Why the Chinese Public is Telling Officials to Jump in a Lake; A new and unofficial measure of water quality is being used around the country: Will our mayor swim in that?

04.09.2013 16:48

Closer Look: Why the Public is Telling Officials to Jump in a Lake

A new and unofficial measure of water quality is being used around the country: Will our mayor swim in that?

By intern reporter Zou Zijian


BEIJING – In March, the new president, Xi Jinping, had some words of advice for the major of Suzhou, in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

The mayor had just outlined a plan improve the water quality of the city’s lakes. But Xi said that, at least as far as Net users were concerned, the best measure of quality was whether the mayor himself dared to dive into local bodies of water.

A resident of Zhejiang Province, also in the east, made a splash in February when he challenged officials at the local environmental protection bureau to swim in a polluted river. Thus, a new and unofficial test of water quality was invented.Since then, many members of the public in cities around the country have challenged mayors and environmental officials to tread water in a local lake or river or at least drink water from local aquifers.

Qian Jianmin, the mayor of Shaoxing in Zhejiang, was the first official to respond, saying he would “swim in any section of the moat surrounding Shaoxing.” However, he has yet to don his swimsuit.

Li Zuojun, deputy head of the State Council’s Development Research Center, said that “the fact that Internet users are asking mayors to swim in rivers reflects the seriousness of China’s pollution issue, but also shows the rising anxiety and discontent among the public.”

It was, he said, proof of “their expectation that the authorities take action to tackle the problem and improve the environment.”

Courage and Determination

Li said the public expects a government that has given itself such a prominent role in society to shoulder the responsibility to tackle any economic and social problem.

It is accepted that the cause of the country’s grim environmental situation is the pursuit of economic growth.

Because of a system that sees officials judged on GDP figures – a system that has yet to be reformed – local governments dedicate their energy to pursuing economic growth instead of focusing on the environment or their constituents’ quality of life, Li said.

This meant two things needed to change, Li said. The first is the function of the government and the second is the system local governments use to assess officials. Local governments need to shift their focus from the economy to society, Li said, and from authority to service.

Unfortunately, Li said, local governments would not take the initiative to reform because their blind pursuit of GDP growth hindered all possibility of political change.

Also, it was easier for governments to tackle economic issues rather than issues related to the environment and quality of life. Li said this meant the central government would have to show courage and determination for progress to be made.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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