6) Update(Dec 7): It was reported Wang Wei jumped from his apartment after he met with his superior, and rumour has it that a letter was written before he jumped. Could he be asked to should all the responsibility by his superior? Could the letter (if exist) show us who the (other)real culprits are?
Note: there are usually several deputy mayor in each city, each is responsible for different funtions. Wang's responsibility include "industry" and "work safety". He was at the scene of explosion and in charge of the fire-fighting. He also announced there was no leak/pollution right after the fire. Wang was promoted to the position last year, after the department store fire disaster.
IHT reports on the special investigsation commission.
As the head of SEPA, he has the responsiblity in monitoring the pollution and coordinate between provinces (Jilin and Heilongjiang). However, is he the chief culprit for the fiasco? Would a diligent SEPA solve the problem in future?
Some background on China's bureacracy ladder system, it works more or less like military ranks. i.e. each official has a rank, whether his position is with the geographic or functional responsibility. Here we are looking at how functional responsibility (SEPA) interacts with geographic responsibility (Jilin Province, Jilin City, Heilongjiang Province & Harbin City). Another complication is a third dimension in this matix, the CNPC faction of power, which, as State Owned Enterprise (SOE), also is ranked in the hierarchy
- Province governors and party secretaries (and certain major cities like Harbin and Changchun) are equivalent of Bu ("Ministry", 部), so the provincial heads are equal in rank with Ministers (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing are regarded as provincial ranks)
- SEPA was a Ju ("Administration", 局), but in 1998 its status was promoted to be equivalent to the Minister level in China's bureacracy ladder
- However, even within all the ministers, there are big minister and small ministers. SEPA's head, 'newly elevated' to become a minister, is a small and junior minister
- e.g., Guangdong is a lot "bigger" than Hainan (so is its leader's seniority). Governor of Hainan Wang Qishan was "promoted" to become Mayor of Beijing in 2003 after the mayor was fired, even though his rank remains as 'minister'
Now, how do you expect a less senior bureaucrat to mediate between two heavy-weight officials, and those you are dealing with could become Deputy Prime Minister any time? This is what I found from an internet post, roughly recapped in English below (italic)
- CNPC is probably at the deputy minister level, the General Manager is at most half a rank lower that the (senior) minister level of Jilin Provincial Governor, and perhaps more senior since the CNPC is more "meaty"
- SEPA in Beijing does not control Jilin Province (as I said above, Mr Xie is a less senior minister)
- The local SEPA (provincial level) is always one level more junior (in rank) than the governors and mayors
- Since the local SEPA was unable to tell the governors or mayors (in this case even the enterprises) what to do, and SEPA head is junior to the Provincial head and hence unable to mediate, the system failed
- The fact that we knew the truth was basically a result of "no other alternative" from Heilongjiang's part. So it first told a so-called "white lie" of cleaning ducts, then rumours leak and it was forced to tell the truth
The poster went on to suggest China to abolish the ranking system so as to clarify accountability and responsibility. I am not sure I agree with him about the solution, but he was certainly right that if SEPA did not have the power it should not be held accountable.
IMO this is an organization problem. There are merits for the rank system, and there are other solution that make this matrix organization which work. Again, one of the solutions is to use the appriasal system to make sure that the provincial head will fully support the works of the functional departments at the local level. This requires the performance evaluation of provincial governors and mayors to receive input from functional units such as SEPA, and from officials at lower ranks. Holding those responsible for the current incidence will also create a precedence, but the Jilin Provincial head bears bigger responsibility than Mr Xie.
1) Many dubious links of Jilin's provincial party heads to CNPC and Jilin Petrochemical have been reported. But I am giving them the benefit of doubt at this point of time.
2) When Wen Jiabao was in Harbin, a women told him "Thanks to the party and the government, you have us in your heart." Wen immediately said, "You have got this in reverse. It should be the party and the government to express thank to you, thank for your understanding, support and cooperation." (在慰问群众时，67岁的老人杜继亮的大女儿说，“我们的生活井井有条，社会秩序也很好。谢谢党和政府，把群众放在心裹。”温总立即予以纠正说，“你这话要倒过来说，应该是党和政府谢谢你们，谢谢群众的理解、支持和配合。”) The reporter went on to say, the promotion system for officials is still from top-down, they do not have to be responsible to the people. It such top-down approach is not changed. How many of them would listen to Premier Wen's words? (目前，中国官员的选拔、升迁仍然还是上面说了算，因此，官员并不需对人民负责。如果不改变这种“唯上不唯下”的体制，温总感谢群众、向群众说明事实真相的指示，究竟有多少官员听得入耳呢？)
3) Update (Bonus): For the famous Chinese song "On Songhua River", rightclick to download or see here. It was composed after Japan invaded Manchuria. The lyric starts by painting the beautiful picture of Songhua River "My home is on Songhua River in the Northeast, there are forest, coal, and bean and sorghum covering the mountains and fields..."
5) Update(Dec 6): Deputy Mayor of Jilin City, Wang Wei, was found dead at home yesterday. Likely a suicide case. But shouldn't the Provincial head and the Mayor be responsible for thess tragedies? Meanwhile, State Council set up a special investigation commission to "follow up on the responsiblity of related enterprise,s departments and units". This commission is headed by the Director of State Administration of Work Safety (SAWF), Li Yizhong, a ministry ranked official like Mr Xie. (It was of depute-minister rank before Feb 2005). I believe he will look at the Qitaishan Coal Mine accident on the way. Some media reports have point the responsibility to Deputy Party Secretary of Jilin Province, Wang Yunkun, who had served at Jilin Petrochemical in the past.