Democracy has become so open to interpretation that even China argues that its system of politics can be considered democratic. Its Ambassador to the United States (US) recently explained democracy, arguing that there is a democratic base to Communism in China. This boils down to a dilatory and contradictory discourse. Democracy and Communism are two different political systems and China is far from being a democratic state. The Ambassador’s perspective only serves to demonstrate everything that democracy is not. Here is an excerpt from his arguments:
The idea of people first has been deep in the genes of the Chinese since ancient times. Dr. Henry Kissinger said to me, China is a communist and Confucian country. Confucius, an ancient Chinese thinker who lived at the same time as ancient Greece, raised the idea that people are the foundation of a country. Mencius, Confucius’ follower, said, “To a state, the people are the most important thing. The state comes second. The ruler is the least important.” An ancient Chinese ruler believed that the people are to the monarch what water is to boat, and he cautioned that the water can carry the boat; it can also overturn the boat. 100 years ago, the Communist Party of China (CPC) was established as a political party for the poor, and its founding mission is to pursue happiness for the people. With the slogans of anti-dictatorship, anti-autocracy, and anti-oppression, it enabled the people to become master of their own country and won the people’s hearts. As the governing party, it has remained faithful to its founding mission: people-centered and serving the people whole-heartedly.
– What China has today is whole-process democracy. China’s Constitution prescribes that all power belongs to the people. The people have the right to election, and they can be broadly involved in national governance according to law. They exercise state power through the National People’s Congress and local people’s congresses at different levels, equivalent to America’s Congress and state legislatures. Deputies to the people’s congresses at the county and township levels are directly elected. Those above the county level are indirectly elected. People elect deputies, who will politically represent them and elect leaders. Deputies maintain close contact with the people, and all major legislations and decisions are made through scientific and democratic processes and extensive consultations. China also has a unique political consultation system and corresponding institutions, which are important ways for the people to exercise democracy. Any matters that concern people’s keen interests are broadly discussed by people’s congress, the government, political consultative conference, social organizations, and industry associations, before major decisions are made, to make sure what the people want are reflected in the final decisions. In China, government officials have many meetings to attend, and they do many field visits. Meetings are for discussing problems and exploring solutions, and field visits are for getting firsthand knowledge of things on the ground. Decisions are made through discussions and debates, which are extensive and intense, just like those on the Capitol Hill. Let me give you an example. The Civil Code is the first law of China with “code” in its name and is regarded as “an encyclopedia of social life”. When drafting it, there had been ten rounds of collection of public opinions, and over one million opinions were gathered from more than 420,000 people. Another example is the five-year plans on economic and social development. When formulating the current 14th Five-Year Plan, there were also full public consultations. Over 1,000 suggestions were summarized from more than one million online posts, and 366 edits were made to the draft based on them. After the deliberations by the national-level people’s congress and political consultation conference, another 55 adjustments were made before the adoption of the Plan. There are seldom fierce arguments or long-pending bills in people’s congresses in China because most of the problems and conflicts of interests have been resolved and suggestions accepted in consultations, which also make implementation of the policies easier.
– In China, talents were chosen based on their abilities and merit since ancient times. Another Chinese philosopher, who was a contemporary of Plato, once said, “Prime ministers must have served as local officials; great generals must have risen from the ranks.” China had an imperial examination system over 1,400 years ago. Whoever passed the exams, regardless of their age and wealth, could be appointed as officials. They usually started from positions at the lowest level of government, and then got promoted or deposed based on their performance. This is the original form of the civil service system in the West today. Nowadays, a Chinese must pass all kinds of exams in his or her lifetime. At work, there are additional trainings, assessments, and selections, as well as oversight from superiors, colleagues, the public and the media. CPC members are also subject to Party disciplines, which are stricter than the law. Any violation will result in serious punishment. Take the Chinese Embassy in the US for example. There is a quarterly assessment of each diplomat from his or her supervisor. Lower-level diplomats can exercise their right of oversight of their supervisors at any time, and once a year, they can grade their supervisors’ performances. In such a system, officials who are incompetent, or not clean, or disapproved by the people have no chance to be promoted. The incumbent members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, the top leadership of China, have all had long years of work experience from grassroots up to higher levels in different localities. President Xi Jinping became a farmer in a poor village in Northwestern China at the age of 16. He was appointed Party Secretary of Shanghai, the biggest city in China, at 54. The decades in between saw him work on various posts and in different places, and the populations he served varied from several hundred to several hundred thousand, millions and to tens of millions. As he rose through the ranks, he has got to know the people’s kitchen table concerns. He deeply loves the people, cares about the people, and has become capable of managing complexities and getting things done for the people. At the same time, he is loved, trusted, and supported by the people. Therefore, you often find China’s senior officials elected with an overwhelming majority of votes or even unanimously.
Read the full article from China Briefing here.