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Public Participation in the People’s Republic



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Jamie P Horsley September 2009 Public Participation in the People s Republic Developing a More Participatory Governance Model in China By Jamie P Horsley Although they have delivered extraordinary and rapid economic growth over the past 30 years China s leaders understand they need to do a better job of governing their complex country Incidents of mass unrest increased nearly 50 percent from 58 000 reported in 2003 to an estimated 90 000 incidents in 2006 1 and occurrences of civil unrest often violent and prompted by diverse causes continue seemingly unabated Local leaders frequently still resort to force to quell criticism and protest but the central leadership realizes their governance model has to change in order to better address the underlying issues prompting social unrest and achieve a more harmonious society Chinese leaders now espouse the people s rights to know about participate in express their views on and supervise government administration and the need to exercise government power responsibly in the sunshine Indeed for more than a decade China has been exploring and beginning to institutionalize mechanisms to make governance more transparent and participatory and to permit the general public to have greater input into the government decisions laws and regulations that affect their daily lives Use of the term public participation gongzhong canyu is of relatively recent vintage in China although the concept itself is not In its loose sense public participation is used by Chinese observers to refer to a variety of participatory mechanisms ranging from innovative deliberative democracy experiments at the local level Leib and He 2006 to lawsuits against or complaints and petitions to the state to requesting information from government agencies pursuant to China s recently promulgated government information disclosure regulations to online activism by China s netizens to various kinds of protest In a country that does not yet permit contested and



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