In September 2021, a Beijing resident called a city hotline to report there were no bus routes near a newly built school in the Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area.
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Two months later, a new bus route was launched.
The Chinese capital, a metropolis housing over 20 million people, has adopted a new approach to city management since 2019. It now works with 49 state-owned public service enterprises and institutions to offer a major hotline service of the city.
A total of 750 lines receive questions and complaints related to public services from local residents 24 hours a day.
"We find the most frequently reported city problems or demands, based on all the hotline calls we receive, and then take action," said Geng Yu, chief of the reform division of "Handling A Complaint Upon Receipt" at the Beijing Municipal Administration of Government Affairs Services. "We put the people at the center no matter whether it is about urban governance or providing services to the people."
The approach city managers take to solve residents' problems reveals a lot about a government's mindset regarding urban management and the way it treats its people.
There's an old saying that's well known in China: "The water that keeps a ship afloat can also overturn it." Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, once quoted it to describe the relationship between the people and the Party. In this case, water refers to the people while the boat refers to the Party's leadership.
The saying suggests that only by taking good care of the people's needs can the CPC win their support. That's why the CPC has made it a basic principle to serve the people wholeheartedly.
Xi has urged that "tackling problems that prompt the strongest public reaction and that threaten to erode the very foundation of the Party's governance" must be prioritized.
In the report Xi delivered to the 20th CPC National Congress in 2022, he said "we must protect the people's fundamental interests, improve their well-being, and work tirelessly to ensure that development is for the people and by the people and that its fruits are shared by the people. We must do a better job of seeing that the gains of modernization benefit all our people fairly."
Xi also stressed the significance of a basic principle: "The aspirations of the people to live a better life must always be the focus of our efforts. We must keep on striving with endless energy toward the great goal of national rejuvenation."