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Democracy in China Different from the West

[Editor’s note: With the success of China’s capitalist economic development and open policy, Chinese people have begun to see the merit of Western style democracy. Calling for a democratic political reform is heard from grass roots rights activists to high ranking leaders such as Premier Wen Jiaobao. The CCP (Chinese Communist Party), realizing that directly criticizing democracy is unwise, has resorted to using a creative interpretation to neutralize this potent concept.

The following report was translated from excerpts of a recent Qiushi (Seeking the Truth) article, which was written by a research fellow in the Central Party School of the CCP. The author reiterated the Party’s resolve to stay in power over the long haul, and explained why Western style democracy is wrong for China. Titles and Subtitles were added by the Editor.] [1]

Different Kinds of Democracy 

Throughout history, there have been various forms of democracy. Though their class nature and implementation process are very different, common characteristics do exist among them. Examples are the principles of majority rule, due process, checks and balances, and elections.

Democracy in any given country has to be based on the country’s specific situation. The situation in China requires the unity of the CCP’s long term leadership, people’s collective ownership of the country, and rule by the law. This is a distinctive feature of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics.

The Party’s leadership is the fundamental guarantee of people’s ownership position and rule by the law. Democracy and rule by the law totally depend on the Party’s political, ideological and organizational leadership. History tells us that after leading the Chinese people to the victory of the new democratic revolution, the CCP insisted on applying the general principles of Marxism to China’s actual situation. They established a series of democratic political systems with Chinese characteristics, including the people’s democratic dictatorship, the People’s Congress, and multi-party cooperation under Communist leadership. In the process of implementing socialist democratic politics, different groups and classes of people in society developed their own interests and demands. Without a core political team that coordinates and represents people’s interests in making decisions, socialist democracy cannot be developed in a healthy manner. In China, this core is the Communist Party.”

The unity of the CCP’s leadership, people’s collective ownership, and the rule by law show the superiority of socialist democratic politics with Chinese characteristics. This democracy has several advantages.

First, the People’s Congress system can mobilize and organize people to actively participate in nation-building, and maintain national unity and ethnic harmony. The People’s Congress is fundamentally different from Western parliamentary politics. The Western Parliament is mainly a legislative body; but the People’s Congress in China is the Nation’s governing agency that embodies the principle that all power belongs to the people. Parliament members in the West are professional politicians. Our People’s Congress representatives come from all sectors of society, and they can represent and protect people’s interests much more effectively.

Second, the multi-party cooperation and political consultation system under the Communist Party’s leadership is conducive to promoting democracy, encouraging political activities, enhancing people’s harmony, safeguarding national stability, strengthening and improving Party leadership and allowing other parties to fully participate in political discussions.

Third, the Ethnic Regional Autonomy system enhances the equality, unity and mutual assistance among ethnic groups to safeguard national unity. It is consistent with the common interests of all ethnic groups in China.

Fourth, the grass-roots self-governance system ensures that the broad masses can directly exercise their democratic rights according to the law, it is the most effective and extensive channel for people to function as the masters of China.

Socialist Democracy Is Far Superior to Capitalist Democracy 

We must consciously draw a clear line between socialist democracy and capitalist democracy. Deng Xiaoping once said, “When promoting democracy, we must strictly differentiate socialist democracy from the bourgeois individualist democracy.” There is no socialism without democracy; similarly, there is no genuine people’s democracy without socialism.

China is a socialist country, which has adopted an economic system with the mainstay of public ownership for the means of production, and a political system with the Communist Party’s leadership, while people are the masters of the country. The essence of socialism is to liberate and develop the forces of production, eliminate exploitation and polarization, and eventually achieve common prosperity. Meanwhile, China’s reality requires a democracy for the majority. The people’s democratic dictatorship is the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is the dictatorship of the overwhelming majority of people over a handful of hostile enemies who try to sabotage China’s socialism. This provides security for the implementation of the people’s democracy.

The essence of modern Western capitalist democracy is rule by the bourgeoisie, a democracy of the minority, a democracy based on personal wealth. Some Western political scientists admit: money is to capitalist politics what a mother’s milk is to her baby. Therefore, the socialist democracy is far superior to capitalist democracy.

The Separation of Powers Is Not Suitable for China 

As Deng Xiaoping explicitly pointed out, “One thing is for sure, we must insist on implementing the People’s Congress system, rather than the American-style three-way power sharing politics. In fact, not all Western countries adopt the three-way power separation system.”

In reality, it is true that not all capitalist countries have adopted the separation of powers system. In addition, even for the countries that have the separation of powers system, the forms of their political systems are different based on each country’s situation. For the same representative systems, the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, while the United States is a democratic republic. Within democratic republics, the U.S. has a presidential system; France has a combination of presidential and cabinet system; and Switzerland has a committee system. Thus, because of different historical traditions and cultures, one country cannot copy the form of government from other countries. Our country has the People’s Congress system. This system fits the nature of China’s socialism and China’s specific environment. Deng Xiaoping compared the People’s Congress system with the Western “three-way power separation,” and concluded that our system is better and more efficient than that of the Western governments.

The Multi-Party System Is Equally Unfit for China

Deng Xiaoping remarked, “What are the benefits of the Western multi-party system any way? Their multi-party system is a product of different bourgeoisie groups struggling with each other, and none of them represents the interests of the vast population of working people.”

Our country also has many parties. However, all other parties recognize the Communist Party’s rule and provide services to the socialist cause. Our Chinese people all share the same fundamental interests and an honorable goal, namely, developing socialism and eventually realizing communism. That enables the people to unite under the Communist Party.

We have good reasons for refusing Western style multi-party democracy. First, China does not have the economic infrastructure upon which the Western democracy is established. The fundamental interest of all working people and all social groups are one and the same. There are no serious conflicts of interest. The CCP represents the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of people. On the other hand, China does not have the social class foundation that the Western multi-party system is based upon. As China has eliminated the exploitation system and exploiting class. The class struggle only exists on a small scale. The fundamental interests of all the people are the same; we have common political ideals and demands. The people are the masters of the nation and society. There are no opposite classes. Therefore, we have no need to invent opposition parties. In the meantime, China’s recent history proves that the multi-party system does not fit China’s national interests. It would only create more chaos in society.

[1] Qiushi Journal, June 1, 2010