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Commentary Wrap: Fairness for Foreigners, Shoe Polishing & Disclosure

A round-up of commentary appearing in the Chinese press over the past week. 
Translated by Zhu Na (朱娜)  and Song Chunling (宋春玲)

What if that Cellist was Chinese? – Guangzhou Daily

On the evening of May 14, a Russian cellist with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra (BSO) got into an argument with a female passenger on a train heading to Beijing from the northeastern city of Shenyang, footage of the young Russian man swearing at the woman was uploaded to the internet and the video triggered an angry response from many internet users.

After the incident, the cellist made an apology and was suspended from work by the orchestra.

On May 21, the BSO announced that they had decided to expel him. (Beijing Times May 22).

This Russian musician paid the price for his inappropriate behavior. The Beijing Symphony Orchestra expelled him in accordance with the rules of the orchestra, this was a reasonable decision that was made in keeping with their own standards and regulations.

However, when the news was announced, the public reaction seemed very strange - there were a lot of people clapping and cheering the decision.

More and more foreigners are traveling, studying, working and living in China. The qualities of these foreigners are not the same, of course, we can expect that a proportion of them will engage in impolite and even criminal behavior. But in terms of how to deal with those foreigners who behave badly, we are still quite immature both in terms of how we manage the problem and also our reactions to this kind of incident.

We should not give them super-national treatment nor be too tolerant, also we should not treat them all as poorly-behaved boors.

I'm not saying that this Russian cellist shouldn’t be punished for his wrongdoing, the key issue is that we don't seem to be able to look at the situation calmly, with most people expressing extreme comments that help them let off a bit of steam or prove their patriotism.

If it wasn’t a foreigner, but a Chinese person who had acted in this way, would the incident have made such a big slash in Chinese society, and would that person also be fired for his behavior?

Everyone should be treated equally. Foreigners who make a mistake should be punished in accordance with Chinese law and should not be tolerated. Of course, we should also have the same expectations of our fellow countrymen as we do of foreigners.

Real Political Reform Requires Officials Make their Assets Public –Qi Yue (启越) The Economic Observer

In 1987 Wang Hanbin (王汉斌), who was Secretary-General of the standing committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) at that time, raised the idea of establishing a system that would require Chinese government officials to declare their personal assets.

It's been 25 years, but to this day, from county level all the way through to the central government, the only way the public get to hear about how much officials own is when details are exposed during corruption hearings.

We acknowledge that a lot of work is needed to establish such a system and the public does not expect that it will happen overnight.

In addition, many officials feel unjustly done by, as they feel as though property declaration is something they've been doing all along, it's already part of the routine.

The problem is that these existing declarations are only reported internally, they are not open to the public.

The key point to any system that requires officials to declare their assets is in making it public.

We do not call for radical reform, which is bound to cause social turbulence.

Any reform will require compromise and negotiations.

However, the reform should be based on the following principle - making it as public as possible.

The success of political reform depends on a breakthrough in this area, but it's not technical issues that are stopping us from moving closer to achieving this goal, progress depends on the determination of the party in power.

Serving The People: Civil Service Isn’t About “Polishing Shoes For Free” -The Beijing News

On May 15, civil servants in Shenzhen went onto the street and conducted various voluntary services for citizens. There were 50 different types of service, but polishing shoes was among the most popular.

The civil servants’ shoe polishing was criticized as a spectacle unconnected to their actual duties or work. It’s good when civil servants can spare time to provide extra services for the citizens when they have fulfilled their duties. However, many are still worried about whether civil servants can maintain the “shoe polishing attitude” in their everyday work and throughout their career.

Many governmental institutions in China still lack service awareness, and citizens are still “afraid” of dealing with some governmental institutions because of this. It’s not hard to do polish shoes from time to time in the street, but it’s very difficult to keep a modest and caring attitude in their everyday work.

Polishing shoes for citizens is indeed good, but the attitude and spirit shouldn’t just be shown in “street services”. Besides, the improvement of service by civil servants shouldn’t just depend on their sense of responsibility, but also on the supervision and examination. The idea that “I must serve the public” guaranteed by a sound system is more reliable than the idea that “I’m willing to serve the public,” which depends on a personal choice.

What Stops Men from Being Good? Sun Le (孙乐), Economic Observer Online

Recently a survey conducted by China Youth Daily showed that 78 percent of the participants were unhappy that the cost of being a good man in China is very high.

According to the survey, 70% felt that they are suspected of having bad motives when doing good deeds, 62% said they felt it’s unfair that they need to pay a high price for their good deeds,  51% thought they would be laughed at and considered foolish and 31% thought that people who do good often feel lonely and self-suspicious.

The so-called cost of being a good man is actually the conflict between self-affirmation and the social approval. It also shows the moral struggle of the individuals whether they should expect praise after doing good deeds or not.

In a society where people doing good deeds aren’t protected, good deeds tend to be merely individuals’ actions whereas bad deeds are backed up by powerful groups. Thus people doing good are considered silly from a practical perspective because they are not likely to succeed. On the other hand, individuals can also be utilitarian and the approval and praise from society may serve as the benefit. When we learn to do good deeds in primary school, we are always praised or rewarded afterwards by the teachers. Thus we gradually develop the idea that all actions have a purpose and the same is true for good deeds. Likewise, other people also tend to suspect those doing good are actually aiming for something else.

Thus in a society where individuals and standards are utilitarian and practical, people judge things with benefits rather than good or bad, and so it is with the good deeds.

However we still see many offered voluntary assistance to people suffering from the Wenchuan earthquake, to students climbing mountains to school and to the elderly on buses and trains. There’s not only a cost of doing good, there’s also a gain in our hearts. We have set up a very high standard for “what makes a good man” and consider only the heroic deeds to be good deeds. Therefore we find the cost and price of being a good man is too high in our society. Many good deeds are actually conducted out of instinct and such instinct is also strengthened by the every-day trivial good deeds. It’s hard for us to change the society’s values in a short time. However each of us individuals can make a difference for society. We should spare complaints about the utilitarian social environment and start doing good deeds, even those that seem trivial and unimportant.


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