Discussing different ideas

Updated: 2013-03-13 07:14

(China Daily)

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In his inaugural speech as chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, Yu Zhengsheng portrayed the ideal for a national political advisor.

They would be faithful to the truth and have the guts to say it, and they would refrain from "extreme ideas that are flippant and impetuous and divorced from national conditions".

While vowing not to indiscriminately copy Western political models, Yu promised to "encourage criticism and suggestions about the performance of the Party and the government", and "support for the exchanging and discussing of different opinions".

These lines stand out because they make an essential point about the way the country's top political advisory body discusses State affairs, which, in turn, is of vital significance to what we expect of its advisory functions.

We live in a time of flippancy and impetuosity. People cut corners to acquire instant gains. Superficial yet sensational proposals have become the easy way to boost visibility with the help of the sensation-hungry media. But besides creating a facade of diversity and pluralism, such rhetoric makes little real contribution to healthy public discourse.

Our country has made such admirable strides in nation-building over the decades that few, if any, would advocate implanting a Western model in China - there's simply no market for it.

Western models have their flaws, which is why we will not indiscriminately imitate them. But so has ours, which is why we must improve it. Our priority, therefore, is finding ways to do that. Yu's pledge of support for the exchanging and discussing of different opinions deserves a broader audience, because it is a crucial prerequisite for that process.

Consensus-building is important in achieving set goals. Yet to make informed decisions, the process of building a consensus has to be open to the full spectrum of opinions. No matter how different or unpleasant, every voice has its own value and is worth listening to, even if it is only to act as a reminder of potential pitfalls.

It is a regrettable truth that not all people in decision-making positions are willing to listen to voices that sound different or unfamiliar.

We appreciate Yu's statement that encouraging the exchange and discussion of different ideas is an inherent request of the political system of Chinese characteristics. Indeed it should be at the core of the socialist democracy we are talking about.

(China Daily 03/13/2013 page9)