EYESHENZHEN  /   Opinion

Shenzhen’s priority shift

Writer: Lin Min  |  Editor: Jane Chen  |  From:  

A young man fell unconscious when he was disembarking from a Metro train at Shixia Station in Futian District on Jan. 3. Luckily, he was saved by Metro employees who used an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) to resuscitate him.

At least 11 people suffering sudden cardiac arrest have been saved by AEDs since Shenzhen started deploying the life-saving devices in 2017. The city had put 1,645 AEDs in public places by mid-December last year, and even more will be made available this year.

Equipping public places with thousands of AEDs is just one item on a growing list of things to do as Shenzhen shifts its focus from sheer economic growth to all-round development that focuses more on people’s wellbeing.

Another example is the light shows in Futian, Nanshan and other parts of the city. When it started in 2018, the light show in central Futian was met with skepticism, with critics saying that it could contribute to light pollution and waste public money. Now these light shows have become an enjoyable part of public life and a new city feature that attracts large numbers of spectators.

I did not realize that the Futian light show was so popular among expatriates and overseas visitors until I read an opinion piece by an expatriate columnist and a letter from a reader. Priyanka Sharma, a contributor to Shenzhen Daily’s Opinion page, wrote about how she and her friends were thrilled by the light show. A reader surnamed Chamberlin last week sent an email to Shenzhen Daily inquiring about the schedule of the light show and, in a following email, wrote that they had a great time seeing the show on the evening of Jan. 10. “My guest was so happy to see the light show till her eyes teared,” she wrote, adding she will come back to see the show again. Their smiles in the picture attached to the email showed how happy they were and how a successful public activity can bring joy to people.

People who read the city government’s work reports released during the city legislature’s annual sessions from past years can notice that projects aimed at improving people’s quality of life are becoming more and more dominant on Shenzhen’s agenda.

In his report last week, Mayor Chen Rugui said the city will increase public spending on education and medical care this year by 16 percent and 15 percent, respectively, much higher than the targeted growth rates of the city’s GDP and fiscal revenue. Chen’s report also lays out seven goals toward making Shenzhen a role model in improving people’s wellbeing: good kindergartens, excellent schools, decent salaries, qualified health care, satisfactory elderly care, livable housing and more help for the needy.

The enormous amount of projects ranging from Metro construction and water treatment to many other municipal facilities, however, has brought about some problems. Most notably, road excavation work inconveniences residents. It is reported that such projects are being carried out in over 10,000 sites across the city.

In his report, the mayor specially addressed this issue. He said a total of 6,200 km of sewage pipelines are being laid along the city’s streets, and separate pipelines for rainwater and sewage are also being deployed in over 14,000 housing estates and urban villages as part of the efforts on water treatment, leading to roads being excavated in many places and hence some complaints from residents.

The mayor promised to require different departments to better coordinate the projects and avoid repeated excavations.

The whopping total length of the pipelines being laid means a herculean task for various departments that requires more meticulous management and coordination. The complaints from residents suggest there is room for improvement in terms of project planning and management as well as public communication.

The mayor’s explanation, however, means the government has taken an important step forward in communicating with citizens, which will help the government win the public’s understanding.

The seven goals listed on the report on improving the quality of life still require many years of effort to accomplish. Government departments, when planning and implementing projects, have to make holistic assessments. Rather than thinking from the perspective of a single department, they should ask many questions, such as how the project will impact citizens’ lives when it is being carried out and after it is finished and whether the project is necessary and cost-effective. An inter-departmental coordination mechanism should also be set up to avoid unnecessary work and achieve better planning.

After enduring all these inconveniences, Shenzhen residents will see more and better schools, hospitals and nursing homes, convenient and well-connected public transport, lush community greenery, and cleaner rivers, lakes and bays.

(The author is a deputy editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily.)