Working Overtime for Stability
A young deputy township head in Sichuan recently posted an open resignation letter expressing disillusionment with issues including the constant distraction of “stability preservation” work. At China Media Project, David Bandurski translates a Beijing News interview with the former official:
I wasn’t specially tasked with stability preservation. The areas I was responsible for were safety, law-based administration, land issues — there was a lot of complicated stuff to do. But stability preservation took a big chunk of my time. Based on my experience, about four months out of every year is taken up with stability preservation. About two months are taken up with dealing with materials for inspections [by superiors], and another two months for meetings, study sessions, etcetera. So that leaves only about four months to do real work.
[…] Stability preservation wasted a lot of my time and energy. I wanted to do more real work. I wonder if some stability preservation work is really about maintaining the stable development of the local economy, or whether it’s for the sake of [officials] maintaining their posts.
[…] I don’t deny that I’ve gained a lot from the last few years of work as a public servant. As a judge I tried more than 100 cases a year. And as a public servant I was able to do a few real things for the people. I don’t see myself as someone standing against the system, nor am I an idealist. I see myself as a rationalist. I decided to change my life. This was a rational choice. [Source]
The letter sheds more than usually sympathetic light on other aspects of local officials’ work. It highlights incentives for corruption besides mere greed: the author laments that even six years into an apparently successful official career, his salary was too low to support his family without help from his parents. While 11 officials were detained for alleged negligence following a disastrous factory in Jilin last month, the letter also shows another side to safety enforcement: “No matter how hard you work,” it reads, “there’s no way to foresee how some accident might mean you’re held responsible.”