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Dissertation on the Effects of E-government on the Transparency of the Government of China

Abstract

The concept of transparency has always been debated upon by the general public and experts as they critique the performance of their national governments. Many have argued that the government is difficult to reach out to due to the danger of misconduct by some of its officials and the possibility of waiting for the government to respond to each case for months. Upon the introduction of the internet and its prominent role in improving business and social processes, many experts have noted that the internet can be utilized to improve governance. Out of the various propositions and solutions, the idea of creating an e-government became a favorite project in improving government affairs. However, upon China’s implementation of the said program, many have questioned if it is genuinely skilled in changing the Chinese government given the various factors that must be considered to enable it to succeed. The study will examine the effectiveness of China’s e-government on the transparency of the Chinese government. The study will also discuss how it has managed to replace the standard governance strategies of the oldest civilization in Asia.

Keywords: e-government, china’s e-government, Chinese politics, Chinese e-government

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION

Transparency and effective management are usually the factors on which voters and experts look for in examining executive candidates, especially those who are re-running for a position in the government. Many of the government’s opposition notes corrupt practices and weak governance, but they have vehemently denied these accusations and try their best in developing strategies in proving to their constituents that they are sincere in their desire to provide a clear government. Most of these development programs have failed while some have managed to improve most management processes to be fit in the modern time.

Gronlund and Horan (2004) stated that the concept of E-government was created sometime in the late 1990s alongside the emergence of the internet and the creation of e-Commerce which was then a fledgling concept. Unlike its current function, the e-government system has first been used by practitioners whom are looking for new systems to include the use of the internet in certain new programs and systems. However, upon the introduction of the system, the definition of the E-government has varied in each government. But, they still have the same goals and the same function that revolves on creating a more systematic government that would cater to the public and improve the government’s democratic processes. This particular notion on the function of the e-government program has remained in most official documents and programs that uses the system however the part wherein the system is for the improvement of the democratic processes of the government is downplayed in both definition and application. (Gronlund & Horan, 2004)

Upon the introduction of the internet in the early 1990s and the wonders of the World Wide Web, many have noted its use in improving government affairs and governance and have formulated the e-government model. In the definition given by Holliday and Yep (2005), the e-government system is the use of ICT to disseminate information properly to all sectors and allow the public to participate in government-related decision making. Through the e-government system, channels are available for the public to access vital publications, reports and studies and the public finds the luxury to seek for government services. It is in full hopes of those who have conceptualized the e-government model that it would be used by developing countries in improving their own governments. The e-government system has first been used by practitioners experimenting in the application of the internet to different leadership styles and strategies. However, upon the application of the model to governments, its meaning has evolved to fit each government belief. Although the centre has varied, it still promotes automating most of the government processes and introducing public-influence to existing government dealings and decision-making. What lacks in the definition is the development of the democratic processes of the government as it is downplayed in both research and implementation. Without this improvement, the e-government program can only be referred to as e-governance (Gronlund & Horan, 2004).

The international community has understood the purpose of e-government in improving its services and has directly applied it into their developing design. The United Nations had issued their opinion on the idea of e-government through the Human Development Report of 2001. The assessment had argued that using the ICT would allow the United Nations to demonstrate the importance of using technology to enable development. The World Bank has also applied the E-Government design and released a handbook entitled “The E-Government Handbook for Developing Countries” in November 2002. After a year, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development followed suit as they met up in Geneva and Tunis in 2003 and 2005 respectively and discussed how they could use the ICT in the system. Other developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have already applied the e-government program in their own governments while others followed suit. The United States has even been considered to have the best e-government type in the world after Singapore. (Holliday & Yep, 2005)

The influence of the e-government model has managed to reach even the Eastern continents which gained utmost attention. One such country, which have quickly gained a fascination with the model, is the Chinese government. Upon the dawn of the early 1990s, China has gradually developed itself as one of the most influential Asian nations in the present century after Japan. However, the country was late in introducing technology to the country which could be seen in their discovery of the internet. Unlike the other developed countries and its neighbors, China has only experienced the internet in 1994. Since then, they have slowly enabled it to become mainstream. According to Xiong (2002) and Luo (2009), studies have noted that the number of online users in China reached at least 12,540,000 computers since 2002 which can be estimated to 2.6% of the entire population. In terms of usage, at least 7597.5MB is the accumulated bandwidth used around the country while domain names under the CN line counts up to 127319 users, most of which are from the government with 5,864 websites. Through this data and some techno-cadres, some have pushed for the application of the e-government program to the current Chinese system of governance. Some even argued that China is capable of overtaking the US in its position as the most powerful nation if the country continues to improve in both its political and financial sector. However, there is still the problem that not all who go online visit government sites and the concern that not all have the capacity to go online to view these improved sites. The e-government system’s success is detrimental to the number of people who access the government website and those who seek services through this method.

Despite this setback, many departments have already promulgated the e-government program, resulting to 145 gov.cn domain names by May 1998. It has also managed to reduce the workload of government departments and gave more time for decision-making and implementation. To the national government, there is a need to create a system that would allow each executive department and offices to work efficiently online and merge them without a risk of potential backlashes, information leakage and dumping. The e-government, in their opinion, would be an ideal instrument that would allow them to work hand-in-hand in any level. However, they had a problem in developing a system that would fit the Chinese setting. After a couple of months, China Telecom have managed to find a solution and proposed the Chinese model of e-government. This proposal then led to the creation of the Chinese “Government Online Project” which immediately began as early as 1990 (Xiong, 2002) (Luo, 2009).

Despite the eagerness of the Chinese e-government to administer the system, there are still questions on how accurately the model would improve the state of affairs of the country. Some argue that the current e-government system fails to cover some aspects of data sharing to their groups while some argue that the change is not visible in some departments and levels. Once the international community heard of the Chinese intension in applying the e-government program, they have immediately criticized the system how it would become. With the Chinese entering the competition in e-government application, how exactly would it change the Chinese traditional government and its effectiveness ? Did China change anything to allow the program to perform its function? What are opinions raised by the public, by non-government organizations and critics upon the Chinese e-government? What are the notable lapses the program has missed? How did the e-government program show the government’s openness in promoting transparency and public influence in government affairs? What may happen in the future of Chinese e-government and would it be corrected? This paper will explore these questions and the issue on the Chinese e-government program and explain what has changed in the political stance of China since its inception.

Statement of the Problem:

For this study, the main question to be discussed is the effects of e-government on the transparency of the Chinese government and how it has changed the Chinese, the effectiveness of the system and how people and critics are reacting to this change. The question serves as a stepping stone to the secondary questions this paper intends to respond. The intention of the Chinese e-government is as an act that would indicate China’s acceptance to technological development. It can also be seen as a step in improving its century old beliefs. The supporting questions are as follows: first, what are the differences between the US e-government to the Chinese e-government strategy? Why do data have to be withheld from the public? Third, how did China change its approach to implement e-government to showcase their transparency? How about the proposed solutions and the criticisms, what are they? Lastly, what are the possible conclusions and changes that would occur once the government reacts to the continuously advancing technology that would allow the public to obtain information? Other questions would be raised in the conclusion and recommendations for future research regarding this issue.

Significance and Objectives:

For this study, it aims to tackle briefly the history and significance of e-government and how it enables governments such as the Chinese government to create a means to allow the public to be involved in government decision-making and policies and promote transparency. This study intends to convey to its readers the efforts done by the national governments in finding a way on opening itself to the nation by applying new concepts such as e-government in allowing much information and influencing ability to be given to the people, as well as improving the services of the government. Knowing the concept of e-government would allow readers and other researchers to understand how the system works, what it is for and to make a comparison should the system be updated in the next few years. Understanding the system would also allow readers to understand how transparency generates through this system.

Another goal of the study is to recognize the possible decisions and improvements that China would apply to its e-government system once technologies update, giving the people more chances to view information about the government online and get more areas and groups that have not yet been included in the current e-government network. China may rely for a practical approach once they improve their e-government to match the current technological advancements. Nevertheless, there are still possibilities that they would try and maintain the same system. The recommendations can also fix minor problems in addressing the update in the system.

Lastly, this paper can also serve as a secondary source concerning either transparency through e-government, e-government or China’s e-government to provide an overview. It would also explain to the general public the idea on how the Chinese government embraced the advantages that would be beneficial for the country. This study also shows how various actors around the world view the Chinese position in promoting transparency.

Scope and Limitation:

The study will focus on sources that discuss studies, critiques and updates on the Chinese e-government policy, due to the extremely broad theory of e-government and the available sources for the topic alone. Most of the sources would be acquired from books, journals, news clippings and articles written since the inception of e-government in China up to the present. This period would allow the study to absorb the changes and debates raised regarding the Chinese model. As part of the literature review, the study would be using sources detailing the history and structure of the US E-government system as it would serve as a comparison and a basis for the Chinese model.

A limitation for this paper has met is the insufficient secondary sources regarding the subject on the Chinese e-government program. The languages on which some of the main sources can be seen as limitations to the study given the researcher’s unfamiliarity in the Chinese language. Some of the sources, books, journals and articles are too expensive for purchase and free copies thereof are unavailable for use. This paper will not, however, consider the status of the other countries with respect to China’s transparency and e-government strategy as this would be a long argument to understand and determine. It will also not discuss events or policies done by the Chinese government in the intervention of these groups with regards to their complaints about the e-government system. This paper will also not discuss the use of the E-government program in China’s unique provinces such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Definition of Terms:

The definitions stated below appeared on the sources the researcher has reviewed.

  1. E-government – this is the use of information and communication technology or ICT to disseminate information properly to all sectors and allow the public to participate in government-related decision making.
  2. E-Government (US Definition) – According to the US E-Government Act of 2002, it refers to “ use of Government of web-based Internet applications and other information technologies, combined with processes that implement these technologies.”
  3. E-Government (Chinese Definition) – it enables the government to open up its services to the public by making it available online, improve its work and let it become efficient and boost the economy through the system
  4. E-governance – this term is mixed with the definition of e-governance. However, for the term, E-governance constitutes the success of how the e-government system would become successful as this would determine how the government delivers the services and information the public would need.
  5. Informatization – the Chinese use this term to refer the importance of the ICT sector to the public, notifying them on how the ICT sector could promote change in the country especially in the government.
  6. Techno-cadre – these are officials who have been promoting for the ICT sector in improving the government.

CHAPTER II: REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Overview:

The e-government system creates the hope of finding a governance strategy that can match the present time. For developing countries, this is just a way to automate the government and governed. Some see it as a way for the public to transform government services and decision-making and establish a clear future. China’s intensions on applying the e-government have some merits that they wish to try it now that the public is becoming aware of the happenings in their government by accessing online media websites, discussion boards and even online panel debates. Nevertheless, for a country such as the United States, how exactly is their e-government system unique from all the others? The United States is the remaining superpower and the only country that can stand against any rising threat that may arise from any corner of the world. Its governance programme is a model for many countries in the hope that they could obtain the same level in their own governments. As the Congress signed the E-Government Act of 2002, the United States has been able to utilize the internet for the government by creating new online mediums to spread the word to the people, get access to their services and even let them speak up regarding their opinions on government services and policies. Nevertheless, there are still consistent flaws pointed out by critics such as server downtime, hacked official webpages and even information censorship. Despite all of these criticisms, the United States has continued to evolve and with their e-government promotion and impose laws that would secure online users from any cyber assault and damage. How exactly did the United States manage to create an almost fool-proof and flourishing E-government program that many envy in the field of politics?

This review of related literature will explore the concept of e-government outside China and use it as a foundation in analyzing if China’s e-government has the same problems, concepts and recommendations raised from other e-government models. The review will begin by discussing the history of the E-government model of the United States given that its approach is one of the best in the globe after Singapore. The study will also explain how the US E-government program works, its structure and some examples as to where it has showed its effectiveness. The country will be able to provide a fair comparison to the Chinese e-government model and determine how they differ from one another. It will also solutions to China’s current e-government model and identify recommendations to the system’s lapses. The scholars in this review wrote about various problems and advantages they have seen regarding the US E-governance policy. They also write about how effective the system is and recommendations on how the US government can develop and enhance the program in the future.

A review of the threats and challenges the US E-government system identifies the flaws of the e-government system . This would constitute the end of the review alongside the short comparison of both models. Identifying the threats to the US E-Government system can also pose as a foundation on how they can be remedied and saved. Although the United States’ e-government program is still a lot better and more reliable than the fledgling e-government version of China, both governments have invested a lot of dollars to improve the ICT sector which paved way for both of these programs to automate their system of government. The flaws on state jurisdiction and transparency determine a country’s e-government system to be a success.

The United States E-Government Program

In the field of e-government, the United States is one of the main countries that have managed to utilize the power of e-government. The country has struggled to united its various agencies in the beginning of the 1990s. According to the Forman (2002) the federal government has only started in creating an e-government task force in 2001 with the Office of Management and Budget noting that the task force aims in improving services for each sector and improves its ability. For the US, this plan is how they perceive a successful e-government. However, the US has still yet to develop this version of e-government with their set of goals. The federal government also outlined how the e-government program can be expanded to include four main groups – Government to Citizen (G2C), Government to Business (G2B), Government to Government (G2G) and Internal Efficiency and Effectiveness (IEE). The G2C approach provides the one-stop access needed by citizens when they seek for government information and services, G2B concentrates on eliminating redundancy for businesses and using the ICT for help. G2Gs concentrates in creating a connected network with all government levels to facilitate information sharing and collaboration. The IEE initiative promotes efficiency in government operations. (Forman, 2002)

Seifert and Relyea (2007) stated that this strategy kick started the US e-government policy-making when President George W. Bush signed on December17 the E-government Act of 2002. This is not just the enacted statute that concentrates on information technology and security as many policies have already been signed before the Act. However, the E-Government Act of 2002 is the first of its kind that stresses the purpose and development of an e-government in the country. E-Government Act of 2002 is a subsidiary law to promote the Clinger-Cohen Act signed in 1996, created just a couple of years upon the dawn of the Internet. The Clinger-Cohen Act concentrates on decentralization of IT management in the government, how to launch new IT procedures and how to choose a chief information officer to serve as the administrator of these ID procedures.

The E-Government Act of 2002 introduces a means for the public to gain access to publications disclosed from the public. A $345 million budget for the act is to ensure success in applying the e-government system. The OMB maintains the information technology investment of the country and ensures that it will continuously be citizen-friendly, efficient and performance-based. According to the Act, e-government refers to “use by Government of web-based Internet applications and other information technologies, combined with processes that implement these technologies. To (A) enhance access to and delivery of Government information and services to the public, other agencies and other Government entities; or (B) bring improvements in Government operations that may include effectiveness, efficiency, service quality or transformation.” (Seifert & Relyea, 2007)

The application of the E-Government Act of 2002 enabled improvement in the system because of its effectiveness in identifying the sectors it has to address immediately. The webpage “USA.gov” is a notable example on how the US E-government enabled easy access to government websites and services. The website itself accommodates viewers with updates like jobs, weather, contact information, forms and even FAQs regarding the 40 different branches and agencies of the government. The report also included the OMB emphasis on a National Contact Centre that would allow the public to obtain information regarding any government services even with the use of a cellular phone or chat, spoken in either English or Spanish. The report also noted the development of the disaster relief services using the FEMA completed in December 2008, enabling disaster victims to acquire and apply for benefits from the various agencies required. (Mathews, 2010)

Conclusion

With regards to how much the US federal government used to automate the entire US government especially its services, the cost is not a secret as everyone agrees it has been a substantial investment. The country has already used $60 million in the introduction of E-Government Act of 2002 in 2003. It gradually increased over to $600 million in 2007. The allowance covers development, implementation and maintenance with regards to all related projects and security development with the Internet. The government has noted that this budget would reduce any long-term costs that the government may face in the next decade. However, many arguments can be raised regarding which group who needs to pay for all these costs. At present, the funds of the federal government come from the taxpayer’s fee and dues. Since the E-government’s main purpose is to improve the government’s productivity and information sharing to the public, citizens would not continue to pay for this project due to the realization that it is for the government’s productivity. Many would also argue that not all can access these services so why would they bother supporting it.

Another threat to the program is how the US government controls and manage all the information they collect per user of the system. There are some webpages which downloads data without informing the user. This can be compared with the Chinese system as the Chinese government was more focused on watching their citizens and the data downloaded from each government site. Despite this, Mathews states, many Americans are not that happy that their government is snooping in their online business as the information the government takes out of their personal computers. Americans have this notion of distrusting their governments given the numerous times the government has failed to respond to problems regarding corruption, fraud and how they fail to provide the citizens of what they want. Since the E-government system would require people to use the program to succeed, this notion of suspicion may cause the entire system to falter. (Mathews, 2010)

The Associated Press (2010) noted that the US e-government is also going to have a problem in addressing the citizen’s concern over cyber-security and how the government imposes the program in each state and agencies of the federal government. Since most of the records of most US national webpages uses in databases connected to the internet, there may be cases that national security would be compromised immediately once hackers access the system. Vital databases connected to the nation’s security would immediately weaken the whole country in a single attack. At present, the country does not a fixed policy in addressing the problem of Internet threats and presently enacted laws are not that easily enforced given the nature of the internet. If federal officials do not allot much time to improve the system, there would always be a possibility of security threat. Since each section also has a different approach in organizing their business and decision-making, there may also be confusion in uniting these different groups in one system especially in the e-government mechanism (Associated Press, 2010).

Through this literature review, the US e-government programme has raised many key points that the Chinese model can use in updating its own version. Unlike the Chinese model, the US e-government program has several policies such as the E-Government Act of 2002 that enabled change to the current system and supports it. The US has also studied all possible conclusions their current system has which could harm the e-government system in any form. The federal government has quickly understood the importance of transparency, but, they have failed in understanding the notion of the US people onto them. Despite the improvements, there is still a perception that the government cannot be trusted given all the controversies behind many of the country’s politicians. There is also the problem that with the nature of the system to be connected to one system, one wrong move would cause the whole country to decline from one cyber attack. Nevertheless, the complex system has answered most of the questions and lapses raised by many experts when it comes to governance. The unique factor of the US version is the 99% automation it has introduced to the entire government structure.

In comparison with the Chinese model, the Chinese government has failed to understand the importance of their application of the e-government which caused most of its departments and agencies to develop mediocre webpages to cater to its constituents. There is also the nature of the e-government system which shows that China is fearful in all the actions of its people, especially once they see the government’s websites. Since the US is a federal nation, the Chinese belief in communism and its belief pressed by its ruling party has drastically prevented it to climb the ladder as one of the top e-government policies promoted today. Many politicians still believe that they must be the people to store these data and publications instead of sharing it with the public. What makes the Chinese e-government system unique from the US version is the structure of the Chinese model and its impact in all sectors of government. This can be seen in the “Twelve Golden Projects” which comprised the second stage of the Chinese application of the program.

Understanding these challenges would be crucial in updating the e-government system. The challenges, flaws and significant improvements can serve as an important factor in revising the system and create an almost fool-proof electronic government action that no one can use. This comparison shows that no matter what the meaning of the e-government policy is in another country, it would come to the extent that it would face the same flaws and use different solutions to the flaw. These solutions can be further enhanced if there is a constant understanding between nations to create a workable e-government system that both developed and developing countries can apply.

CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY

Research Design

In this section, the researcher will discuss the methods, types and instruments of the research that would help in understanding how the study design. The selection of the subject is due to the researcher’s interest in the growing popularity of the Chinese economy and the impact it has to the United States. Its projected that the United States will end up defaulting on their debt due to the on-going recession and debt crisis in the country. This would then give the opportunity for the Chinese to overtake the US in their position as the largest and powerful nation in the world. Should the situation continue, the Chinese may be able to control and influence the United States as to how it dictated the state of affairs of China in the past? This research hopes to educate people regarding the solutions applied by each national government around the world in fighting against corruption and promoting transparency. This research is to open up a discussion on how the government could develop and promote transparency. Its decided to apply basic research as the nature of this research discusses the subject thoroughly and then add more information to supplement the discussion. In this case, the subject is the e-government of China and the additional information would be the effects and recommendations to the system. This research has also incorporated both qualitative and descriptive methods to allow the researcher to focus on the discussion of the topic. This research has also incorporated a few quantitative data to analyse how the Chinese e-government faired with the people and the government’s production of decisions, programs and policies. With qualitative research, data collection does not necessarily mean it will be solely numerical as it would be a narrative. While for descriptive research, it will allow readers, other researchers and the researcher himself to understand the subject without the stress of analysing numerical data.

As mentioned in previous statements, the purpose of this paper is to examine how the effects of e-government changed the concept of transparency in the Chinese government and how it improved the image of the Chinese and the international community on China’s transparency. All of the selected research methods will highlight the critical factors leading to the changes introduced by the Chinese e-government. It will help in predicting China’s action once technology opens up more channels to the public, and issues that emerged because of the update. This analysis can also be considered a case study as it concentrates on the effectiveness of the e-government policy in promoting government transparency in the Chinese context, allowing the researcher an in-depth analysis over the topic and a clear perspective on how transparency can be achieved with the use of information technology.

Variables:

The independent variable in this study would be the e-government program of China. As stressed in the first few paragraphs of the introduction, the E-government idea is the use of the ICT in providing the public information they need regarding government dealings, researches and reports and a means to influence the government on the decisions they may partake into when needed. The IT industry can serve as a medium for the Chinese government to answer all inquiries and questions by the public in the nation’s e-government position in the next decade.

The dependent variable in this study are the effects of e-government and perceptions of the public about the e-government system. The implication of these effects of e-government would not only affect the country’s political system, but, it also would change how the Chinese would see their government and how much their opinion matters. Transparency would also come into play once these effects determine whether or not they have served their purpose in introducing the e-government program.

Data Gathering Procedure

This research will concentrate primarily on China’s e-government program implemented in the country’s state and local government units, including agencies. Most of the articles used in this study came from secondary sources due to the subject’s broad range.

Journals and books discussing recommendations and studies by researchers and scholars about the introduction of e-government in China and the issues that revolve around the matter fall under the set of secondary sources. Digital copies of the articles pertaining to the arguments on China’s e-government also belong to this category. Data also used from articles, press releases and documents posted by some of China’s English news organizations, another good source for updates pertaining to the opinions and updates regarding China’s e-government strategy. Some sources would also come from online subscriptions JSTOR and SAGE and through Google Scholar.

Data Analysis

An analysis of the information would discuss effects of the Chinese e-government and why its watched by the international community. As discussed in the analysis of related literature, an e-government program would never be successful without proper analysis and strategy in the end of the government. The United States was able to keep the program with various governmental policies to establish cyber safety and efficiency in introducing transparency. This research will take two sides: first is the effects of an information technology program such as the e-government program in a non-democratic country such as China and how it has drastically change the whole government programme of the country. The possible future actions of China with regards to their E-government program would also be discussed.

The body of the study begins with the background of the Chinese e-government policy and the notion of even applying the concept of information technology in the system. It would then be supported by discussing how the system itself works, the goals of the system and what it intends to showcase to the people who would also be benefiting from the program. The discussion includes the analysis on the changes it has introduced and the number of policies it has approved since its application. The study would also include the advantages and disadvantages of the e-government policy as noted by several experts in and out the country and how it affects the system all together. A discussion on the distinguished flaws will also be raised in the body of the study especially how the world sees the virtue of the e-government project. A short comparison between the Chinese and US models will also be discussed in the study’s literature review.

Hypothesis:

Transparency has always been connected with the theory of moral governance every time a government analysis or comparison to the current administration arrives. The usual arguments such as hidden information regarding government transactions and less involvement of the people influence the main problem. Of course, governments have vehemently denied these allegations as this would destroy their public image and state that these are false rumors. Developed countries have this problem the worst especially because some of their constituents belong to C and D level of the country.

This paper argues that the application of the e-government program in China has managed to change the views on politics and governance. It has enabled government officials and employees to keep proper track of their assigned duties and allot more time in creating policies and programs. The Chinese public, on the other hand, now finds the accessibility of information, services and news from e-government webpages whenever they need it and even comment on how they see a program launched by the government. However, there are still flaws and gaps that the Chinese e-government strategy is yet to address as data is still not properly distributed to other prominent organizations and civilian groups. Some argue that there are regions who do not have this system, while some are inconsistent. Since China has applied e-government whilst their online community is slowly understanding the importance of the internet, not only has it enabled China to earn revenue upon the application of the system, but it has also ranked high as one of the ten countries with an effective e-government system and a high transparency grade. Nevertheless, it is still a work in progress as there have been complaints and arguments that the e-government system has failed to answer questions regarding the information transmitted and services offered by these sites, the availability of these data specifically to NGOs and private organizations and the system’s constant shutdowns and errors.

Hypothesis Testing

The application of the e-government program in China, the program has managed to change how politics and governance means for the public. This serves as the study’s main premise. However, there are still flaws and gaps that the Chinese e-government strategy is yet to address as data is still not properly distributed to other prominent organizations and civilian groups. Nevertheless, it is still a work in progress due to the comments that it has still failed to include fundamental aspects of its reach and influence.

The Chinese version is now a model for some developing nations in creating their own version of the system due to China’s continuously improving image at present. The hypothesis is to be proven only if the effects of e-government has managed to fulfill its purpose. However, the hypothesis is to be disproven if the country has noted that the flaws of the Chinese e-government strategy not just limited their access to the government’s deals and finances, but if it has also kept the country completely in the dark regarding policies that should be consulted to the public view. The theory would also be disproven if there are essential critiques raised by experts on the department of politics and economics in the effectiveness of the e-government in China.

CHAPTER IV: ANALYSIS, DISCUSSION, CONCLUSION

Like any other country, the Chinese have their own meaning in defining the need, purpose and intent of an e-government. The definition of e-government for China would be difficult to identify given the country’s non- democratic perspective. However, most Chinese officials agree that the e-government system enables the government to open up its services to the public by making it available online. It has also updated its work efficiency. It has also allowed the economy to improve thanks to the system. Since China has a centralized political system, a creation of a Chinglish (Chinese-English) “informatization” would allow the government to develop the ICT sector to the public without a backlash. The discussion as to how the ICT sector could help the country in creating the dianzi zhengwu or the e-government system began immediately. Politicians such as Deng Xiaoping have expressed that improving and developing the country’s telecommunications sector would be essential to initiate economic growth.

As the government slowly planned out the system, the focus became the e-governance image of the system and not the e-government process itself. This only constitutes government websites or zhengfu shangwang. Jiang Zemin, former minister of the electronic industry, followed the lead of Deng Xiaoping and showed interest in investing in the information technology sector like US vice-president Al Gore’s theory of improving the digital network. Jiang’s desire to utilize the internet is evident in one of his interviews. Of course with Zemin’s backup, the Chinese e-government programme has gained its form. With this development, it would allow the government to introduce change within the system. It will alter its functions and improve its services. This would then allow the government to become competent and cost-free. Zemin also states that this would create a more transparent and fair administrative system.(Zhang, 2002)

Lagerkvist (2005) noted that the Chinese effort in promoting the information and communications technology industry was perfect. It has promoted a clear field for both domestic and external groups. This promotion of the sector is also a way for the international community to show that the Chinese government is prepared to open up its doors. Many have noted that leaders such as Zemin can be classified as techno-cadres, people who are into improvement through the use of the technological developments as a way to solve traditional governmental policies in the country. Former Prime Minister Zhu Rongji expressed that informatization strengthens efficiency in the government and entices employees to work harder and be more responsive to the public. His opinion perceives changing the current administration and enabling automation through ICT would help clean the government and become productive. The hope that the e-government program can wipe out any misunderstanding about government is found in Zhu’s speech. (Lagerkvist, 2005)

Liang (2006) explains how the history of the Chinese E-government program began. The Chinese E-government system was presented by the General Office of the State Council and called it “san wang yi ku” or “Three Networks and One Database” consisted of an internal, visible and external networks and a database system. The internal network consists of the Intranet, handling all classified information and inter-agency operations. The specific network is the Extranet which connectes the Intranet with office functions and allow local governments to share information. The external network is the Internet, source of information to the public and how they could be part of the system. Finally, the database system is the one that supports all of these networks and enables users with preferences to request for services that would be appropriate with their requirements. China has stopped in presenting the structure of the program, but, continuously invested in the system with $5 billion worth of budget. Many analysts noted that China’s IT industry would also be affected by the sudden interest of the Chinese in updating the system as analysts estimate that $10 billion worth of funding would be given by 2009, 15.9% of annual growth. Of course, the Chinese government anticipated the program’s effects into the entire system. They came up with three stages as a result of this prediction which would help the e-government program fulfill its obligation. (Liang, 2006)

China's E-Government

Figure 1. Three Stages of E-Government Development in China. This chart shows how China has allotted time in enacting its three stages in developing e-government. (World Bank)

The first stage is the Office Automation in Agencies which began from the 1980s to the early 1990s. The stage noted the establishment of office networks that would connect the city, regional and national level networks together. This also enabled most of the city or national-level governments to reduce the amount of paper they need to use to view information and policies.

Lovelock and Ure (2002) explained the following stages known as the Twelve Golden Projects, created around December 2001 alongside the creation of the Chinese Information Office. Premier Zhu Rongji enabled the stage to proceed as he had State Council Document No. 17 to be released just eight months later. The period became known as the “Twelve Golden Projects” because it concentrates on twelve different networks. These networks primarily cover sectors of society and government which can influence the country’s position. This then enables the e-government program to become an effective and accurate government policy with a fluid aim for each section. The twelve golden projects are as follows:

1. Administrative Resources System (bangong yewu ziyuan xitong) is a system that would allow all government work in any position to be part of the e-governance mechanism of the government. This would rotate from video-conferencing to a government disaster management system that would facilitate the community through the World Wide Web.

2. The Golden Macro Project/ Macro Economic Management (jinhong) concentrating in enhancing intergovernmental connectivity and sharing that would help in creating a transparent and more efficient policy-making

3. The Golden Tax Project (jinshui) concentrates in discovering and punishing any case of tax evasion by using false receipts and invoices that can easily be done with the government computer. This project has been one of the most successful ones in the stage as it has managed to cover 45% of taxpayers in the country.

4. The Golden Customs Project/ Golden Gate Project (jinguan) was launched in 2001. It concentrates on four points: the management of quotas and licenses, import and export statistics, tax returns for exporting companies and international trade currency transactions normally done by the government. The project’s long-term objective is to make sure China’s international trade and economic transaction mechanism is revolutionized through the use of computer networks.

5. The Golden Finance Project (jincai) was applied earlier than the first four programs applied in 1999. The project’s main focus is to integrate the eleven sub-systems in the national level and handle its income and budgeting to all its finance related inquiries. The project also focuses on the creation of vertical channels that would encompass the provincial and municipal departments of finance.

6. The Golden Card Project (jinka) promotes the use of an electronic currency to the public that would help in e-commerce and improve financial markets with the use of a unified payment clearance system. This will also enable the government to monitor any illegal and legal activity by an individual that would strengthen their efforts in promoting anti-corruption efforts in the government, whether local or national.

7. The Golden Audit Project (jinshen) establishes a unified digital auditing system for all levels of government in the country and reviews all transactions done by its officials and related groups.

8. The Golden Shield Project (jindun) concentrates in using specialized ICTs to develop efficient police control and crime prevention around the country that would improve the current image of the law-enforcing agency.

9. The Golden Social Security Project (jinbao) establishes a national system that would protect labor and social security and this system would then enable governments in all levels to enact recommendations if any breach happens in these sectors.

10. The Golden Quality Project (jinzhi), transforms quality supervision that enables transparency to reign in the system especially in the newly created national network.

11. The Golden Agriculture Project (jinnong) promotes the use of ICT in the field of agriculture that then can be applied in three key forms: a monitoring and alert system that is used to announce any updates crucial in agriculture production and animal raising. This would include whether updates, infestations and even animal diseases; an information system that would inform the public about new materials for agriculture and cattle and finally a system that would provide tutorials and samples of the current technological breakthroughs in the field of agriculture.

Finally, 12. The Golden Water Conservancy Project (jinshui) is created to increase the information to the public about the concept of water conservation that would help in saving China’s water supply. This project also enacts a creation of a National Flood-Control and Draught-Relief Command System with a National Supervision Network for Water and Soil Conservation as China has constantly been destroyed by several floods and landslides, killing thousands in progress.

Aside from these twelve golden projects, there have been other projects called golden projects. Some of these were called as the Golden Bridge Project (jinqiao), the Golden Hygiene Project, the Golden Travel Project, the Golden Wisdom Project and the Golden Trade project. The implementation of the Golden Projects allowed the government to react immediately. At least 50 and more agencies have applied the project into their official webpages. (Lovelock & Ure, 2002)

Golden Projects

Figure 2. Government Agencies’ Response to the Golden Projects. This chart shows how much has supported the Golden Projects of the Chinese E-government system.

Ma, Chung, and Throson (2005) explained the next stage called the “Government Online Project” or the “Zhengfu Shangwang Gongcheng” established in 1999. This stage encourages all government levels to build their own customized webpages in the internet. These sites would then become their digital image for online users to request for services and information China Telecom and the State Economic and Trade Commission, assisted by the various different government agencies and groups supports this stage. For this stage, the goals are identified into three different aims: post relevant government information, create documents and publications open for access and finally to implement administration through the use of databases as this would increase efficiency in the part of the administration. The GOP is the most complicated out of all the three stages as it needs to create a centralized administrative system to share information. This stage also promotes office automation and reduces corruption at all levels. It is also through this project that would change how to use the Internet. It would enable employees to improve the government’s efficiency and transparency in all levels (Ma, Chung, & Thorson, 2005)

Of course, many have noted that the Chinese e-government program has met many different reactions from the different groups in the country. Each has noted that there are still lapses in the e-government system, which must be addressed by the Chinese government for them to say that it is a successful project. Xu and Astone (2000) noted that the Chinese e-government could be more successful if there is a definite system on how the government would enact their policies and how they would promote it to the public without showing how hard it is to enact the system. The Chinese Communist Party has an immensely complex system which enables the higher ops to keep the information all to themselves which is not a concept well grasped in modern political systems as this shows the Party’s unwilling attitude towards any reform that would affect their influence. Since this is the case, the e-government of China cannot move forward. Without a stable and systematic government Party, funding would also be a problem. Since China has many departments and agencies, it is impossible to fund each website with the budget allotted by the national government. Even the beginning of the Government Online Project had to be compromised by just a command mechanism (Xu & Astone, 2000)

In the case of the public, Junhua (2001) showed that many are still not connected and aware of an e-government system implemented in the country which is extremely crucial should the government want to claim that they do have an efficient system. With regards to how people see their government webpages, some have seen that it does not provide the people of what they need. There are no definite data in the government sites that would show visitors documents, giving them the notion that the government is hiding something from them which they do not want to see. This can easily be translated as a clandestine and illegal activity that may promote the misuse on behalf of the government (Junhua, 2001). Han and Zhang (2011) refuted this notion of the public with regards to government websites as their study has pointed out that several webpages of the government, especially in the local regions such as Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, has listed relevant information such as reports, briefings and speeches which people can read. However, they have notice that these webpages do not include a list of publications which makes it hard for the public to search for other forms of government documents (Han & Zhang, 2011).

In a study done by Yang (2006), there was another group in China that is monitored by both the public and the government considering that it would affect them the most if changes happened within the government. The group is called the vulnerable groups. Unlike the US and the European vulnerable groups, China’s vulnerable groups are the people whose life is highly dependent with the country’s economic growth and the relationship of the group with other groups. Chinese scholars often defined vulnerable groups as “those social colonies who need help and support from this nation and society because they cannot maintain the living standard for themselves and their family members with their own strength or ability”. Yang notes that the situation of the vulnerable groups has even reached the foundations of the Communist Party of China. Of course, the government has introduced numerous strategies to help this group.

Asian countries that applied the e-government policy

Figure 3. Asia Rankings of 2005 with regards to E-government capability. This table shows the ranking of Asian countries that applied the e-government policy (World Bank)

As the country applies the e-government policy, Yang notes, the system itself may enable the government to develop the country’s management skills in improving the efficiency and services the government offers. However, there is still a problem as to how it could immediately affect the vulnerable groups given that these groups came to be because several government policies and social structure dictated it to happen. The group, like with the normal public, also have limited mediums which are less than effective to influence the government’s decision-making. This turns the Chinese E-government to be “an independent kingdom” that the government can use to do any clandestine activity. Yang also noted that since the e-government system has various definitions, the system slowly shifts to concentrating on providing a sense of ease and the bulk of the benefits the e-government system rather than giving the public the power it has given the application of the system. The Chinese e-government program can only reach these groups if they can provide services and teach them to become confident in approaching the government. The government must be able to create a working economic system that would enable these groups to feel the economic changes and melt in the society without feeling some backlash. If the Chinese government cannot refocus the benefits of the e-government program and enable everyone to experience the benefits of the said program, the current application of the E-government program in China will continuously face many challenges regarding its popularity with these special groups. (Yang, 2006)

Conclusion

The E-government policy may seem to be a perfect system that would enable the governments to open up its doors to the public to address the problem of government transparency. Not only does this change the public’s view on how they could reach out to the government without the fear of scrutiny and a flicker of corruption, it also changes how governance must be done at this age. Although these improvements can be exceedingly detrimental to the whole country in general, there are still some things to consider on how much, which group pays and how to implement the system which comprises each agency and department of the government. If these lapses and questions are not properly resolved by the governments, there is no hope on finding a successful e-government policy that would work in their country.

In the Chinese perspective, although the concept is still far from being perfect in terms on how well it has enabled the public to acquire information, services and improvement and how well it opens up the government to the people; the program is well on its way to changing the Chinese concept of how governments must be run by its officials. At present, there is still a question on how much transparent the Chinese government has become since there are still government officials who would rather stick to the old system of governance to keep their influence. There is also the question on how much information is transmitted to the public and groups who access them through government webpages. There is also the issue of cyber-security that would also concern the public’s safety while accessing these webpages. China’s e-government policy is also questionable to some due to its obsessive tendencies on user views. Not all Chinese government agencies can also open up decent and efficient webpages due to the budget given to this program. Some groups are also not capable of going online given their social background and financial capacity. This is immensely troubling considering how much money the Chinese government spends each year. Some studies have also shown the inaccuracies in some government websites which unedited. Some do not possess valuable information needed to assure that the government is not hiding anything from the public.

In its comparison with the United States, these countries possess the same problems when it comes to e-government programs. Both countries do not have much funding when it comes to the system. There is also a flicker of distrust in terms of the public’s view of the program and the data accumulated from each user visit. Seifert and Chung (2009) provided a table on the comparison between the two e-government programs. However, what varies from these two is the application of each country’s belief — for the US, it is more democratic giving out what people would want. China, on the other hand, embodies a tighter and secured system as compared to the US model of immediate solution. (Chung & Seifert, 2009)

E-Government Policies Comparison

Figure 4. Comparison between the US and Chinese E-Government Policies. This table shows the different policies and positions of both models of e-government.

It is without a doubt that the government is trying its best in recovering from these lapses and locating solutions that would help in developing the system. Given the current structure of the Chinese model, it is already perfect as it is. There is a need to reassess the current structure of the model and identify one by one the lapses each stage has failed to comply and resolve. What’s needed is cooperation between the ruling party and the people themselves for them to understand what the other does not have. The government must be open for reform and must embrace the system, helping the public in progress in understanding the e-government system and opening channels for those who cannot access it. The public, on the other hand, must be open to try the system and see for themselves if the government has opened itself to them. No matter how much technology would change, it would not work unless these two different sides open themselves for reform.

References

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Chung, J., & Seifert, J. (2009). Using E-Government to Reinforce Government – Citizen Relationships: Comparing Government Reform in the United States and China. Social Science Computer Review, 27(3), 3-24.

Forman, M. (2002, February 27). Implementing the President’s Management Agenda for E-Government. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from United States of America Official Web Portal: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Includes/Reference/egov_strategy.pdf

Gronlund, A., & Horan, T. (2004). Introducing E-Gov: History, Definitions and Issues. Communications of the Association for Information System, 15, 713-729.

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Lagerkvist, J. (2005). The Techno-cadre’s Dream: Administrative Reform by Electronic Governance in China Today? Sage Publications, 19(2), 189-216.

Liang, G. (2006). Under the “Golden Shine”: China’s Efforts to Bridge Government and Citizens. United Nations Centre for Regional Development, 1-20.

Lovelock, P., & Ure, J. (2002). E-Government in China. Technology Research Project: University of Hongkong, 1-15.

Luo, G. (2009). E-Government, People and Social Change: A Case Study in China. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 38(3), 1-23.

Ma, L., Chung, J., & Thorson, S. (2005). E-government in China: Bringing economic development through administrative reform. Government Information Quarterly, 22, 20-37.

Mathews, K. (2010, May 5). E-Government in the United States: Steps to Advance Its Success. Retrieved November 3, 2011, from Indiana University: http://www.indiana.edu/~spea/pubs/undergrad-honors/volume-4/matthews_kimberly.pdf

Seifert, J., & Relyea, H. (2007). E-Government Act of 2002 in the United States. Washington, DC: US Congressional Research Service.

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