Traffic, Surly Officials Earn Guangdong and Beijing China's Worst Reps

Polluted skies, horrendous traffic jams, and surly public servants. It’s no secret that China’s big cities and provinces have bad reputations—often deservedly. Which have the worst images?

These would be China’s southern Guangdong province, at No. 1, followed by Beijing, with the central province of Henan, (birthplace of Chinese civilization), a close third. That’s what Chinese media say, citing a report published today by the Crisis Management Center at Renmin University of China and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, both in Beijing.

“The Research Report on Image Crisis Response (2013-2014)” looked at 2,074 media reports last year covering 30 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions. The “image rankings” were based on five indicators, including public security, social order, public services, the environment, and the image of local officials, the China Daily reported today. Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan, Shandong, Hainan, and Anhui, rounded out the top 10 locales with the worst reputations. (China’s western province of Qinghai bore the best reputation, followed by neighboring Gansu and the city of Tianjin.)

What propelled Guangdong to the top in bad image rankings? That would be the dismal showing of its officials. While overall, 8.4 percent of the media reports on Guangdong were negative, the number rose to 15.4 percent with regard to the southern province’s public officials.

Overall, the image of China’s officials was damaged by their involvement in sex scandals and in violent incidents carried out by law enforcement authorities. The two biggest sins harming officials’ reputations were corruption and dereliction of duty, according to the report.

While 4.5 percent of overall coverage of Beijing was bad (Henan garnered 3.9 percent), China’s capital sank lowest in the dismal rankings in public services. Beijing’s traffic jams and out-of-reach housing prices accounted for its poor image, with 6.5 percent of reports negative, compared to 5.7 percent for No. 2 Guangdong.

How can the sullied reputations be repaired? Improve the services provided by hospitals, schools, and banks, the report says. “These are where most conflicts between officers and citizens occur,” the official Xinhua News Agency noted on Wednesday.

“It is more challenging for big cities to provide better and detailed personalized services for its much bigger populations,” said Tang Jun, director of the Renmin University center and author of the report. “But it could push these large cities toward improvements in the future,” he added optimistically.

A final caution on the results: “The media focused more on big cities, so negative reports on Beijing and Guangzhou were witnessed more frequently,” noted Tang.

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