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An Innovative Seminar was Held to Promote Grass-roots Party Organizations

According to Study Times on November 23, 2009, the Nanjing City’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) committee and the Study Times jointly held an “Innovative Seminar on Promoting the Development of Grass Roots Party Organizations” on November 6, 2009, in Nanjing. Zhu Shanlu, a member of Standing Committee of the Jiangsu Provincial CCP Committee and the party chief of Nanjing City appeared and delivered a speech; Li Qinghua, executive deputy chief editor of the press office of the Party School gave a speech. Zhuo Zeyuan, the Dean of the Graduate School of the Party School, and Xie Chuntao, the deputy chief of the Party School’s Teaching and Research Department for party history, alternately hosted the seminar. Speakers also included Wang Qi, a member of the Standing Committee of Nanjing’s CCP Committee and chief of its Organization Department, and Zhang Zhiming, the Party School’s deputy director of the Teaching and Research Department for party development. Xu Jinwan, vice chief of the Department of Organization of the Jiangsu Provincial CCP Committee, attended the seminar to offer congratulations. … At the meeting, experts and scholars from the Party School, Beijing University, the National School of Administration, Jiangsu Provincial Party School and the Masses magazine, explored the theoretical value and practical significance of “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” in urban communities inner-party elections in Nanjing City from different points of view and different disciplines, including party history, political science, sociology, and legal studies. Officials from Xinhua news agency also attended the whole seminar [1]. Below is an abstract of attendees’ speeches.

Zhou Yizhi, chief editor of the Masses magazine [2]

The value of “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” in Nanjing can be summed up in many ways. However, from the perspective of the practice of democratic political development, there are a number of prominent aspects.

First, it is an important attempt to develop inner-party democracy. The accumulated experiences can be applied in two ways: the first is that “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” originated from grass-roots organizations and can be extended to higher-level cadre selection and appointments; the second is that “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” in the grass-roots party organizations started from key leadership positions in the grass-roots organizations and can be extended in the direction of Representatives of the party congress.

Second, this provides good political safeguards for grass-roots social-democratic autonomy and community development. Leaders of grass-roots party organizations from “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” not only have a solid support base within the party, but also have broad social acceptance.

Third, cadres in the party will gradually be trained to become the ruling party politicians. The process of “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” introduces competition in political affairs. This could pave the road for training our own politicians in the party, who grew up from the grass-roots society, to adapt to new situations in political life.

Fourth, this could be a demo for grass-roots social-democratic autonomy. Inner-party democracy will lead to the people’s democracy. The “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” of grass-roots level key leaders is a model for democratic autonomy in grass-roots societies.

Some thoughts from different aspects regarding Nanjing’s Direct Election

First, we need to scientifically handle the relationship between the appointment system and the electoral system and define the boundaries of democratic elections. In Nanjing, the benefit of grass-roots direct elections is the choice of which positions should be filled through election. At the same time, the rules for the election procedures should be clearly defined and the real situation needs to be considered.

Second, the substance of the party’s leadership and the party’s management of cadres should be constantly updated. With the emerging circumstances of social autonomy, the meaning of the party’s management of party cadres should include establishing qualifications and conditions in the process of the election, making reasonable rules, and monitoring the implementation of the election process, including the daily education and supervision of cadres.

Third the electoral process should be improved. The election is a process. If there is only the one step of voting, without a corresponding overall design, a lot of “hidden rules” will very easily interfere.

Fourth, is the choice in the initial nomination. During the process of the cadre election, at the 17the party’s National Congress, in its Fourth Plenary Session, the party organization proposed two methods to be used during the process of the cadre elections: recommendation by the party organization and a joint recommendation by party members. In Nanjing’s direct election, there was a third method: self recommendation. The coexistence of three methods can broaden the visual field in the selection of cadres.

Gao Xinmin, a professor at the Party School of the Chinese Communist Party [3]

Under China’s historical conditions, the inner-party election directly faces several issues.

First is the background of socialist democratic politics. Even though the grass-roots inner-party direct elections are theoretically only the party’s internal elections … objectively speaking, they have facilitated people’s acceptance of the community’s party organization. They contribute to rather than undermine the party’s leadership.

Second is the formation of a self renewal mechanism within the party. … The grass-roots direct election system is an important step in the self-renewal mechanism and can improve vitality from the grass-roots.

Third is to make up for the institutional weaknesses. … Under the current unchanged system, the election is an effective way to restrict power using legal rights.

Fourth, is the party members’ fundamental rights. In practice, there are not enough institutional channels to assure party members’ basic rights.

Fifth is to supply a new experience in the development of inner-party democracy. Election is the core issue of democracy. However, due to lots of interests and conflicts, an election is difficult to implement.

Xie Chuntao, Deputy Director of the Department of Party History, the Party School of the Chinese Communist Party [4]

Nanjing’s success has at least eight benefits.

First, it is able to select relatively better cadres. Second, it is able to arouse the main party member’s awareness. Third, it is to be able to strengthen supervision over cadres who are in leadership positions. Fourth, it is able to rally the masses from all aspects. In the community, the CCP organization’s duty is to serve the masses and select cadres accepted by most party members through democratic elections. In this way, it will inevitably improve the work of the community party organizations, and unite the people in the communities around the party. Fifth, it is helpful to maintain the party’s unity and integrity. Sixth, it is able to train young cadres. Seventh it promotes the people’s democratic process. The party collects many social elite, among whom there is an election. With democratic elections, those people are more qualified and have fewer potential problems. It will help to promote the people’s democracy and provide a good model. Eighth, it improves the image of the Chinese Communist Party. Democracy has great moral force. During the period of democratic revolution, the Chinese Communist Party that ruled in part of the country implemented a truly democratic election. Today, step by step, improving the party and the country’s democratic process will certainly improve the image of the Chinese Communist Party.

Professor Liu Changjiang of the Party History Department of the Jiangsu Provincial Party School [5]

The major problem that the grass-roots party organizations are currently facing is how to unite party members and play the role of party members. The experiment of having a local community CCP secretary chosen by way of direct elections helps party members to be a major part of the CCP’s action. It can strengthen the awareness of members’ rights as well as responsibilities. It can also strengthen the grass-roots organization’s cohesion and party members having full access to their political role. Due to the complexity of problems encountered today regarding the party cadres, there are even more problems encountered with the rules of the appointment system, which once played an important role. The problem is that if the appointment system is continued, more serious problems will occur. They include the fact that cadres can only be promoted instead of being demoted, and that the system cannot catch up with changes occurring in people nowadays. … For Nanjing, the most striking part of the experiment is the electoral process. Election is the first link of democracy. A democracy without election is incomplete. … In the community, we can fully combine election democracy with everyday democracy, and explore it in theory. In this way, the Nanjing experiment may not only have nationwide significance but global significance as well.

Li Chengyan, Party secretary, the School of Management, Peking University [6]

"Open Nominations" and "Direct Elections" are two facets of one body of the innovative experiments in grassroots democracy. For both sides, whether it is "Open Nominations" or "Direct Elections," it is a good reflection of the requirement of inner-party democracy development which is featured by effective participation and equal voting rights. The novel form of "Open Nominations" and the decisive meaning of the Open Nominations conference strengthen the party members’ control over the nomination agenda. The whole process is done in an open and transparent environment, which ensures the members are fully informed as voters.

This grass-roots democracy implemented the key policy of the CCP’s 17th Congress. It greatly consolidated the party’s grass-roots organizations and infused fresh blood and power at the fundamental level of the CCP organizations. It effectively connected the party and the masses. The setting with party member’s right at the core has awakened the consciousness of the broad masses of party members and cadres in the main body. This grass-roots democracy and direct elections of candidates has strengthened the sense of responsibility. This grass-roots direct democracy setting can effectively improve the grass-roots party organization in decision-making. The kind of democracy in urban settings further extends the model of self-governance of villagers in rural areas, cultivating a unified foundation of civilization for both urban and rural residents. It prepares an important prerequisite and condition for the future advancement of inner-party democracy in the people’s democratic development

Zhuo Zeyuan, Dean of the Graduate School at the Party School of the Chinese Communist Party [7]

 “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” is the direction for inner-party democracy. Advancing inner-party democracy is a realistic need for our party to adapt to social development, lead social democratic progress, and develop internal democracy. With the accomplishment of the direct election of the Villagers Committee in all rural areas and of the Residents Committee in urban communities in most of the regions, it is a realistic issue of great urgency to speed up developing inner-party democracy. More importantly, our party, as the ruling party, also bears the responsibility for spurring social democracy by means of inner-party democracy, the key to which is the democratic election of cadres. “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” is the fundamental path to reform the cadre system. With the progress of socialist democratic politics, the existing merit-based system has lost its basis, and the candidate selection system has also shown its limitations. As both systems cannot meet the requirements for the development of socialist democratic politics, popular elections thus become inevitable as history evolves in the modern age. “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” is the fundamental path for our party to reform the cadre system, keeping pace with the times. “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” is an effective way to improve the governance capability. Candidates are chosen through recommendations; votes of confidence are cast by non party members and electoral votes by ordinary party members. The democratic selection will undoubtedly become the effective method for the best to stand out. This will produce cadres who arise amidst competition and selection, with more capability to govern than those generated by any other selection method. “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” is a realistic measure to win public support. As it is a method for the public, as the main body, to choose cadres and decide the results, leaders and cadres out of “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” can undoubtedly gain more trust and support from the public. Finally, “Open Nominations & Direct Elections” is a special way to develop political civilization. Through open nominations and direct elections in strict accordance with procedures, the back-door political manipulations from the past will surely be greatly reduced or even fundamentally eliminated. Even if there are illegalities, because of the openness of “Open Nominations & Direct Elections,” they can easily be found and amended, allowing our political civilization to elevate to a higher level.

Zhu Lingjun, former Vice President of the Party School of the Chinese Communist Party [8]

Based on the current status of the party’s leadership system, it’s necessary to look at inner-party democracy from a higher position. There are two actual pillars for the inner-party leadership system: one is the authorization mechanism, the other is the reporting mechanism. The drawbacks of the authorization mechanism is that power comes from above, resulting in an instability in power and a lack of approval from the public. As the superior’s preferences are changing, close contact with the public becomes close contact with the superior. The second pillar is the inner-party reporting system. Due to a lack of stability in power, the first drawback of the reporting system is that as the responsibilities are handed over to every level up, no one is taking final responsibility for any matter. The second drawback is that, in the reporting process, the information is filtered, intercepted, and distorted. From the perspective of the characteristics of the new stage of social transition, it is necessary to use inner-party democracy to drive and lead the People’s Democracy.

[1] Study Times, November 23, 2009
[2] Study Times, November 23, 2009
[3] Study Times, November 23, 2009
[4] Study Times, November 23, 2009
[5] Study Times, November 23, 2009
[6] Study Times, November 23, 2009
[7] Study Times, November 23, 2009
[8] Study Times, November 23, 2009