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Public management needs to echo issues of the times

CAO FENG | 2018-12-27
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

As a social science that takes the governance of public affairs as its research object, public management is closely related to the modernization of national governance. This requires that the research topic, priority and method of public management should aim to advance this important issue of the times—the modernization of national governance. In terms of its disciplinary development, theoretical frameworks that are in line with the needs of the times should be established so as to offer useful ideas for the modernization of national governance.


The first framework is to lay stress on values research. The choice of values often affects the choice of policies, and thus is the factor to be considered when formulating laws, regulations and policies; implementing public management activities; and providing public goods and services. Modern public governance has evolved into an open and complex co-governance system with the participation of multiple subjects. To make this system work efficiently and orderly, it is necessary to establish a set of effective mechanisms for effective public participation and to seek the maximum common denominator within the framework of the rule of law so as to maximize public interests.


Throughout the development of the discipline, public management in China has been affected by empiricism in its research methods; many scholars have tended to conduct empirical research based on data and case analysis. However, social science research cannot rely solely on data models to solve practical problems. Especially in the context of today’s promotion of the modernization of national governance, normative research focusing on the discussion of values is indispensable for public management.


The second framework is to respond to practical problems. Scholars of public management need to pay close attention to practical issues in the field of public policy and governance rather than just being bookworms. They should look at such issues as top system design at the macro level; efficiency, equality, difference and fairness at the medium level; and implementation of specific policies, management behaviors and service performance at the micro level, particularly the coordination between different governing subjects’ interests and demands.


The third framework is to explore the application of new technologies. Today, new technologies such as big data, cloud computing, blockchain and artificial intelligence have been increasingly applied in national governance, providing new tools. Meanwhile, new technologies have also aggravated the complexity of governance, breeding a number of new problems. For example, people’s life today is increasingly inseparable from data. From work content to daily schedules, from interpersonal communication to online shopping, everyone’s work, life, social contact, education and other sectors are being digitized in a frequent, universal, and precise manner. So, how to determine the ownership of the data? How to regulate the behavior of enterprises that possess vast data resources? How to protect citizens’ data rights and privacy? How to resolve the ethical problems caused by artificial intelligence and big data? These are all new branches of public management research.


The last framework is to pay attention to global governance. As China has transformed since reform and opening up from a follower to a participant in drafting international rules, the study of public management needs to focus more on the frontier issues of global governance, including poverty, employment, refugees, climate change, energy and food security, nuclear non-proliferation, and regional security. At the same time, with the deepening of the Belt and Road initiative, many Chinese enterprises are going abroad and investing in overseas production and operation. In addition to traditional commercial risks caused by economic interests, labor disputes, laws and regulations, these enterprises may also encounter non-commercial risks such as cultural differences and social conflicts, which also require in-depth studies by scholars of public management.

 

This article was edited and translated from People’s Daily. Cao Feng is an assistant research fellow from the Center for Social Risk Assessment in China at Tsinghua University.

​(edited by BAI LE)