A photo published by Chinese newspapers and websites has triggered
widespread anger at some government officials' obsession with power to the
extent of losing even the minimum empathy.
Last week, the Xingqing District of Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia, held
a sports meet of primary and middle school students. At the opening
ceremony, leaders of different ranks spoke garrulously one after another,
leaving 400 children wearing bathing-suit-like performing outfits waiting
in chilly wind for an hour. The temperature was 15 Celsius that day.
No one could refrain from anger seeing the scantily-clad children
huddling together for warmth with a helpless look in their eyes awaiting
the end of the self-serving speeches.
Why were those officials so heartless? What was so important in the
officials' speeches that they thought it merited the children's enduring
Frankly, I wouldn't know what to say at the opening ceremony of a
school sports meet other than wishing the meet success.
However, it is not difficult to imagine what the officials said, for we
are all familiar with the slogans, jargon and verbalizations bureaucrats
trot out in addressing meetings, banquets and festivities.
In an event like the Xingqing sports meet, the No 1 local leader
invited to the ceremony would point out the significance of holding the
sports meet; would instruct departments at various levels to support the
development of education; would urge parents to pay attention to both the
physical and intellectual health of their children; and call on the kids
to study hard for the nation.
Then leader No 2, leader No 3 ... and guest VIP A, guest VIP B ...
would all speak, each repeating most of what the others had said. So it's
not strange that the ceremony droned on for an hour.
Sports meets are not alone. Lengthy conferences have become commonplace
in our daily work. There certainly is a reason for every conference: A
problem has to be discussed or a decision needs to be promoted. However,
the way the meetings are conducted is questionable.
In most cases, the speeches delivered by officials at various levels
can be cut by half at least. Actually in many cases, they can be cut by
two-thirds or three-fourths without hurting the essential information the
speaker intends to impart. This is because the core information, if there
is any, is wrapped in flamboyant, empty formulae.
The reason officials like making lengthy speeches is that they take
conferences as an occasion to show their power or to impress others.
Ceremonies and festivities are often the time to demonstrate an
official's status. Whether being invited to deliver a speech and the order
of speaking are vital to an official's prestige. So no officials would
want their speeches shorter or less exalted in tone than others'.
At non-ceremonial conferences, officials also try to make their
speeches comprehensive, deep and high. Shorter speeches would be regarded
as demonstrating poor ability backed by inadequate homework. No one would
want to leave such an impression on the superiors present at the meeting.
In fact, many officials have become aware of the seriousness of the
speech problem but everybody continues the practice. It has become a
chronic ailment in our political life.
Sixty-five years ago, Mao Zedong published his famous Oppose
Stereotyped Party Writing during the Communist Party's campaign to rectify
its work style. He called for a terse, straight-to-the-point style of
writing and speaking. Now, we need another campaign to rectify the present
corrupted way of using our language.
(China Daily 05/16/2007 page10)