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Euro-Sino dialogue on administative reform - a contribution

Posted by publicadminreform on January 18, 2011 at 1:36 AM

I have justed uploaded a 35 page paper relating to the current Chinese effort at administrative reform - and the lessons from the last 35 years or so of Western work in this field. Replete with 71 footnotes and a similar number of directly accessdible googlebooks and internet papers. A unique effort - even if I say so myself - if noone blows a trumpet on my behalf (except Tom Gallagher!), then I have to do so myself!  Exactly a year ago to the minute I was preparing for my first meeting in Beijing - by the time I left 2 months later I had formed some impressions of their public services and drafted a few pages on this after my return - which I decided to expand over the New Year break. It reminded me of the summary I had done in 1999 of the European efforts in admin reform - and gave me the opporunity to update these.  

One has to respect the dignified way in which national power in China is shared in the party leadership; policies are hammered out behind the scenes in a dialogue which involves academics; and formal positions of nationals leadership pass in a regularised way from person to person every decade.

Perhaps no leaders in world history have ever had the responsibilities and expectations which those of China have today. Having achieved a remarkable economic transformation and wealth, the leaders of this massive country are now expected to deal with pollution and the poverty in which so much of its people still live; the inequity and systemic corruption; and also achieve a peaceful achievement to a system of Rule of Law.

Those who have the combination of audacity and good fortune to go to the country to assist those efforts – whether in teaching or consultancy – should have the humility to admit that they have no answers.

Not, of course, that their hosts expect that from their visitors. They have their own context and processes of and capacity for policy experimentation, deliberation and decision. They are painfully aware of their weaknesses; and look to their visitors for something which, unfortunately, seems to be in short supply – historical understanding. That is to say the ability to articulate the processes by which, for example, Nordic countries transformed themselves into the societies in which they are today. Sadly, western technocrats have colluded in recent decades to destroy a lot of that.

If a Euro-Sino dialogue can restore some memory and respect for what Europe had, it will indeed have been worthwhile.

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