IEEPA’s report can learn from business environment indicators, and can consider putting forward "business community indicators", which are indicators of social construction, can construct a good atmosphere and allow social contradictions and social conflicts to be resolved earlier. In particular, we will evaluate and develop a fantastic business community environmental index for ecological livability, including green governance, green consumption, and green travel.
Zhang Yunfei believes that people must be placed at the centre of country's governing activities and that social system engineering methods need to be used to explore methods for grassroots governance. In addition to party building and leadership, grassroots governance activities must also be performed by labor unions, the Communist Youth League, the Women’s Federation and other organizations.
Chen Anguo pointed out, that IEEPA's first proposal of the flagship party-building activity under the banner of "red empowerment", shows cutting-edge leadership in how it gives full play to the benefits of party leadership and in how it actively explores "party-building and professionalism" modes. The "red empowerment" party-building activity has also been a source of innovation in ecological humanistic communities, campuses, science spots and shopping malls. Governance in Beijing, like in every city, has both advantages and disadvantages. For Beijing, the advantage lies in its political control, its big data and intelligence. Given its strong foundation, Beijing is experienced in every aspect of governance concerning party-building grassroots work.
Li Wenzhao believes that it is necessary to focus on what gives communities ecological and humanistic characteristics and how this can be realized through grassroots governance. The overarching top-down design requires a tailored operational design and plan in each community. Firstly, resource mapping and diagnosing is required, and then some guidelines for a plan of action.
Yuan Zhenlong pointed out that that the research results of IEEPA's report need to summarized to identify the existing grassroots work situation, what they have achieved so far, their shortcomings as well as the problems and difficulties encountered, and then put forward a plan for further advancement that is more specific as to how grassroots operations can be implemented.
Huang Xiaofang, an associate professor of the Party School of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee pointed out that IEEPA's "red empowerment" party-building activity can, at the grassroots level, be combined with the party-building demonstrations of Party School of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee in Shunyi District and learn experiences from all parts of the country. For example, the experience in Fenqiao, Zhejiang should be connected to actual experience at the grassroots level. We should pay attention to promotion of voluntary services in the processes of social governance.
Dai Rongli pointed out that while the party is in charge of everything, it cannot do everything. Thus, the roles of party leadership and business must be combined when giving fully play to grassroots organizations. It is particularly important for community groups and not-for-profits to factor ordinary people in to the equation when it comes to the co-governance and building of grassroots organizations.
In recent years, Beijing has continued to optimize the business environment. This has been achieved by placing residents at the centre, and using the impact on people and commerce as the sole criterion to measure the efficacy of the reforms. In the reforms, the initiative to adopt an empathetic approach was taken to focus on the user experience and support innovative policies. This approach achieved many positive results. Most significantly, the World Bank's "2020 Business Environment Report" noted that China's business environment experienced drastic improvements. China now ranks 31st in the world, moving up 15 places within the space of a single year. Beijing, as a sample city in the report, for a second year in a row gained an additional 4.6 points, rising to a total of 78.2 and outperforming a number of EU and OECD economies.
Recently, the Beijing Municipal Party Committee and the Municipal Government, issued a "combination box" for social governance. This is aimed at fine-tuning services at the grassroots level. For example, The "Beijing Property Management Regulations (Draft)" took the livelihood of communities into account and are open to suggestions. Additionally, the implementation of the "Beijing Sub-district Office Regulations" clarified the rights and responsibilities of the streets, while community governance became further refined and streets now have greater power. On the other hand, with more power delegated to sub-district offices, major attention should be drawn to the impartial exertion of authority and the proper implementation of policy. Giving effect to the principles of being "law-abiding, promising and sharing" and establishing a community based on "co-construction, co-governance and sharing" must be done at the grassroots level. To give full play to the role of the new mechanism, it is necessary to increase the participation of the public, communities, and residents in social governance and brainstorming.
Recently, researchers from the IEEPA and news media personnel visited several communities in the Shunyi District to carry out investigations on the ecological and human governance issues of grassroots communities. During the research, community residents voiced their concerns on governance issues. For example, community environmental issues should be supervised by neighborhood committees. However, in reality it is difficult for neighborhood committees to simultaneously supervise and be responsible for the implementation of land management measures. It is not clear whether neighborhood committees can play a governmental role. For example, many neighborhood residents are reluctant to voice their opinion when the neighborhood committee's work is unsatisfactory. Residents fear that they may offend the neighborhood committee and be subject to retaliatory measures, such as being forced to move elsewhere. Many residents emphasized the need for a platform that would allow members of the public to evaluate a number of government services. By allowing members of the public to evaluate the performance of neighborhood committees, street offices, communities, and the quality of the living environment (the results of which will be made public), we can more adequately respond to the needs of local residents. The response to the 12345 hotline has been very positive. Regardless of whether or not the issue can be solved, those who call in to report an issue will receive a response. In instances when the problem can be addressed, callers will be given a rough time frame during which the issue will be resolved. The relevant department will also be notified of the resident's issue. In regard to measuring the rate of satisfaction, the evaluation data should be proportionate to the issue's significance. Additionally, there are still differences in the humanistic qualities between urban and suburban areas in Beijing such as salutations by the traffic police in the downtown area. The difference in law enforcement standards in the different areas of Beijing is still too great. However, despite these differences, Beijing is Beijing, and there are more similarities than differences.
Lin Jian, Researcher at RUC NADS, Director of the Center for Research on Social System Engineering introduced the contents of the research report, and pointed out that grassroots are the most basic units in social systems. This is the case for streets, communities, villages, enterprises and institutions, schools, shopping malls, hospitals etc. Grassroots represent the streets and communities and are directly related to people's daily work and lives and provide a solid foundation for social governance. The key to governance lies in the grassroots. National governance requires top-level design, but it is also crucial that mid-level and grassroots governance be continually maintained. Grassroots carry substantial weight in national and social governance and constitute the most basic unit in social governance. It is necessary to explore new patterns of grassroots governance with a systematic engineering approach according to law, source and comprehensive governance. Grass-roots social governance requires multi-sector coordination, multi-force convergence, and multi-measure resolution. Governance involves overarching economic, political, cultural, social and ecological civilization goals to assist the overall development of the people. Social system engineering is an effective method and tool for strengthening social governance and innovation. It focuses on system governance and provides a system-wide view, with people being the core subject. It is necessary to pay attention to the entire process of grassroots governance and the law of evolution and provide methods and technical means of control, regulation and self-regulation to ensure social stability, coordination and healthy development.
IEEPA's "Report on National Ecological System and Grassroots Social Governance of Beijing" states that it is necessary to firmly grasp the main line of strengthening the party's governing capacity, advanced nature, and purity building, and continuously improve the party's ability to lead in economic and social development. Emphasizing the use of “red empowerment” for the party-building banner, starting the selection of target samples, conducting social organization surveys and party-building grassroots activities, making each grassroots party organization a strong battle fortress. To play a leading role in party building, party members' cadre pioneers should take the lead. Leadership of the party committee is the prerequisite; government accountability is the key; democratic consultation is the mechanism; social coordination is the means; public participation is the main body; the protection of the rule of law is the need; scientific and technological support is the condition; cultural cohesion is the soul; with the multi-party participation and concerted efforts we can draw a new pattern of ecological governance based on "co-construction, co-governance, and sharing".
Regarding the status quo problems and challenges of the "rule at the grassroots level" in China, Professor Ren Yong, Deputy Dean of the School of Political Science and Public Management of East China University of Political Science and Law, published "Policy of the State at the Grassroots Level"at the People's Daily. The article also clearly states that the more policy is extended to the grassroots level, the more diverse and complicated policy implementation becomes. For example, reducing the negative effects of policy distortion, tests the ability and standard of grassroots cadres and officers to start businesses, forcing them to pay close attention to the implementation of policy reforms. We must urgently face the various emerging policy distortions in the current grassroots governance process.
On the one hand, this phenomenon hinders policy effects from arising and disrupts the normal governance order. On the other hand, it weakens the authority of grassroots law enforcement and is not conducive to the grassroots governance and the modernization of theoretical capabilities.
The absence of an accountability mechanism for the supervision and implementation of policies is one of the most significant factors for policy distortion at the grassroots level. Some grassroots cadres use their unique role in grassroots governance to make use of asymmetrical policy information and take advantage of policy distortions to perform illegal activities that maximize their personal interests. In some places, selective implementation is carried out, and policies are adjusted according to the personal interests of those carrying it out. Additive implementation adds something that is not in the original policy and is often done for the benefit of a region, a department or even small groups. In these instances, the ill-directed philosophy of "seek not to be meritorious, but only to avoid blame" is in the air. Also in some places, grassroots governance does not have a clear evaluation mechanism or reward and punishment system for policy implementation. The results of policy promotion thus depends on the evaluation of the policy by the top leadership. Due to this, it is necessary to further improve evaluation systems for policy implementation and standardize supervision and accountability mechanisms. To put an end to "does not matter whether it been done well or poorly, as long as it is what the leader says" organizational mentality. To improve the efficacy of grassroots governance, non-compliance must be stopped, the law must be enforced and the credibility of government and public servants needs to be bolstered.
The rectification of the "policy distortions" in grassroots governance must be linked to grassroots governance modernization. Additionally, operations must be standardized, social vitality and creativity maximized, policy-execution capital cultivated and a better environment for policy implementation must be established to achieve more effective grassroots governance.
The conclusion of IEEPA's"Report on National Ecological System and Grassroots Social Governance of Beijing" identified that to construct good ecological and social governance is to build a solid foundation for a new pattern of social governance in Beijing, one based on "co-construction, co-governance, and sharing" to accumulate ecological humanistic wealth and move toward the era of ecological civilization.