Do people care about the Party Congress? Does the Party Congress care about the people?
Blogger Zhai Hua notes two different reports of "popular opinion" on the 17th Party Congress. The first is a short interview between a VOA reporter and a student at Peking University:
Reporter: I"m with the media. I"d like to ask you about your opinion on the 17th Congress.
Reporter: The 17th Congress. Do you know what the 17th Congress is?
Student: I"m not sure.
Reporter: What"s the 17th Congress?
Student: The 17th National People"s Congress session.
Student: Then what is it?
Reporter: The National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
Student: Isn"t that pretty much the same thing?
Zhai contrasts this with a CCTV Network News broadcast in which reporters ask other citizens for their opinions:
Fujian farmer: The 17th Party Congress is about to begin. We are all waiting in anticipation. The past few years, the building of a new countryside has brought bigger changes to our mountain, and our lives have gotten better and better. We want to express our feelings through this mountain song....
Jilin rural woman: Oh, we"re so happy! Us farmers are really attentive to the 17th Congress...
The interviews by VOA and CCTV reporters are aimed differently; the PKU student"s "not sure" stands in stark contrast to the northeastern rural woman"s "so happy," but they"re both fairly one-sided and misdirected. The Social Survey Institute of China recently conducted a national opinion poll in major cities whose goal was to gain an understanding of the public"s attention to the 17th Congress and what the public was most concerned about during this time frame. The results showed that 94.5% of respondents were "very interested" or "rather interested" [in the Congress]; only 5.5% of respondents said they were "uninterested." The results also showed that finance, the rising price of goods, social security, employment, protection of democratic rights and property interests, the housing market, the wage gap, the Taiwan issue, corruption, and social order are the top ten problems that the people are concerned about. Among these, the questions of finance, rising prices, and social security were the top three issues that the public was concerned with; they each were mentioned by more than 80% of respondents. It"s worth mentioning that more than 80% of the public believes that the 17th Party Congress can increase the party"s understanding of people"s lives and highlight the people"s livelihood.
In sum, rather than investigating how concerned the people are about the 17th Party Congress, it"s probably more valuable to look into whether the 17th Party Congress is concerned with the public.
Tim Johnson, McClatchy"s Beijing bureau chief, blogged about a recent press conference prior to the Party Congress in which a spokesperson attempted to convey how concerned the party is with the public:
The final question from a Singapore reporter was this: Pollution and land disputes in China are getting worse. Social conflicts appear to be escalating. Could you release the latest figures regarding these social conflicts?
Li did not answer that question. Instead, he described social unrest in China as "only regional and individual." In the larger picture, he said, "the majority of people have enjoyed real benefits from reform and opening up." "Now in China, the economy grows, there is social progress and the people enjoy higher and higher living standards. The people are satisfied. Thank you.¡隆脌
Some delegates are communicating with the public through blogs. Xinhua journalist Han Song notes that "some of the delegates" blogs have a rather different flavor from normal blogs, just like the definite differences that would exist between Martians" blogs and Earthlings"." He concludes: I"m worried for the blogging delegates. Will people go to their superiors and report them, saying that they"re blogging when they should be working? I"ve learned this profound lesson myself.
However, having seen that so many 17th Party Congress delegates are determined to blog, I"m more than a little relieved. The people need us to blog. And can you blame them? An all-round well-off society cannot be a blogless well-off society.