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Is Township Governments’ Work Practical or Unpractical?


By Zhao Shukai,Development Research Center of the State Council

With regard to township government administration, some township officials would describe their work as practical and also unpractical. The farmers’ issues are deemed as practical in the eyes of township officials whereas they tend to consider the tasks entrusted to them by upper-level governments as unpractical. Generally speaking, practical work is considered important, but in face of assessment by officials from upper-level governments on their work performance, unpractical work would outweigh practical work. The thing is however well practical work is fulfilled, it may not necessarily directly come into the sight of upper-level government officials. But if they fail to finish the unpractical jobs assigned to them, it may directly affect their performance appraisal. From the perspective of farmers, some issues deserve to be treated earnestly, but they are dealt with in a swashbuckling manner like window dressing, thus making farmers depressed or even indignant. In fact some matters could have been managed by putting on a bluff to cater for the likes of upper-level officials, but some townships would simply turn unpractical matters into practical ones and even get farmers busy with this kind of business, thus making farmers take an aversion to them. Yet fundamentally speaking, these problems revealed in the work of some township governments are not mainly rooted in the government or officials per se, but in the operation system of community-level governments. The problem of this system is mainly reflected in the fact that the upper-level governments have taken an entire control over township officials’ work, including the promotion of their posts and ranks through performance appraisal, as well as their workload and working procedures. Under the orders of upper-level governments, township officials are therefore made to run around the upper-level governments and do everything according to their likes and dislikes. In such an accountability system, farmers, the service object of township governments, are ignored. When we say there are defects with the work of upper-level governments, we do not mean which specific upper-level government has drawbacks, or that some arrangement made by the upper-level government is not rational or scientific. What we mean to say is that if farmers’ role is not brought into play, the township accountability system should be adjusted and improved. Therefore, township officials should not be held responsible for so many problems in rural work, the root cause should be fundamentally attributed to certain accountability systems that have caused a situation in which the system cooks up thorny issues to townships’ governments and the latter would just muddle through their work. Though township officials draw much blame and criticism from society, they are made scapegoats, bearing the blame for others, specifically for the township government system and accountability system which are inconsistent with the needs of the new-type village building initiatives. In this sense, how to establish and improve a more scientific township work and operation mechanism is indeed a major topic for future community-level government reform.

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