BEIJING: China's top official paper yesterday warned that the government is facing 'a crisis of faith' among its people, and urged local officials to win trust in the face of rising discontent.
Anger over forced demolitions and corruption has led to a daily rash of 'mass incidents', an official euphemism for protests, worrying officials determined to defend one-party rule and ensure a smooth transition of power to a younger generation of leaders.
The call came in an editorial of the People's Daily, the official paper of the ruling Communist Party. While such an editorial does not amount to a statement of government policy, it reflects official concern.
'If the mistrust deepens, it will bring a negative impact to the development, harmony and stability of society. A ruling party's governing position and governing power, fundamentally speaking, come from the people.'
A People's Daily editorial
'We must pay attention to the 'crisis of faith' in the relationship between grassroots cadres and the people,' the editorial said.
'If the mistrust deepens, it will bring a negative impact to the development, harmony and stability of society.
'A ruling party's governing position and governing power, fundamentally speaking, come from the people.'
China's leaders have pinned the legitimacy of one-party rule on delivering quick economic growth and higher standards of living that spread more widely among the population.
But the Communist Party has not succeeded in tackling problems that have long plagued the nation, including rampant corruption and a yawning income gap that could doom its efforts to create a more 'harmonious society'.
In a speech in July to mark the party's 90th birthday, Chinese President Hu Jintao said the anti-graft fight was the key to 'winning or losing public support and the life or death of the party'.
The central government announced on Wednesday that all civil servants will have to undergo at least six hours of ethics teaching by the end of 2015.
Topics to be taught to China's nearly 10 million civil servants will include the 'conscientious discharge of duties' and the 'justness and honesty' of government employees, the State Administration of Civil Service said in a statement.
Ethical standards will be a factor in the selection, assessment and supervision of government employees, it added.
Apart from corruption, rising land prices form another top source of public discontent. The high prices have given rise to patronage networks of officials and businessmen eager to procure more farmland for development.
A recent poll found that rural land grab disputes are hitting new highs in China, and spreading to the country's undeveloped west.
The poll, involving 1,700 households in six provinces, found disputes over land acquisitions had reached a new peak amid rampant development across the country, and was a leading cause of rural clashes, according to Outlook Weekly, a magazine run by Xinhua, China's state-run news agency.
In September, thousands of villagers in the southern Chinese region of Lufeng rioted and ransacked government offices, in a major flare-up of violence over brazen land requisitions.
Official statistics on China's rural conflicts are hard to come by, but a former deputy editor-in- chief of the People's Daily said they consistently numbered above 90,000 a year from 2007 to 2009.
Meanwhile, a 65-year-old grandmother who organised a protest in Shanghai demanding better benefits for retirees has been sentenced to 31/2 years' jail for disturbing public order, a relative and court official said yesterday.
Zhang Weimin is the leader of a group of Shanghai residents - now retired - who were sent to the far western region of Xinjiang in the 1960s to work, as part of a policy of dispatching so-called 'educated youth' to rural areas.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE