Thursday, April 17, 2014
Officials' arrogance results in poor PR
Global Times | July 27, 2011 03:45
By Global Times
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The train crash tragedy in Wenzhou has drawn more social reflection than most major accidents. Nowadays, almost all public events raise serious questions, but in the face of these, authorities often react reluctantly and ambiguously.

Such an attitude causes more damage to the image of the government than the accidents themselves.

The mistakes that the railway ministry made in the Wenzhou accident are obvious. The public is completely right to question the state of the collision warning systems  and the management system of the high-speed railway.

Only when the railway ministry takes a lower profile and sincerely apologizes to the public can it eliminate public anger and begin rebuilding its image.

Unfortunately, it has not done so. It is not alone. Since the beginning of this year, many of the official bodies and large State-owned enterprises have performed unsatisfactorily in the face of public criticism. Officials have been too stingy in their apologies, and press conferences that were supposed to be used to communicate with the public ended up as a farce.

It is high time this problem is addressed. If such public relations disasters frequently happen, the official credibility of authorities will be gradually torn down.

Railways have been one of the sectors with the highest track records of innovation in China. They have supported China's massive migration. But recently, the railway ministry has been a prime target of public criticism. The reasons go beyond the corruption of Liu Zhijun, the former minister for railways.

Similarly, many other Chinese authorities have made great achievements. For example, the petrochemical sector has ensured the country's huge demand for energy, but its players are also constantly whipped by public opinion.

Government departments should reflect on how this came about.

This is not because they do not communicate with the public, but is due to their attitude being totally wrong.

Chinese society is changing and public democracy is booming in the Internet era, but the arrogance of certain authorities has stagnated.

They have become accustomed to only being praised in the past and when facing a crisis, they believe they can deal with the public in a bureaucratic way.

However, public opinion in China cannot stand this anymore.

We are willing to believe that most government departments in China are good and most officials are hard-working. But faced with a disaster like the Wenzhou accident, any related party is not allowed to defend itself because of its past achievements.

The only thing to do is to make a thorough apology, respond to all the doubts and be fully transparent.

It is foreseeable that Chinese authorities and other relevant organizations will continue to suffer from this public crisis and that their clumsy performances when facing the public will become more obvious. This will damage China's image and waste China's political resources.

Today, nobody is allowed to lead the public opinion alone. The relationship between the government and the public is like that of a ship and water. Water can keep the ship afloat or sink it.

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