Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Justice should now come to the fore

By Zhu Lijia (China Daily) Updated: 2013-11-21 07:14

China has carried out reforms in various factors over the last three decades, especially in terms of economic reform.

In fact, reform of the economic system has already taken long strides, and the next step will be improving the details of the restructured system. Thus, continuity will remain the central theme of China's current reform.

 Justice should now come to the fore

Migrant workers in cities hope to gain access to the same level of welfare services as urban residents. Niu Yuan / For China Daily 

In recent years, China has been promoting a package of reform plans concerning all walks of life, some of which have already been put into practice. The decisions and the details of the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China that have been announced point to plans for "deepwater zone" reforms.

Society, which is still in transition, is being exposed to various risks, and the government is seeing its credibility decrease, which carries the risk that it will lead to the ineptitude and inefficiency of government administration.

Organizational irresponsibility has become rampant in some public institutions that value the vested interests of their own organizations, or even individuals, highest, instead of the benefits of the whole nation. The difficulties of social governance have thus been increased.

Some social experts are losing focus both theoretically and practically. Unlike their Western counterparts, these Chinese scholars and experts have been unable to produce constructive and practical ideas to deal with social problems.

Meanwhile, individual awareness is rising. Chinese society has developed into the phase where citizens are seeking the construction of individual identities. The traditional uniformity has been shifting into social diversity.

Justice should now come to the fore

The emergence of modern social media has enabled every individual to express their own opinions. People who were born in the 1980s and 1990s have much stronger awareness of their individual identities than those born in the 1950s and 1960s.

In the three decades since China's reform and opening-up, Chinese society has changed tremendously. At the same time, social tensions have increased.

To begin with, the structure of interests has become increasingly uneven, and the income gap between the rich and the poor has widened to a risky degree. Chinese society is witnessing more intensified social conflicts than before.

After decades of reform and opening-up to the outside world, China's value system has been, and continues to be, affected by the development of different kinds of values, and tensions are growing between traditional values and modern values. Many people have been disoriented by the conflicts between these different values, which have caused the prevalence of nihilism and hedonism.

There are even structural tensions in parts of the system that have greatly improved, such as politics, economics and culture.

As the country has focused on the economy, it has put too much emphasis on economic growth in recent decades, which has resulted in the "hegemony of economics", where the economy always has the biggest say. It seems to have become the one and only solution to all social problems.

In fact, this economy-always-comes-first ideology has left many political, economic and social problems unsettled, which dramatically hinders structural reforms from going much deeper.

In the upcoming reform drive, China should realize that justice must be given priority in every social sphere. The reforms need to be updated, changing the orientation from economic development to social fairness.

What's more, China needs to improve its value system. It must abandon the outdated ideologies and measures that emphasize only material benefits; social values must be taken into consideration in future reforms.

Like the Western countries which regard the pursuit of freedom as their core value, justice should play the same role in Chinese socialism, creating a fair social system.

The author is director of Public Administration Studies at the Chinese Academy of Governance. www.chinausfocus.com

(China Daily 11/21/2013 page8)

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