Government Capacity Enhancement and Political Progress: Chinese E-government Effectiveness and Value Assessment

Government Capacity Enhancement and Political Progress: Chinese E-government Effectiveness and Value Assessment

Feng-Chun Yang (Peking University, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-753-1.ch016
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This study focuses on e-government development progress in China, examining how China’s e-government building and implementation are impacting government and society to reveal its inner values. China’s e-government building and development have mainly focused on enhancing government capacity and this has eventually led to the imbalance between government and society. At the same time, it has also neglected government public service provision and the interactive capacity to link government and the public. This situation contributes to the persistence of the prevailing government management and control modes and the ignoring of the demands for social change and demands of the public will, thus setting aside political and social reform. This study also notes that government and internet users are engaging in increasingly fierce fights over the power of discourse power in a networked world and power over political resources. This will become the new variable that influences China’s e-government building and development.
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The Chinese government initiated information technology and computer applications in the 1980s. In 1986, China got access to the Internet. In 1998, Qingdao City in Shandong Province set up a web page on the Internet and this was the beginning of online Chinese government. From 1999-2000, the State Economic and Trade Commission and China’s largest telecom operator cooperated to set up the Government Online Project (Wu, 2004). The central government’s website was launched in 2006. By 2008, the percentage of all levels of government bodies with websites was as follows: 96.1% of ministries, 100% of provincial local governments and 99.1% of municipal governments (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China, Department of Information, 2009). All levels of government websites feature, to some extent, certain functions such as government information publications, online work, communication and interaction, and so forth. Governments at all levels have established, are establishing or will establish various types of applications, including office, macroeconomic, fiscal, taxation, finance, customs, public security, social security, agriculture, quality supervision, inspection and quarantine, flood control, land resources, personnel and human resources, journalism, publishing, environmental protection, urban management, state-owned assets supervision, corporate credit monitoring, drug regulation and so forth. In addition to e-government at all levels of administrative organs, e-government has also become the office and performance platforms of certain agencies, including all levels of committees of the Chinese Communist Party, the National People’s Conference (NPC), the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the courts, and the Procurate (State Council Information Work Office[SCIWO], 2006).

With regard to the difference between the level of e-government development in China and advanced international levels, some data from international agencies indicate that the overall level of development of China’s e-government is above the world average, and is increasing annually. For example, the 2005 Global E-government Readiness Report of the United Nations Economic and Social Affairs (2005) show that the Chinese e-government readiness index is at 0.5078, or ranking fifty-seventh in the world. This is an improvement of 10 points compared with the data for 2004 (United Nations, 2004). Moreover, the Global E-government Report of Brown University notes that in 2003 China ranked eleventh in the world and jumped to fifth by 2005 (Wang, 2006). Yang Xueshan, the Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, has indicated that the application system construction and practical application of some departments and local governments have been world leaders (Yang, 2009).

Surveying the brief history of the development of Chinese e-government, it is not difficult to see that development and construction have been rapid and comprehensive. Moreover, currently, e-government has come to serve as an important infrastructure and means of supporting China’s economic growth, governance, and social control (Communist Party of China Central Committee General Office, 2002). At the same time, it has been noted that the expanded e-government applications initiated government information disclosure and generated some new government concepts. A series of changes was initiated in terms of the government management system and the adjustment of relations between the government and the public, such as providing public services through the Internet. These examples can be considered, to some extent, as government management and institutional changes. In that sense, the construction and application of e-government, in fact, have been successful changes of substantive significance in the Chinese government over the recent thirty years (Communist Party of China Central Committee General Office & State Council General Office, 2006).

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