CDB Editorial: Lobbying from outside the system

China Development Brief, no. 49 (Spring 2011)

中文 English

When the average Chinese reflects on last year’s annual meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), otherwise known as the “Two Congresses,” the only thing that comes to mind is transportation restrictions and traffic jams. All the speeches by representatives, committee members, and subsequent media commentary are nothing but a cacophony of sound bites.  It’s difficult to piece together the complex puzzle of proposals and resolutions.  The media referred to this time as a “Feast of Politics,” but perhaps this title would be better suited to describe something else. The media’s focal points of this year’s Two Congresses might lead people to believe that this meeting is actually a little lovable.

The first focal point is the popular representation of the Two Congresses online, featuring a chart of “shocking quotes” from committee members. Perhaps some of these quotes were fabricated, satirized, or taken out of context, but without this humor, such quotes would never reach the eyes of the proletariat.  Who’s to say that these jokes aren’t a form of political involvement? The shocking quotes chart is a product of the Internet generation, and is a realization of the tolerance of diverse values and voices in society.

Some representatives have said, “Such a sensitive question, what do you think you’re doing asking me?”  This discourse rings much truer than the perfunctory responses in the “hand-raising machine” and empty talk that make up political speech today.  Of course representatives want to evade sensitive questions, but sometimes there’s no way around it.  Hence, entertaining discourse such as “We shouldn’t encourage villagers to attend university,” “We should forbid Internet cafes,” one after another have been added to the shocking quotes chart. In addition, vocal interests are no longer quiet with their demands. There are representatives and committee members who have won the praises of netizens, such as Cui Yongyuan’s admonition of contemporary problems, a statement filled with concern for society.  These distinct utterances, no matter what form they take, still ring true.  For those of us outside the meetings, these statements allow us to find representatives and voices that resonate with our concerns.

The second focal point is outside lobbying of “citizen remonstrators”.  According to media reports, in 2007 civil legislation participant Xiong Wei gathered data from the10th National People’s Congress showing that there have been 3000 representatives who released over 5000 proposals in the past five years.  He discovered that about 2000 NPC representatives have never once raised a proposal.  He further noted that only 20 of the 3000 representatives that did raise a proposal accounted for over 70% of all proposals1.

On one side are those who have channels to communicate but don’t have the power or time, or more likely they don’t have the aspiration to act.  On the other side are NGOs who, like geological field workers, are always exploring new territory to communicate and advocate their interests.  Not surprisingly, the annual meetings of the Two Congresses have become a focus of many NGOs.  Consider Liang Congjie, the recently deceased founder of Friends of Nature, who leveraged his status as a CPPCC committee member to push forward more than a few proposals.Those NGOs without status have used this channel for many years.  Normally, well before the annual Two Congresses, NGOs start getting in touch with committee members and representatives to communicate, write proposals, suggest resolutions, and even set them up with media interviews.  Their methods for finding representatives are manifold, and in this new age of the Internet, some people simply change their QQ or MSN signature to “Searching for CPPCC committee members” venturing beyond their own networks and territory.

While we have no statistics to document whether NGO lobbying has become the norm, this phenomenon has gradually become a focus of the media.  During their coverage of this year’s “Two Congresses,” China Youth Daily, Southern Metropolis Daily, and Time Weekly have all been focusing topics raised by NGOs such as the Xiao Nanhai power station, medical coverage for rare diseases, waste recycling methodology, and Hepatitis B carriers searching for employment.

Of course, no matter how much these “outside” lobbying efforts are discussed by the media, the actual effect is impossible to judge.  Wang Yi’ou of Porcelain Dolls (瓷娃娃), a Beijing-based NGO that advocates for medical coverage of rare diseases, stated, “There’s never any news of activity; we’ve raised the issue for so many years, but we haven’t even been able to agree on a definition of rare diseases. It got to the point that the representative just stopped submitting the proposal.”  Through civil actions, Xiong Wei has tried to push through legislation for ten years, but not one of his proposals has ever led to substantive legislation.  NGOs understand that through the special occasion of the Two Congresses, just attracting attention is perhaps a more realistic purpose.

“Whatever we say is a waste, whatever we don’t say is a waste; but even if it’s a waste, we still must speak.”  This quote from Liang Congjie (the founding president of the environmental NGO, Friends of Nature) appropriately expresses the views of many NGOs.  The change they seek is so slow and minute that it’s not easy to perceive.  But the important thing is, change will only come through action.


  1. Editor’s Note: The author is making the point here that there is a big gap between those who are inside the system (e.g. NPC and CPPCC members) and those who are outside the system (e.g. citizen remonstrators such as NGOs). Those inside the system have a platform but often do not take advantage of it. Those outside the system lack such a platform, and as a result seek the attention of those inside the system to get their demands heard. 

卷首语:“院外”游说:“两会”的民间风景

中国发展简报2011春季刊第49卷
  以往一年一度的全国人大、政协“两会”,除了北京交通拥堵和限行,对于普通百姓而言,并无其他更直接的感受。代表、委员见诸媒体的也大多是零碎的只言片语,很难窥见其有备而来的提案或议案全貌。媒体所冠以的“政治盛宴”一词应有它更合适的用处。而今年“两会”有关的报道和信息透出的一两个看点让人觉得“两会”有了点儿可爱的模样。  第一个看点是网络流行的“两会”代表、委员雷人语录排行榜。也许,有些雷人语录经过杜撰、漫画式处理,距发言者的初衷已经相去甚远,但因为发言“娱乐化”,才吸引了更多的普罗大众的眼球。谁又能说,这些围观、争议和哂笑过程,不是议政、参政的启蒙教育呢。雷人语录是这个网络时代的产物,也未尝不体现了一个社会某种程度上对多元价值和声音的包容。有代表说 “这个问题这么敏感,你问我干什么? ”这个言谈远比那种只是履行“举手机器”职责、满嘴空话套话打太极的参政议政者要真实得多。承认自己要回避敏感问题,但又不能占着位置不说话,于是,才会有将“扫黄”改为“扫色”、“不应该鼓励农村的孩子去上大学”、“取缔社会网吧”等等,这些有足够娱乐功能的话语纷纷出炉。而更有气势凌人的利益代言者,不再羞答答地谈论自己的利益诉求。代表或委员提案中,也有博得网友称赞的,如崔永元针砭时弊、充满社会关怀的发言。这些零七八碎又个性鲜明的“回声”,不管经过怎样的变形,还是显现出一点各自真实的模样,让会场之外的我们可以,去寻找能够与之共振的代表和声音。第二个看点是场外游说的 “民间谏客”。据媒体报道,民间立法参与者熊伟2007年搜集到十届人大近3000名代表5年来所提的5000多件议案的名目,他发现有约2000名人大代表5年间未曾领衔提出过一件议案。而前20名人大代表领衔议案的数量,占总数的70%以上。这边是有发声通道却无能力或者无时间,更可能是无意愿无议案的不作为,那边NGO像地质队员一样,到处勘探可以用来沟通、建言、倡导的地带,每年的“两会”已经成为很多NGO关注的地方。去年10月辞世的自然之友创办人梁从诫先生,就曾利用全国政协委员的身份递送了不少提案。那些并无身份之便的NGO,多少年来也一直没有放弃这个通道。一般在每年“两会”召开很早之前,就开始联络委员、代表,沟通、写作议案、交提案,甚至还为委员联系、安排记者采访。寻找代表的方式也是五花八门,网络时代的微博等工具得到应用,有人还直接在QQ、MSN挂上“寻找政协委员”的签名,跨出熟人关系网路和地域。无从统计NGO游说是否已经规模化,但这种现象已逐渐引起媒体的重视。今年“两会”期间,《中国青年报》、《南方都市报》、《时代周报》都对此予以关注,如环境领域“小南海”电站问题、垃圾分类回收、健康领域的罕见病医疗保障、乙肝病毒携带者就业……

当然,尽管这些“院外”游说活动多少有了点媒体效应,可实际效果还无从评说。递交罕见病医疗保障议案的瓷娃娃王奕鸥茫然:“一直没有什么动静,提了这几年,连罕见病的定义还都没有。连代表都不想再交这个建议了。”熊伟通过民间行动的形式推动立法10年,所推动的实质性的立法“连他自己都举不出一件”。 NGO们明白,通过这个“两会”的特殊场合,吸引更多的关注也许是一个更实际的诉求。

“说了也白说,不说白不说,白说也得说”。在这里,除了重复梁从诫先生当年的话,找不到更合适的话语,来表达NGO行动者与他者的区别。尽管,这种改变缓慢和微小到自己不易感知的地步。但重要的是,唯有行动,才能带来改变。

Translated by Eric Couillard

Reviewed by Li Kening

No related content found.

Share: