On July 22, 2001, an explosion in a coalmine in Jiawang District, Xuzhou, injured and killed dozens of miners. This tragic accident drew attention to the lax enforcement of safety regulations in mines throughout Jiangsu Province. Nearly half of which, the government later estimated, did not meet safety standards at the time of the explosion. This disaster utterly alienated Jiawang District’s residents from their government, prompting riots and protests over unsafe working conditions. To restore public faith in the local administration, the government initiated reforms to build transparency and accountability, titling the new program “Public Supervision of the Whole Process of Government” (PSWPG.)
The PSWPG includes four aspects: canvassing public opinion, holding hearings for representatives, public inquiries, and poll evaluation. The purpose of the process is to introduce the public to government work, to encourage citizens to participate in decision-making, to discuss government affairs, and to add citizen supervision to government’s activities.
In order to gauge public opinion, government departments in Jiawang District, before undertaking new plans of action, must hold public meetings to get feedback from the community on their proposals. Officials must revise plans that meet with serious criticism.
Following these public meetings, department officials must convene hearings on the plan before representatives of the local People’s Congress and selected experts.
In the process of initiating the proposed changes, officials continue to collect the views of the public by holding periodic public inquiries: innovators invite members of the community affected by the new policies to learn about problems in their implementation. Officials proposing the changes must answer general questions and complaints immediately, while more sweeping concerns must be dealt with according to a pre-determined timetable.
The final step of the PSWPG process is poll-based evaluation of the public’s response to the new policy: the Jiawang District government contracts with independent social investigation companies to distribute and analyze questionnaires regarding the new regulations. These findings are then publicized. If the rate of citizen dissatisfaction with a proposed policy is over 50%, the policy will be amended and the head of the involved department punished.
This “Public Supervision of the Whole Process of Government” model gives district-level government the tools to gauge public opinion and respond to community concerns before disasters like the Jiawang coalmine explosions happen. By consulting with the community, potentially divisive issues like compensation for condemned housing, city planning, and new construction have been addressed with a minimum of strife. These reforms have also had drastic effects on the Jiawang District government’s efficiency and reputability: the government used citizen input to amend and simplify more than 1,500 procedures, significantly decreasing average processing time. The total completion rate before their deadlines for all government tasks rose to 86% in 2005, a substantial increase over the 2004 completion rate of 56%. Following these wide-ranging reforms, surveys have found that 96.3% of those questioned approved of the job performance of their civil servants. The PSWPG initiative has made substantial changes to the accountability and transparency of the Jiawang District government.