County cadres receive lessons to help them build new socialist countryside
Shi Jiangtao in Beijing
Beijing has stepped up efforts to address problems in the countryside, with more than 5,000 county heads across the nation expected to receive training at party schools in the next eight months.
But the move, which comes amid increasing concern that local officials have turned the campaign to build a new socialist countryside into a series of image-building projects, has been questioned by mainland experts, who say that even though it is long overdue, it will not solve real problems.
According to the People's Daily, 5,300 county heads and party chiefs from more than 2,000 counties have been ordered to undergo a week's training. The programme, which started last month and will run until January, is being held at the Central Party School, the National School of Administration and three other schools that specialise in training cadres in Shanghai, Jiangxi and Shaanxi .
Highlighting the importance of the move, the People's Daily report said: 'It is the first time since the reform and opening up that top county cadres will go through a nationwide, centralised training on specific topics.'
Liu Xutao, from the National School of Administration, said the training followed an eight-day seminar for provincial leaders and central government ministers in February.
'The training is aimed at mobilising grass-roots cadres to have a better understanding of the importance of the new socialist countryside campaign, which formally kicked off in December,' Professor Liu said.
'It is also apparently aimed at rectifying mistakes and erroneous tendencies which have already occurred in the campaign.'
State media recently reported several cases involving grandiose image-building projects by local officials that were carried out in the name of the campaign. In one case, 111 villas had been built in a village in Zhejiang despite villagers' opposition, Xinhua reported.
Professor Liu said the programme would provide an opportunity for participants to exchange opinions and share experiences, but it would not provide many specific instructions on how to implement Beijing's initiative.
'It is hard to say how effective the week-long training will be as it lacks detailed measures,' he said. Further courses were expected to provide specific training on issues such as countryside management and cultural construction which were essential to the building of the new socialist countryside.
Peng Zhenhuai, executive president of the local government academy at Peking University, said the training for grass-roots officials should have been organised much earlier.
'Taught courses and theoretical teaching by party school teachers and experts will only have a very limited effect. And it is questionable whether the education will be able to solve real problems,' Professor Peng said.