The Secret of China’s Success: Neighborhood Committees
By Adnan Akfırat
While the US and Europe are destroyed by the Covid-19 outbreak, the question ”How did China stop the outbreak and turned back to normal life?” has become a frequent topic of discussion. Atlanticists’ answers are cursory: ”They’ve hidden the data.’’ The Western media, which has the most to lose from the end of the ”American Dream”, has started to act like kind of ”anti-China”. The fact that 95% of factories in China are already open drives them mad, especially considering that 240,000 are expected to die in the US. Bloomberg, CNN, and the New York Times are manufacturing materials opposing China, while provocational websites in Turkey such as Nevzat Çicek’s Independent Türkçe and Ruşen Çakır’s Medyascope promote similar materials. Regrettably, they haven even appeared in the state-owned TRT.
Conspiracy theories demonizing China and Xi Jinping are replete on social media sites like Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter. They write the signatures of professors under conspiracy theories and use other strategies to spread false information.
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The secret of China’s success is indeed simple: the guidance of a science oriented, populist and pro-public state complete with a well-organized society. China’s organization and culture of discipline was key in their success. The neighborhood committees in China for instance, were conceived as the grassroot governing units, and are the most direct instrument for the people to participate in governance.
Wang Wenwen of the Global Times discussed how the “Neighborhood Committees” work in his article from March 31: ”Returning to my residential community after some grocery shopping, I adjust my mask and roll up a sleeve to expose a bare wrist. ‘Temperature check, resident’s pass please’, requested the masked official at the gate. For the past two months, this has been the new normal in Beijing. No one makes a fuss about it. It is an imperative for everyone in order to protect the city and my neighborhood from the coronavirus. Everyone follows it very well: if you’re sick and have a temperature, don’t ever think to go outside and spread the disease!”
What sets this order in shifts at the entrance of building site is the ‘Neighborhood Committee’, ‘juweihui-居委会’. They are at the entrance 24/7. All of them are volunteers. They take everyone’s temperature and work hard to prevent the disease from spreading. This order was maintained even in the freezing Beijing cold of February without a hitch.
The Neighborhood Committees watched over the people during the hardest days of China’s struggle against the virus. Being on alert against the possibility of a new wave of infection, the country’s most important line of defense is also these Neighborhood Committees. Although the outbreak was halted, they continue to take people’s temperatures.
The Neighborhood Committees started as urban grassroots in the 1950s. As the self-governance units of the people, they were institutionalized by the suggestion of Mao Zedong, the founder of Socialist China.
This first neighborhood committee were the 200 who registered to the Shangyangshi street of Hangzhou just after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on 23 October 1949, all of whom went to the polls to elect the chairman of the neighborhood committee. At the end of 1980s, neighborhood committees were established in all cities of China. The members of the committees are elected by the registered households for three years. Elected Chairman and Secretary is confirmed by local governments. Formerly, retired people were often chosen for this duty, now, there are even chairmen who have PhD degrees. The lowest education level is a bachelor’s degree. Teenagers are often employed for various projects. The most important human source are the registered volunteers.
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