Wan Jianwu: The Fengqiao Model: A Gold Standard for Chinese Governance

2024-03-21 16:47:37 | Author:Wan Jianwu | Source:en.qstheory.cn 2024-03-11

The Fengqiao model, so named after a town in Zhejiang Province, is an exemplar of Chinese community-level social governance. As this model has been carried forward, it has undergone further development and innovation, giving rise to a Fengqiao model for the new era that is both distinctive and rich in content. This model has come to serve as a gold standard for governance in China.

Enhancing the functions of primary-level organizations to properly handle problems among the people

The foundation of national governance and social stability lies at the community level. This level represents the source of social issues but at the same time also the channel for their resolution. The Fengqiao model is grounded in the sound understanding and handling of problems among the local people as well as the appropriate resolution of complex issues at the community level. Its goal is to consolidate frontline platforms for ensuring social stability at this level.

In the early 1960s, the officials and residents of Fengqiao Township in Zhuji, Zhejiang Province, developed the Fengqiao model, which relied on the people to resolve problems locally. This approach primarily involved mobilizing and relying on the public to settle issues themselves without the need to refer them to higher authorities. This experience reflected the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) method of relying on primary-level organizations to resolve problems among the people. It thus ensured strong CPC leadership while also enabling systematic public participation. The approach of addressing issues at the primary level created an excellent model for resolving problems among the local people. In November 1963, Mao Zedong issued instructions on studying and promoting the Fengqiao model, leading to its nationwide adoption.

As the times and circumstances have changed, so too have the implications and manifestations of social issues. However, the method of addressing problems among the people through primary-level organizations has remained constant. In the new era that began in 2012, the standout feature of the Fengqiao model is the unwavering focus on the community-level foundation so that problems and risks can be prevented and defused at this level wherever possible. With the continuation of reform and development, China has entered a period marked by an increase in social issues. In response, President Xi Jinping has set forth new requirements for upholding and developing the Fengqiao model, enabling it to exert greater influence in consolidating communities and resolving problems. Fengyuan Village, which is one of the birthplaces of the Fengqiao model, owes its success to positioning primary-level CPC organizations as the linchpin of innovative social governance. By advancing grid-based community management and services by dedicated teams, it has ensured that the CPC effectively exercises leadership in all aspects of community-level work, with potential problems being detected and addressed promptly. As a result, the vast majority of problems are resolved at or below the township level.

The enduring vitality of the Fengqiao model lies in adhering to several core tenets: the underlying principle of upholding CPC leadership, the fundamental stance of being people-centered, the essential approach of integrated implementation, the crucial concept of preemptive action, and the key pillar of consolidating primary-level foundations.

To uphold and develop the Fengqiao model in the new era, we must establish a clear orientation toward the primary level and shift the focus of social governance down to the community level. The report to the 20th CPC National Congress of 2022 was the first such document to include the Fengqiao model, noting that the CPC would apply and further develop the Fengqiao model for promoting community-level governance in the new era and improve the mechanisms for appropriately addressing disputes between members of the public under present situation. Now, the value of the Fengqiao model has transcended the category of practical experience in comprehensive social governance, rising to the theoretical level in the field of social governance. It has deepened our understanding of the positive interplay between the building up of primary-level CPC organizations and effective community-level governance and enhanced our comprehension of the principles for addressing problems among the people today.

Relying on the people to foster a community of social governance in which everyone fulfills their responsibilities and shares in the benefits

The Fengqiao model is a product of the people’s practical endeavors and embodies the CPC’s mass line in primary-level work. Mao Zedong repeatedly emphasized the importance of addressing problems and issues that arose at the primary level, particularly in rural areas, by considering actual circumstances and following the mass line. He pointed out, “Correctly handling the contradictions among the people means following the mass line, which is consistently stressed by our Party. Party members should be good at consulting the masses in their work and in no circumstances should they alienate themselves from the masses.” When the Fengqiao model caught Mao’s attention, he explicitly highlighted the importance of summarizing its exemplary practices into educational materials for the training of officials.


The Fengqiao Model Exhibition Hall in Fengqiao Town, Shaoxing City, Zhejiang Province. The Fengqiao model has become a gold standard for governance in China. PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT OF THE CPC SHAOXING MUNICIPAL COMMITTEE

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, President Xi has thoroughly explained the extreme importance of stronger engagement with the people in social governance. He has stressed that “In all governance activities, we must respect the people’s principal position, honor their pioneering spirit, and consider them our teachers.” The practices of the people are both extremely rich and dynamic and are endowed with tremendous wisdom and power. When reflecting on the emergence and development of the Fengqiao model, President Xi noted that “Our Party’s approach to solving problems and conflicts is encapsulated in this model, which is to embrace the mass line, closely rely on the people, and resolve problems as they emerge at the community level.”

To uphold and develop the Fengqiao model in the new era, we must implement our Party’s mass line, maintain committed to a kind of social governance that serves the people, and adeptly integrate our Party’s outstanding traditions with new technologies and new methods. We should develop new mechanisms for organizing and mobilizing the people, creating benefits for them, getting things done for them, and addressing their concerns. We must make sure that their wisdom and ingenuity continue to fuel the innovation of social governance. The most fundamental lesson that a communist party must keep in mind is that it must never lose touch with the people. The more our governance systems are modernized, the more crucial it is to follow the mass line. We must consciously apply the people-centered philosophy of development in every aspect of our work, maximize the principal role of the people, and steadily enhance the public’s motivation for engaging in social governance. We must keep working to heighten people’s sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security, refine the social governance system based on collaboration, co-governance, and common gains, and foster a social governance community in which everyone fulfills their responsibilities and shares in the benefits.


Community workers visit marine farmers to learn about their needs in the Qixing marine area in Xinan Town, Xiapu County, Fujian Province, November 14, 2023. Xinan Town has developed a Fengqiao model for offshore regions, which has provided a strong safeguard for offshore peace and security. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER JIANG KEHONG

Innovating systems and mechanisms to ensure smarter, more law-based, and more specialized social governance that involves greater public participation

The Fengqiao model is grounded in practical application and is valued for its innovative approach. Mao Zedong fully affirmed and strongly promoted the Fengqiao model primarily because it boldly explored the vital issue of properly handling problems among the people, serving as a shining example of institutional innovation. As the cradle of the Fengqiao model, Zhejiang has developed a series of institutional innovations in the course of carrying out the Safe Zhejiang initiative. Emblematic of these are the “four proactives” and the “four early and prompt actions,” which exemplify how the Fengqiao model is advancing in step with the times. These working mechanisms aim to refine the systems for investigating and mediating problems and disputes and ensure full implementation of responsibility systems. Specifically, the “four proactives” refer to carrying out organizational building before any work initiative commences, undertaking predictive analysis to effectively prevent problems, taking preventive actions before the need for mediation arises, and engaging in mediation before conflicts intensify. The “four early and prompt actions” call for early warnings to promptly defuse emerging problems, early guidance to promptly encourage changes in key targets, early control measures to promptly prevent potential problems during sensitive periods, and early mediation to promptly resolve problems and disputes. These measures have significantly improved the ability to properly handle problems among the local people.

In the new era, the Fengqiao model is characterized by an unwavering commitment to upholding fundamental principles and breaking new ground. In line with the requirement to address issues at the source through systematic, law-based, and holistic approaches, strides have been made in developing smarter, more law-based, and more specialized social governance that involves greater public participation. A pivotal reason for China’s historic achievements in social governance since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 has been the strong focus on the innovation of systems and mechanisms, which has gradually led to more rational social governance structures, sounder governance methods, and more democratic governance processes. This has helped provide proactive and effective solutions to social issues. In relying on the people to resolve problems locally, the Fengqiao model’s most significant achievement and most pronounced feature is that it integrates self-regulation and external restraints, firmness and flexibility, personal conduct and mental wellbeing, and human resources and technological support. The vitality of this model lies in the innovation of primary-level governance.

To uphold and develop the Fengqiao model in the new era, it is essential to establish long-term mechanisms that will ensure enduring stability in the course of innovating and improving our governance systems. The crux of social governance innovation lies in the innovation of systems and mechanisms, with institutions having fundamental, overarching, and long-term significance. In the new era, the scope of the Fengqiao model has been broadened from resolving conflicts and maintaining social stability to preventing and mitigating social risks of all kinds and safeguarding national security. It has become an integral part of the primary-level governance system under socialism with Chinese characteristics and a crucial element in advancing the modernization of China’s system and capacity for social governance.

Upholding and developing the Fengqiao model in the new era to create a Chinese approach to modernizing primary-level social governance

As it has evolved in line with practical developments, the Fengqiao model has grown beyond a template for primary-level social governance into an initiative for the CPC to lead the people in modernizing China’s system and capacity for governance. The Fengqiao model for the new era is well-suited to the times and of profound significance. It not only encapsulates and builds on the original principles of the Fengqiao model but also offers fundamental guidelines for primary-level social governance in the present era.

Mao Zedong placed great emphasis on conducting investigations and research at the primary level and valued novel experiences in socialist development emerging from the grassroots. Recognizing the Fengqiao model as an exemplar for properly handling problems among the people, he not only issued instructions on studying this model but also made thorough plans for its implementation.

When Xi Jinping was working in Zhejiang Province, he called for the full appreciation and extensive promotion of the Fengqiao model, as well as its continual innovation. Following the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, President Xi, from the strategic perspective of national governance and the modernization of social governance capacity in the new era, issued instructions on several occasions on upholding and developing the Fengqiao model, imbuing it with contemporary significance. In 2021, the Fengqiao model was included in the Resolution of the CPC Central Committee on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century, making it an important part of the valuable experience gained from the CPC’s first 100 years.

Currently, we are experiencing accelerating changes unseen in a century, sending the world into a new period of turbulence and change. For its part, China has entered a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising. We must be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms, as the task of maintaining national security and social stability remains both onerous and complex. In recent years, the Fengqiao model has been adopted in rural areas, urban communities, offshore regions, and online platforms; it has been applied in pioneering ways in Zhejiang Province and implemented in various sectors across the country; it has been used to develop the “three zeroes” approach (zero accidents, cases, and disputes) in the Mudan community in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, and the dispute resolution techniques of Mingxi County in Fujian Province, which are specially tailored to its overseas Chinese residents. These efforts have promoted the continuous enrichment and innovation of the Fengqiao model in the new era, injecting it with new life and vigor. This model has demonstrated the intellectual might for unraveling complex governance issues and ensured that the fruits of social governance are more fairly shared by all people.

In July 2023, the Third Dialogue on Exchanges and Mutual Learning Among Civilizations, along with the First World Conference of Sinologists, was held in Beijing. The Fengqiao model, hailing from Zhuji in Zhejiang Province, was presented at the conference and caught the attention of the international community. Indeed, it has become a model for showcasing Chinese governance to the world, helping to contribute Chinese insights and solutions to the modernization of global social governance.

Wan Jianwu is Vice President of the Chinese Academy of History, a subsidiary of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 23, 2023)