By Chen Yong ( 陈勇)
Issue 602, Jan 7, 2013
Nation, page 12
Translated by Zhu Na
Original article: [Chinese]
An official at the Beijing liaison office for a prefecture-level city in Hunan Province has been unusually busy recently.
Fang Zhongren (a pseudonym) has already received ten groups of leaders who’ve come to Beijing to lobby. Seminars and investment information meetings held by his city in the capitol have also suddenly increased. In the past, leaders have usually only come around the “Two Sessions” annual meeting in March.
Li Weiliang, an official at the Beijing liaison office for a prefecture-level city in Anhui Province, has also been surprised by a recent surge in local leader visits. At a social gathering of Beijing liaison office officials in December, Li says he learned that this trend extends to officials from all across the country.
Since the end of 18th Party Congress in November, and especially after the Central Economic Work Conference in mid-December, officials have been coming to Beijing with hopes of capitalizing on newly-announced policies. Some are also reaching out to newly appointed leaders to do a little personal networking.
An official from Hubei Province, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that officials from the eastern and western regions of China tend to come to Beijing with different motives. Eastern regions are better developed, so local officials usually come searching for guanxi and personal promotions; whereas officials from western regions more often come seeking funds and preferential policies.
However, these goals often overlap. The secretary general of a city in Hunan Province, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he came to Beijing to hold meetings and lobby for some projects. He says he also wants to meet leaders from the organization department and other ministries and let them see his city’s political achievements.
The eagerness of officials to meet those who control their promotion prospects is perhaps demonstrated best by the measures that inhibit their entry to the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee building at No. 80 West Chang'an Avenue. The department controls personnel assignments within the Communist Party and tracks leaders’ promotion potential. On the outside, the building looks like any other in the area, but try going in, and you’ll meet armed guards who will carefully scrutinize your credentials before letting you pass.
“At this place, if you don’t have certain contacts and a certain rank, it’s no use coming,” Fang said. In the past he’s taken his “boss,” a key leader from his city, to visit several times. The boss was allowed in for a short time, but Fang was left to wait outside.
Local leaders from Fang’s city also recently held a seminar in Beijing in hopes of winning approval for a local wind power project. Fang says they still believe economic growth is primarily driven by investment. As long as the wind power project gets approved, then all political goals will be met.
“After all, in China, GDP growth is still the measure of officials’ political achievement,” Fang said.
The Central Economic Work Conference in December stated that education, healthcare and pensions are the key areas of focus for state funding in the future, but many local governments still prefer projects that can produce quick results and improve leaders’ political standing.
Fang’s city is relatively poor with underdeveloped industry and transportation, so the local government’s operating costs rely almost completely on central government funds.
Recently, the National Development & Reform Commission announced an 8 billion yuan plan for cultural and natural heritage protection over the 12th Five-Year Plan period. It says that the central government will give subsidies to help local governments protect cultural sites based on their financial situation.
News of the plan has given some desperate local leaders hope.
Fang’s city has beautiful scenery and sits near a few of Hunan Province’s famous attractions, which is enough for local leaders to feel they have a shot at the funding. A leader from Fang’s city recently told him that the liaison office needs to support the city’s fight for subsidies at all costs and fully leverage the resources and networks it’s built up over the years.
“We must strive to get the funds,” Fang said. “For a prefecture-level city, the money involved isn’t a small amount.”