As China continues to rapidly change surely too must the practice of government affairs. Below we identify three change drivers that are having an impact:
- Anti-corruption campaigns - how much further and deeper it will go and whether it will have a fundamentally altering impact remains to be seen. What we do know is that these anti-corruption campaigns are popular and respond to high levels of public discontent. More than 180,000 party officials were punished for corruption and abuse of power last year. In a sense the anti-corruption campaign is in a way providing a venting mechanism for the public.
- Transparency moves - there have been a number of recent and very positive developments, such as the publication of government regulations and rules and the negative list approach with the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. These are providing for a new level of transparency and public accountability and enabling some form of public participation in government decision-making.
- Social media – it provides a forum for public participation and most already recognize the impact it is having on society. Publicly led campaigns are curbing government decision making, such as the Dalian PX protests, forcing government action on China’s environmental law, and providing an avenue for exposing corruption. Keep in mind that in China there are still hundreds of millions more Chinese waiting to come online; and these people represent a growing, very demanding and vocal middle class currently with limited opportunities for expression.
It is an exciting time for government affairs professionals. With such rapid change we too must change to adapt to the landscape, just like other practice areas are doing. How exactly the operating environment will evolve over the next 5-10 years considering the above factors will be an interesting journey to watch – stay tuned.
Charles Shen is executive vice-president at Weber Shandwick China
[Based on a speech delivered to the Public Affairs Asia Government Affairs Forum in China on 22 May, 2014]