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Insight: 'Spokesperson Comes' to Communities, Innovation of Local Governance

By VIVIAN YANJAMES ALEXANDERICHONGQING|Jun 22,2021

Chongqing- Most people may have the impression that government spokespersons usually remain sat in the press room as they answer questions from reporters with serious demeanors. However, nowadays, they go beyond the confines of press halls and into the community where they talk with residents directly and answer questions from the public.

Do Practical Things for People

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the news release events “(A) spokesperson Comes (to) Do Practical Things for People” have been planned and organized by the Information Office of Chongqing Municipal People’s Government. 

As an unprecedented series of events in Chongqing, the goal is to encourage government spokespersons to enter urban and rural communities, industrial parks, and university campuses to explain policies face-to-face at a grassroots level, respond to questions, and help local residents resolve urgent and troublesome issues.

“Since we began this event last year, we have already held this event on more than 20 occasions,” said Xu Zuguo, Director of the Press Release Division of the Information Office of Chongqing Municipal People’s Government. “Each time, we’ve received positive reactions from grassroots communities, which has given us ever-greater motivation.”

Xu Zuguo, Director of the Press Release Division of the Information Office of Chongqing Municipal People’s Government at “(A) Spokesperson Comes (to) Do Practical Things for People” event in Bishan. (iChongqing/ Vivian Yan)

Statistics show that the “spokesperson” series of events have issued more than 600 publicity handouts, received over 100 consultations from residents, and carried out public convenience services on 200 occasions.

The form of face-to-face questions and answers gives the public a voice to express opinions and alleviate concerns, so that beneficial policies formulated by the Party take root more deeply in the hearts of the people, and that families may enjoy greater dividends as a result.

Who fits the bill for a spokesperson in China?

In fact, press spokespersons in China are not positions taken by specialized full-time staff, but rather administrators who assume the role part-time. The system for spokespersons in China has also made great progress in terms of release time, selection of content, and innovative publication methods.

In the case of Chongqing, the “spokesperson” series of events have used the form of dialogue to release information and explain policies to its citizens.

The government has transformed functions towards a service-oriented approach, where spokespersons adhere to the principle of public service as they listen to people’s concerns through face-to-face exchange and communication.

As for public access to information, spokespersons take positive action based on public feedback to explore their societal and psychological needs. They shall make prompt use of such feedback when preparing announcements, and modify news release strategies in a timely manner to improve the image of the government.

Policy interpretation 

As an example, officials from the Chongqing Municipal Ecological Environment Bureau and Hechuan District Ecology and Environment Bureau recently assumed the role of press spokespersons, as they entered the Hechuan Industrial Park to release information and interpret policies live to over 50 business representatives.

On that day, relevant news spokespersons explained important issues in detail, such as amendments to ecological and environmental protection in the Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China, the latest state policy Regulations on Management of Pollutant Discharge Permits, and how companies may obtain certificates to discharge pollutants and do so accordingly.

The press spokespersons also clarified issues of concern to enterprises such as the identification of hazardous waste, and the dangers of volatile organic compounds. Enterprise representatives spoke enthusiastically amid a scene of lively and active participation.

Enterprise representatives took photos and spoke enthusiastically during the event in a local factory. (iChongqing/ Vivian Yan)

“I had previously only seen spokespersons on television, and I wasn’t expecting to communicate with them face to face today,” said Yang Qing, a 90s generation representative of an enterprise. “I found this experience highly beneficial.”

According to Yang, the company she works for is mainly engaged in the production of hotpot condiments. “Companies like us are small, and we don’t have enough funds to pay for expert guidance,” said Yang. “This form of the press conference has resolved our problems and deepened our understanding of policies and regulations, it is of great benefit to corporate development.”

“Leading cadres have become business consultants who speak in a very professional manner on all issues we care about,“ said Deng Qiaoling, another company representative.

Deng also found that, in recent years, the phenomena of difficult access, stern treatment, and inadequate response from government agencies have diminished greatly. “We now have more confidence and a stronger foothold for starting a business,” she said.

Issues concerning livelihood

Another press conference was held by five spokespersons, respectively from Ecological Environment Bureau, Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Construction, Urban Management Bureau, Water Resources Bureau, and Commission of Agriculture and Rural of Fengjie County in Chongqing, to exchange related topics of “ecological priority and green development” with local citizens.

At the event, the relevant spokespersons introduced topics related to the ecological protection achievements, sewage treatment, drainage pipe network construction, urban environment construction, safety and security of drinking water at Fengjie County,  as well as implementations about a complete 10-year fishing ban begins in Yangtze River.

“All the speakers on the scene have answered our questions, and helps us know the platform where we can raise questions,” said Zhu Xiaoping, a citizen after listening to the relevant spokesperson who answered questions raised by the public. “I believe our lives will be better through this.”

“I feel fresh, but also touched,” said another citizen with pleasure. “I feel more at ease when spokespersons answer those difficult issues concerning people’s livelihood, which also shows their attention to these issues.” She thinks this also helps citizens to get information about policies and regulations more easily.

(Du Min, as an intern, also contributed to this report.)

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