My driver's license expired last Friday after six years. A few days earlier, I had downloaded a blank "certificate of physical health" form from the website of the Beijing municipal traffic authorities and went to an authorized hospital for a test. The test was required for the renewal of the license.
After the medical check, the physician put the official stamp on the certificate to affirm my healthy condition. But he said that my photo on the form did not conform with the traffic authorities' requirement.
"It should be one inch in size. You must have cropped a two-inch photo to fit into that blank," he said. I admitted to the little trick. As I didn't bother to go to a studio for a new photo, I used an old one instead. "Very likely they (the police) will reject it and you'll have to come back again," the physician said.
I called the police station in charge of vehicles administration in Haidian District. A policewoman told me where the station was and what I needed to prepare for renewing the license, including three one-inch photos.
I went there on Friday wondering if I would become an illegal driver when I returned from the police station after yielding the expired license and handing in the application for a new one. According to my past experience, it would take at least one week before the new license was ready.
Surprisingly, I waited for only half an hour for it to be issued.
The officers were exceptionally efficient and considerate. A policeman at the information desk told me patiently how to fill in the application form. I mentioned my worry about the photo. He assured me the health certificate would be accepted as valid so long as I stuck a photo of standard size beside the original photo. This impressed me very much because in the past the certificate would be rejected as invalid and I would be asked to return with a standard one.
After I handed in the forms at window No 3 and answered a few questions, I was told to wait for the result at window No 7. While waiting, I looked around the hall. There were 11 windows, each handling a particular business. Beside each of them there was a written notice specifying the procedure of formalities and the materials and information the applicant needs to deliver. In this way the possible delay because of repeated explanation is greatly reduced.
And the police officers' work was obviously done at a quick pace. There was no sign of loitering, which was commonplace in the past. Even the making of the plastic license card with photo was completed in a few minutes.
The greatly improved work efficiency at the Haidian vehicles administration station should be attributed, as I see it, to two things. First, the officers are now more faithful to their duties, hence more assiduous in their work. Faster pace in work means more workload and less or no time for idling. In contrast, in the past they could easily waste away time by sending citizens away with various excuses. At that time, they might handle one or two dozens of cases a day, but now they will handle about 100 cases, I estimate.
Second, the work is well planned and conducted in an orderly manner and with flexibility. This also requires a strong zeal for work from the officers.
I believe the improved work efficiency is part of the Beijing government's effort to improve the city's image before hosting the Olympic Games. I have not visited other government departments, nor have I done any investigation. So I don't know if the Haidian police station happens to be an outstanding model or just is a typical example of all government departments. I would rather believe it is the latter.
(China Daily 08/08/2007 page10)