The controversy of the 29-year-old mayor

Zhou Senfeng, mayor of Yicheng

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.

(Note: Today's Southern Metropolis Daily ran another editorial on the subject, by Zhang Ming, a professor at Renmin University).

If the process is fair, even an 18-year-old mayor is fine

by 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 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.

Links and Sources
There are currently 15 Comments for The controversy of the 29-year-old mayor.

Comments on The controversy of the 29-year-old mayor

Dream on, Alice.

"If the process is fair..."?

Elections worldwide are rarely fair, and in a one-party state like China that's virtually an oxymoron.

I think what most people want in a local official in China is similar to anywhere else.

My headline would read:

If the candidate is competent, an 18-year old is fine by us!

Bruce: That was the title given by Yu Jianrong in the article I translated from Southern Metropolis Daily. I don't think there is a policy to put in our own titles when the article is just a translation.

But perhaps that's not enough of an explanation for you. I would argue that Yu Jianrong's point is that if it were fairer then it would not matter even if Yicheng had an 18-year-old as their mayor.

I think relativity is the point here - not whether the West is fair or unfair.

Please take into mind that I am just translating within the context and not adding anything of my own apart from liberties within the text. Thanks.

I edited this comment

"I don't think there is a policy to put in our own titles when the article is just a translation."

Comrade, if you don't know for sure, ask!

But on a more serious note, the headline to which we are referring is not a translated article. To the reader, it forms part of Alice Xin Liu's personal views re: the translated article below.

I mention this because China digests are getting to be quite interesting and quite numerous, but some of the journalistic practices a bit iffy. For instance, I love reading "EastSouthWestNorth," but I really do occasionally have trouble distinguishing between the blogger's translated copy vs his views on it.

Bruce Humes
Chinese Books, English Reviews

Bruce, it's actually pretty simple, formatting-wise: what comes in the post under the "posted by" byline is the work of the individual named, unless otherwise stated (occasionally we'll have "posted by Danwei" and then introduce a guest poster, for example). Translations are labeled as such and credited to the original author. There's no slight-of-hand attempted; we're not trying to pull a fast one on our readers.

If you're having "trouble distinguishing between the blogger's translated copy and his views on it," what changes to formatting do you suggest would make it more readily apparent?

Bruce, I've amended the title. I think there was some miscommunication as well as a blunder on not being clear in the title of the Yu article in the post itself. Sorry about that.

The only thing I know is that a similar plot appeared in the reality screen again after watching the moive"Dangle & demons".The truth seemed not to be necessary because every Chinese believes what exactly behind it.

Im chinese.Obviously,his youthful election is because of family and political background rather than achievement.What we can do is just wishing him not do evil.

Ah yes, you are chinese. The ultimate title to demonstrate your expertise on every Chinese matter.

@Another Anon
Ah yes, you are anonymous, the ultimate title to demonstrate your expertise on who is an expert on every Chinese matter

does the office of mayor even matter? The bureaucracy is so structured, that even if you put a money on there, and the city would work. (of course to carry out change in the bureaucracy is a different matter, but that require a rare kind of genius.)

We Chinese are easy to be jealous, or becoming "red-eye". In my case, I don't have time to care too much about that green mayor.
Since there are so many cases of age alteration in Chinese sports, it is no surprise we see a mayor of 40 who claims to be just 29 years old.

William Pitt, the Younger (28 May 1759 – 23 January 1806) was a British politician of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He became the youngest Prime Minister in 1783 at the age of 24. He was pretty good at the job. Age is never a barrier. I started a publishing company at 25 and took over another -- quite a major one -- at the age of 29. Now, at 75, I report to a 25 year old. Age simply is not relevant in these matters.

This is just another sign of deep rooted corruption of CCP. Chinese economy will hit a bottle neck if political reform is not achieved

As long as the status quo is held and the city doesn't become a shamble of what it was we can say good job but that might be hard these days.

[Ad spam deleted. Please don't tag your comments with ads. --JM]

Bruce> Agree that EWSN is good but hard to distinguish sometimes between what is the content of the article and what is just commentary by Roland.

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives