On my first visit to China a couple of months ago, I realised that everything we have all heard about China is pretty much right. The main point being that it has awesome infrastructure (clean, wide roads, for god’s sake – how do they do it!).
But the real eye-opener was the undercurrent of government accountability that one noticed. A couple of simple examples illustrates this.
At the Shanghai international airport, every immigration officer’s desk has a little widget on it (a little screen with two small buttons next to it), kept facing the traveller. Once the immigration officer processes your visa, they press a button. As soon as that button is pressed, the little screen lights up and asks you to ‘rate’ your experience with the immigration official – was the official’s work satisfactory or not? In effect, the traveller is treated as a ‘customer’ and you are being asked to rate your ‘purchase experience’. Presumably the results of this go into the relevant immigration officer’s appraisal systems and therefore is of importance to them.
Now, Roads. I went to Hangzhou, China’s 6th largets city (ie. not it Shanghai or Beijing). The roads across this city were wide and clean and the only roads in India which I can compare these to are in Lutyens’ New Delhi.How can a relatively small city in China consistently maintain all its roads at a quality comparable to the less than 0.5% of India’s best roads? The answer I thin is again, accountability. Having good roads is important for a country and its citizenry and therefore is important for its local government. Remember, city roads are made and maintained by the local government of the city and clearly they believe they need to do this job well.
Popular discourse in India & the west seems to suggest that China is ‘un-democratic’ and even ‘dictatorial’ and therefore does not represent the aspirations or needs of its people. Maybe. But there is no doubt that somewhere in the Chinese system, there is a regard for the the ordinary man that one misses sorely in India.