Posted by Alice Xin Liu on Friday, June 26, 2009 at 12:50 PM
The election of 29-year-old mayor, Zhou Senfeng in the city of Yicheng, Hubei province has sparked debates in the Chinese media and on blogs, some commenting on whether his youthful election is because of family and political background rather than achievement.
Some also depress the idea that his youthful election is a sign that the CPC is moving forwards in its attempt to rejuvenate the Party. Southern Metropolis Daily ran editorials by specialist commentators two days in a row. Yesterday's was by Yu Jianrong (于建嵘), a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) employee and incidentally, a specialist of mass incidents.
Yu Jianrong also keeps a blog, and is a well-known social commentator and academic. In the article, translated below, Yu argues that Zhou's age is not the issue, but in fact it's the process of which he has been elected.
If the process is fair, even an 18-year-old mayor is fineby Yu Jianrong / Southern Metropolis Daily
On June 21, Zhou Senfeng, who has a Masters from Tsinghua University, was elected by unanimous vote as the city mayor for Yicheng, Hubei province (The Beijing News, June 22). It's said that he is the youngest "local official" with real power. The election of Zhou has attracted a following of public opinion and the heated discussion of netizens.
In a mature and modern civil society, local officials' young ages shouldn't hold much significance, as long as voters want to choose him to serve the people. But in the current electoral process of political Party leaders, being young is likened to having a long future, so choosing young people is seen as having an effect on the future development of society. Because of this, people have become too passionate about the choice of Zhou: some are hoping that younger officials will be able to change the ugly habits of officials in general, but more people are concerned about and suspicious of his familial background.
From my point of view, young does not mean having power to reform. The point is whether the method for choosing Zhou is also about the needs for society to develop. But regrettably I only see this event as the unchanging process for electing officials.
The first step of Zhou's "meteoric rise" is his high starting point: after graduation he was appointed the deputy director of the construction committee in the city of Xiangfang (襄樊), and a member of the Party committee － the local policy were trying to attract talented personnel from elsewhere. But, what is a "talented person"? Does having an elite education equal to political potential?
This short cut is actually a common move, and also signifies how the Party sees him as a subject for cultivation and helped to provide an opportunity for his growth. The selection of Party officials is a principle for the Party, and the supervision of younger officials is the reserved power of the top officials. But the degree of loyalty of the chosen official, his political ability and potential, moral character, traits in his personality, both the good and bad, are not judged objectively and scientifically. Competitors lack a fair and transparent platform to showcase themselves, and to an extent election is reliant upon the feelings of the comrade responsible, the degree of his insight, and his relationship with the chosen official.
For the ordinary folk, they don't have any right to speak. And this overseeing of officials and the attracting of talent － for example the frequent moves, quick elevations － whether it can really mold an official into someone who understands what the people want and understand the people's circumstances, and is capable of dealing with complicated issues: we need to wait for scientific investigation. This then presents the second question: how to improve the closed, un-transparent nature of overseeing younger officials, and its lack of scientific and legal nature.
On becoming mayor, the article on cnhubei.net stated that his length of service, and his experience working at the base level is not compatible with the regulations for selecting head cadres for Party affairs and government. And apart from a series of posts which make people dizzy just looking at them, apart from the change in titles, the public has not really seen any outstanding ability or political achievement by this mayor, and the need to break rules to promote him.
It's precisely because these questions have not been solved that official corruption is so rife and in the realistic climate of politics, a youthful official who has a successful career often attracts guesswork at his background. Zhou Senfeng said that he won't shirk his important responsibilities, and will devote all his energy to Yicheng. But in a photo that has been going around the youthful official is already enjoying the service of "having an umbrella being held for him." Whether the youngest mayor will become the newest example of bureaucracy is yet to be seen, but the point is to get rid of the making of bureaucracy.
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