context: Two competing policy streams are at work presently. The first involves tightening even further supervision and oversight, especially of local cadres. The other encourages officials to innovate, and not fear false charges from citizens or colleagues. The latter is on display in the article examined below. While there are rare instances where the two interconnect, thus far there is no clear indication which of these two approaches will be emphasised in the coming months.

A People’s Daily article examined the work of Jin Tongbi 金同碧 Lai’an county, Anhui vice-governor. In 2012, Lai’an signed an agreement to invest in and oversee approximately 1,000 mu of urban renewal and development projects. However, after four years, the cost of land expropriation and demolition had risen sharply; the company was found to be badly managed; funds were insufficient; and residents were complaining that their old dwellings had been demolished for several years, yet resettlement houses were still not built.

In 2016, Jin, as a new official there, took the initiative to report to the county’s main leaders, and re-studied the drafting of contract terms and renovation plans. After discussion and decision with the county committee, he advised the Chuzhou municipal committee that the local government undertake reconstruction of the old city, including land acquisition and demolition, and the original company only be responsible for construction. There was no guarantee, the article said, that the government would recover its original investment. Jin ignored the traditional political adage that ‘new officials who pay no attention to old debts avoid trouble’, and received criticism for being entrepreneurial, taking undue risks, and (the report implies) seeking private gain.

However, in April 2016, Chuzhou municipal Party committee and municipal government expressed their formal support for Jin’s proposal and issued a formal document encouraging Party members to use their own initiative and dare to assume responsibility.

Chuzhou officials also established a fault-tolerance and error-correcting mechanism, because, the paper stated, ‘cadres think for their cause and organisations think for their cadres’. Since 2018, the Municipal Discipline Inspection Commission and affiliated agencies cleared 166 cadres unjustly accused of acting without authorisation.