State Governance in the Internet Era

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This article was originally posted on the Red Flag Manuscripts/Seeking Truth website on 22 May.

Song Fangmin

The 3rd Plenum of the 18th Party Congress put forward the overall objective of comprehensively deepening reform, which requires “perfecting and developing the Socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and moving forward the modernization of State governance systems and governing capabilities”. The modernization of State governance systems and governing capabilities transcend and develop traditional management, they cannot do without the support of modern Internet and informatization technologies, this is a major change with revolutionary significance, and requires our deep research.

I, The challenge and requirements that Internet development puts to State governance

The challenges and requirements that Internet development puts to traditional State management or governance.

  1. The challenge of the diversification of information sources for ideological unity. In the past, information channels were simple, sources were one-way, categories were singular, and people’s ideological understanding was easy to unify. Now, information subjects on the Internet have become pluralized and sources diversified, and under a torrent of all kinds of complex information in great quantities, the masses’ ideologies are easily confused.
  2. The challenge of the increasing speed of information transmission to the levels of management. Hierarchical management is a method from many years ago, transmitting documents and arranging tasks means transmission at all levels and meetings at all levels. Now, Internet information has run ahead of management levels, and if we still strictly arrange hierarchical procedures according to the habits of the past, many matters will be difficult to handle appropriately.
  3. The challenge of information processing intelligentification for organizational structures. Information data mining, gathering, arrangement, analysis and processing are becoming intelligent, symbolized by high-speed mobile networks, big data analysis, cloud storage and computing and smart response capabilities, which enables a great economy in humanpower, material resources, financial resources and time, the traditional management organization structure that mostly relied on human labour needs to be reformed from structures, personnel allocations and other such organizational forms to operational forms.

II, State governance modernization’s reliance and use of informatized methods

Vigorously adapting to the developments of the times and using modern information technology means for our own good is an objective requirement for the modernization of State governance systems and governing capabilities.

  1. Adapting to the plurality of governance subjects requires omnidirectional information communication. Modernized State governance must be conducted under the leadership of the Party and according to the law, concentrate the correct guiding ideology and the people’s will into the Constitution and the laws, implement and execute them in a strict, standardized and stable manner, and form social consensus and restraints through law. The Centre has stressed that we must “accelerate the shaping of a social management system with Party Committees in the lead, government taking responsibility, cooperation from society, participation from the masses, guaranteed through the rule of law”, which reflects a sort of idea of coordinated governance between different, plural subject that is different from the past. In economic life, governments, enterprises, residents, social intermediary organizations and other such market subjects are also in a sort of collaborative governance relationship. Collaborative governance by plural subjects not only requires a unified will and a rational division of labour, it also requires a timely understanding and organic coordination between each others’ circumstances, and this requires omnidirectional and rapid communication and transmission of information between subjects (including with individual citizens), only by relying on modern, smart Internet technology and information systems can this be realized
  2. Careful and meticulous coordination of governance mechanisms requires highly integrated information processing. The State governance system includes structures and systems, lase and regulations, and operating mechanisms in various areas including economics, politics, culture, society, ecological civilization and Party building, it is an arrangement of State structures and mechanisms that is closely integrated and connected, and mutually coordinating. Modern social life involves a broad spectrum of matters, with a high degree of complexity and rapid information changes, State governance is like a large computer, which covers all aspects of State and society, it is highly coordinated, meticulous in its operations, and comprehensively integrated, avoiding that each department acts on its own initiative, there are mutual impediments and internal frictions. This requires us to use smart Internet technologies and modern information systems, which according to uniform objectives and concrete norms, operate in coordination, deal with problems, and dissolve contradictions, providing basic platform guarantees for innovating governance structures and mechanisms.
  3. Acute and efficient governance response requires accurate information analysis. Both in planning and policymaking at the strategic level, and handling and responding to matters at the situational level, this is of great importance to a country that faces many internal and foreign contradictions and risks. Only by timely and broadly seizing and collecting large amounts of information, and conducting rapid and accurate differentiation, screening, analysis and processing will it be possible to timely provide a basis for policymaking and response plans.
  4. Democracy and fairness in governing methods requires unimpeded information interaction. Through the Internet and the information highway, an unimpeded communication channel that connects the Centre to the common people has been erected, realizing that all departments, all kinds of bodies, and all sorts of windows can interact with the masses at any time and in any place, bringing survey research, policymaking inquiry, pooling wisdom, supervision of litigation and all other such kinds of work on the Internet enables the link between the Party and the masses to become more direct, democratic management to become more even, information exchange to become more symmetric, the policymaking process to become more transparent, and governance results to become fairer.

III, The prospects for State governance of marching towards smart informatization.

The smart Internet has enhanced our cognition of and responsiveness to the world, on this basis, powerful service capabilities can be formed. In recent years, the development impetus of social applications has been torrential, such as smart traffic management, mobile e-commerce, Internet finance, etc. State governance essentially is a service as well, micro-services and macro-level control can be assimilated and coordinated to a high degree. With the support of smart Internet technology, moving forward the modernization of State governance systems and governance capabilities is a wise choice to grasp the times.

Considering the prospects for application of smart informatization from the level of State governance:

First, building smart governance systems for the governing party. Upgrading electronic Party affairs to smart Party affairs, it is possible to timely grasp, analyse and judge matters ranging from Party cadres’ political and ideological situations, organizational life situations, study and work situations, household and asset situations, mass evaluation and response situations, etc., to the work and life situations of all levels’ Party organizations, trough smart Internet. At present, there is quite a number of Party organizations across the country that are in a state of laxity, and quite a number of Party members undeserving of that name, the distribution situation and activity situation of Party members and party organizations in various levels of society, social groups and social organizations, Party building in non-public enterprises, among grass-roots labour masses and in all kinds of social organizations, including in Hong Kong and Macau, and launching Party activities, can all be timely grasped by using the network. Using the smart Internet to conduct ideological guidance, organizational management of Party members and cadres, and control Party regulations and discipline, will allow good people to come above-board, and bad people to feel frightened everywhere. It must be demanded that Party members and cadres directly connect with the masses through the network, hear the opinions of the masses and accept the supervision of the masses. Engaging in selection of the good and elimination of the bad Party members and cadres online may create even more scientific and effective mechanisms.

Second, smart control systems for the national economy. The use of the smart Internet permits real-time mastery of all kinds of current market prices, changes in supply and demand, business trends, as well as changes in energy or natural conditions in one country or even at a global scale, and permits the analysis of economic trends through big data, this provides beneficial conditions to the country’s mid- and long-term planning and guidance, policy regulation and market management, it permits integrating the roles of the “two hands” of market allocation of resources and macro-level government control even better, it stimulates the balancing of supply and demand, coordinated and stable development, and the prevention of economic disorder and upheaval. In the area of environmental governance, it is possible to strengthen ecological and environmental monitoring, protection and prevention capabilities through the smart Internet, use remote sensing, the Internet of Things and other such technologies to strengthen real-time dynamic monitoring of nationwide environmental pollution situations, realize that environmental supervision and management becomes “one picture” for the entire country, and stimulate the ecological civilization. The smart Internet strengthens the position of the public ownership system and the guiding role of the State-owned economy, it prevents us from getting bogged down in the trap of privatization and dependence. Owners of public assets [Note: the Chinese phrase 全民财产所有者 literally translates as ownership by all of the people] and owners of private assets can, through Internet service systems, at any time and in any place learn the use of the assets they own and changes in situations, and supervise the manner in which they are managed, changing “black boxes” into “white boxes”. Through the automatic supervision and adjustment functions of the smart Internet, it is also possible to stimulate transparency of State assets, ensure that tax collection is ever more standardized, allocation adjustments become ever more reasonable, social security and public services become ever more effective, human factors are eliminated to the largest possible extent, it will be prevented that average numbers conceal the large majority, and the popular masses will be able to share in the fruits of development.

Third, smart management and service systems for ideology and culture. The area of ideology and culture requires centripetal force and control force on the one hand, and vitality and creativity on the other hand, the crucial matter is that it is necessary to effectively control all kinds of media, and especially the Internet battlefield. It is necessary to engage in big data trend analysis and research concerning major problems covering all online information, academic information, classroom education information as well as culture and art information, through integrated smart online management and service systems, on the basis of the ideological programmes, development plans, and management structures and regulations of the Party in the lead of the country, in all areas of ideology; smart differentiation will enable strict control of daily discourse according to the Constitution and the law; issues where it is necessary to discriminate true from false, and clarify right and wrong, it will be possible to rapidly assemble database resources and actual facts for publication, so as to ensure correct understandings. All kinds of ideological and cultural products that have been examined and verified as bringing positive energy can be automatically distributed, there will be a line of green lights, eliminating all kinds of man-made barriers. Active service can be provided for good products, communication markets can be bridged, and the area of propaganda and consumption can be expanded. Timely feedback, analysis and handling of social response to work in the ideological area and connected trends in domestic and foreign public opinion, also become possible by relying on smart networks. Only in this way will it be possible to effectively prevent public opinion chaos, will it be possible to protect and stimulate an ideological and cultural governance system with positive energy, and fight an active ideological battle well.

Fourth, smart support systems for national democratic governance and rule of law. Under traditional, human-powered management structures and models, in order to truly satisfy the various demands of the absolute majority of the popular masses, was difficult in technological terms. Because China’s population is too big and management levels are too many, all kinds of functional bodies are too disorderly, and it was most difficult to reflect the opinions of the large masses upwards, and concentrate them. National rule of law should protect the people’s democracy, guarantee democratic rights and interests and safeguard democratic order, but in the current society, the handling of many affairs is subject to objective conditions or man-made factors, rule of law sometimes is difficult to realize or may even harm social justice. Rolling out e-government at present is mostly aimed at raising government departments’ productivity, reducing administrative costs and raising administrative efficiency, this is most insufficient. To resolve the problems of political democracy and rule of law fairness, we must not only have openness in government affairs, we must also have openness in legal affairs; we must not only have one-way openness, but should be open in an interactive manner, to let citizens enjoy conditions for democratic participating in policymaking and management of all kinds of matters, from the national macro-level to the social micro-level. The most effective tool is using big data analysis, smart sensor capabilities and high-speed network-supported smart Internet platforms to ensure that all of society is in direct communication up and down, there is interaction from left to right, up and down, that information channels are even and governance acts are transparent, only in this way can the people have the perception they are in charge, will they be able to lawfully exercise their political rights of participating in management, supervising State and social affairs, and will man-made factors be reduced to the broadest possible extent in rule of law.

Fifth, smart service systems for social governance. Social governance involves many broad areas, it is necessary to integrate subjects in various areas including government, communities, residents, schools, enterprises, public undertaking department, intermediary organizations, etc., to serve the development of social harmony, smart informatized services are inevitable development trends. At present, smart traffic management, smart health management, smart residents’ services, smart mobile e-commerce and other such matters are developing rapidly, but it is still necessary to further develop and perfect smart service systems covering various areas in the life of residents in all of society, and especially let them play an important role in areas that directly affect the masses’ personal interests such as employment, education, healthcare, drug and food safety, care for the elderly, community services, etc., and realize cross-departmental joint supervision, joint mechanisms, etc.

Sixth, smart response systems for national security governance. Use smart Internet principles and platforms to, under the precondition of ensuring secrecy, build smart security protection networks that connect the National Security Committee on top, link to all kinds of grass roots organizations and network media terminals on the bottom, which cover departments such as national security, public security, the military, public affairs, commerce and trade, finance, propaganda, etc., in all regions including Hong Kong and Macau, as well as through international cooperation, which penetrate into all areas and all levels, and are flexible, coordinated and effective. Rely on superiorities in random interactions, mobile services, and high-speed big data processing, integrate the boundless seas of mass information teams with specialized intelligence, timely discover all kinds of security risks, leaks and trends, actively create various kinds of response plans according to various predictions and forecasts, to assist human policy decisions, and adopt prevention measures as quickly as possible. It is especially necessary to timely grasp intelligence about subversion and infiltration by all kinds of hostile forces, connections between the inside and the outside, incitement to destruction, terrorist activities and other such matters, gain early warning about them, and respond effectively. Rely on mobilizing the masses, use the superiority of the network to fight a people’s war, this is the fundamental policy to complete the national security governance system.

(The writer is vice-director and senior researcher at the Kunlun Policy Research Institute)



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