It’s no secret that we’ve been dwelling a lot on housing demolitions lately here, in no small part because that is the single biggest source of anger and unrest in China right now, and no one seemed to be doing anything about it. Oh sure, the central government passed a law that makes forced demolition illegal, and who knows, it might even get enforced. But China has a lot of laws, and they have a tendency to be enforced rather, um, selectively.
So it is with some measure of hope that I read this article, about Wang Yang, Guangdong’s Party secretary:
Late last month Wang said the provincial government should relax its time-table of demolishing and redeveloping as many as 138 older urban settlements in and around the provincial capital of Guangzhou in ten years.
Wang’s comments, made in Italy, initially sounded like the sort of liberal pronouncements Premier Wen Jiabao sometimes makes when he is overseas. But last week, the Southern Metropolis Daily, the relatively independent Guangzhou newspaper, reported that local officials have stopped redevelopment in areas of the City with traditional buildings.
It quoted local officials saying that the time-table would now be 20 or even 30 years. Officials subsequently told the South China Morning Post that they would have more consultation with local residents affected by the measures that they hoped would help ease tensions over demolitions.
Words matched by actions? Actually addressing an issue directly and constructively rather than just ignoring it and banning all discussion related to it? Taking the common people’s opinion of development projects into account? Who are you, and what have you done with the Guangdong CCP apparatus? Zing!
But seriously, unless there’s more going on here than we know about, this seems like a good thing. Delaying projects and actually talking to the people affected should help the government determine which projects are necessary or real improvements, and which projects are just destroying people’s homes for a quick buck. Much as I distrust the government’s ability to make that judgement, I’ve got to give the Guangdong boys credit here for at least coming up with the idea and starting the follow through. Here’s hoping they keep it up!
Although, that Financial Times article also says the CCP just celebrated its 80th anniversary (it’s actually the 90th), so I’m not sure the FT folks are totally on top of this story…