Several recent social issues, such as protests in Shifang and the shopping mall fire in Jixian county, Tianjin, have showed that official accounts of the disasters were too weak when facing fierce Internet inquires.
The crisis of credibility of the government has repeatedly kept issues from being wrapped up normally, leading to confused public opinion.
Despite the efforts that governments at different levels have made to improve their credibility, in specific cases, the public has perceived the opposite. When a local government mishandles a public affair, an apology is often absent in the aftermath of the emergency, dragging the whole official system down.
To make things more complicated, current leaders are also held by public opinion to be responsible for the mistakes made by previous administrations.
This means that building credibility is a formidable challenge to governments. It involves the most difficult part of grass-roots governance and clearing historical legacies.
Furthermore, not every piece of information should be made public.
However, authorities have to prioritize the task of building credibility. It has become the weakest link in solving mass social disputes.
Due to the lack of government credibility, anti-government voices are gradually going viral.
Criticizing the government has seemingly become the politically correct message in public opinion spheres. Even rumors, as long as they oppose the official standpoint, are deemed as correct without verification.
Online celebrities are increasingly seeking support by adopting an anti-official stance, and their ranks are swelling.
Many people actually privately think public opinion, especially online opinion, is tilting. Nevertheless, few would openly admit so for fear of offending others. Opinion leaders are usually reluctant to speak out about views that favor the government.
When a regional dispute breaks out, it can become a national issue due to public doubt, amplified by the Internet, over the entire system of officialdom.
Corruption is not the lone factor damaging official credibility. Issuing no-report notices or withholding key information from the media is common among some government departments. The intention is often understood within the system but it is damaging the credibility of all government representatives.
The interest of a specific government department shouldn't be realized at the expense of the credibility of the whole edifice. Restoring this credibility is a tedious project. It requests paying attention to minute details. But first of all, it needs to be put at the top of the entire policy-making process.