Socialist Democracy with Chinese Characteristics: Features and Strengths

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 14:05
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  Research Center for the Theoretical System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences 

  Democracy is a product of history and is closely linked with the economy, society, history, culture and traditions of a country as well as the major issues and tasks faced by a country during its development. The starting point and ultimate aim of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics is uniting the people and mobilizing the enthusiasm, initiative and creativity of the people so they can work together to develop socialism with Chinese characteristics. This is the fundamental difference between socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics and Western-style capitalist democracy. 

 The major features of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics

 Socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics is deeply rooted in the land of China. Through a long process of trial and error, the Chinese people under the leadership of the CPC have established the basic framework of the people’s democracy consisting of the system of people’s congresses, the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, the system of regional ethnic autonomy and the system of community autonomy. This is a system of democracy with Chinese characteristics that conforms to the basic interests of the overwhelming majority of the people and the requirements of the current stage of China’s social development and is a manifestation of the fine historical traditions of the Chinese nation as well as an important political guarantee for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

 First, socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics is a genuine democracy and an extensive democracy. Socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics allows the people to be masters of the country. The working class and all other working people under the leadership of the CPC wield the power of the state and enjoy genuine and extensive democratic rights. Socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics is based on an economy where the public sector is the majority sector, which ensures that Chinese democracy is free from the control of the capital and is not a democracy of a few, but is enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of the people. Socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics is the superstructure that is based on and serves the public sector of the economy and therefore inevitably ensures that the people can act as the masters of the country.

 Socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics must meet the objective needs for development of the socialist economic base in the current stage and promote liberation and strengthening of the productive forces to protect and realize the fundamental interests of the people. Socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics not only must realize political equality for all the people and political democracy, but economic democracy and social democracy as well. This is an important manifestation of the authenticity and extensive nature of Chinese democracy. Developing economic democracy in today’s China means allowing people the right to manage enterprises and related business activities under the basic socialist economic system. Developing social democracy means developing social autonomy and democracy at the community level and allowing the people to organize themselves to safeguard their own rights and interests and control economic, social and cultural affairs under the leadership of the CPC. China’s socialist market system still has areas that need further improvement, social development is uneven and some areas are still fairly backward and are unable to fulfill their responsibilities. Therefore, social democracy is a weak link in the Chinese socialist democratic system and needs to be made a focus of study to find ways to strengthen this area of China’s socialist democracy. 

 Second, a basic feature of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics is the close integration of leadership of the CPC, the people as masters of the country and rule by law. The Chinese people have found a path of building a socialist democratic political system through a long period of trial and error that is in conformity with China’s history and conditions and meets the requirements for the current state of social development in China. This system closely integrates the leadership of the CPC, the people as masters of the country and rule by law through the operation of the Chinese political system and the entire practice of democratic politics. This close integration is an essential feature of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics.

 Revisions and improvements in the Electoral Law form a record of the constant expansion in breadth and depth of the Chinese people’s democracy. October 13, 2006, Ruan Yuying, a woman who lives in the Zhuanta residential area in Xicheng District, Beijing, shows her voter’s certificate that she has saved since obtaining it in 1953. / Photo supplied by Xinhua (file photo)

 Practicing people’s democracy first of all requires the leadership of the CPC. Leadership by the CPC means guiding and supporting the people in their role as masters of the country and is a concentrated manifestation of the rights of the people as masters and a fundamental guarantee for the position of the people as masters of the country and government rule by law. In a populous and backward country with uneven economic development such as China, the interests of the people are extensive and diverse, making realization of those interests a task that is unprecedented in complexity and difficulty. Carrying out this task will inevitably require a political nucleus capable of reflecting the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people and effectively embodying the will of the people in a concentrated manner. It must be able to unite, hold together and lead the people in continuously carrying out revolution, development and reform. And in today’s China, only the CPC is capable of performing this task. The CPC integrates democracy with centralization and democracy with science in its leadership, ensures that social development meets the aspirations and needs of the people and is based on reality. Through its leadership, the Party ensures that the practice of democracy in which people are the masters of the country maintains the correct orientation and is effectively promoted.

 Making the people masters of the country is the fundamental purpose of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics. The people function as masters of the country through a variety of forms. They wield the power of the state, exercise their democratic rights, administer the affairs of state, economic and cultural affairs and social affairs, and realize the people’s interests and satisfy their demands through the system of people’s congresses, the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, the system of regional ethnic autonomy, and the system of community autonomy. Specifically, the people elect deputies to the people’s congresses in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws, thereby expressing their wishes and demands. In addition, the people directly participate in formulating laws and policies through legislative hearings and administrative hearings. In the exercise of community-level democracy, the people directly exercise their right to participate in democratic elections, democratic decision-making, democratic government administration and democratic oversight in accordance with the law through autonomous community-level organizations and exercise autonomy and democracy in handling the public affairs and public service programs of community-level organizations. The people exercise democratic oversight of the activities of the Party and government as well as cadres in every level of the activities of society through legislation and the media.

 The basic overall strategy of the Party in leading the people in the administration of the affairs of state is to adhere to the rule of law. The rule of law means that the people exercise their right to administer the affairs of state, economic and cultural affairs and social affairs through various means under the leadership of the CPC and in accordance with the Constitution and the law, ensuring that the affairs of state are administered in accordance with the law and gradually institutionalizing and building the legal framework for socialist democracy. Basically, China’s laws reflect the interests and will of the working class and other sectors of society. The rule of law is characterized by stability, standardization and continuity, which ensures that the administration of the affairs of state and society do not change with a change of leadership or when the views or focus of leaders change. In contemporary China, everybody from Party leaders to the people as masters of the country must strictly comply with the law in exercising their democratic rights, and no organization or individual is permitted to exceed the strictures of the Constitution and the law. Any exercise of power at will or the so-called acts of “democracy” in violation of the principle of the rule of law are bound to adversely affect social order and infringe on the rights and freedom of the people, thereby harming China’s socialist political civilization. The close integration of legal system with democracy, institutionalizing democracy in the law and democratization of the legal system and dependence on the legal system to promote and safeguard democracy constitute an important feature of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics.

 Third, the democratic system is being constantly developed and improved as the country makes progress in its economic, social and cultural undertakings. Socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics is a process of constant development and improvement; it is constantly being developed and improved as the country makes progress in its economic, social and cultural undertakings. This is another outstanding feature of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics.

 The development of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics is guided by Marxism. A crucial issue in developing a country’s democratic system is choosing a democratic form that is capable of handling the major tasks and social conditions facing its social development. The chosen democratic form must be in conformity with the actual conditions in the country, be in line with the country’s stage of social development and meet the requirements for the country’s development in order to reflect and express the essence of democracy. A democratic form that suits one country may not be suitable for another and a democratic form that suits a country at a certain stage of development may not be suitable for a different stage of its development. Copying the form of democracy of another country lock, stock and barrel will not work. Therefore the CPC has been careful to stay grounded in leading the Chinese people through the course of developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in China. They took into consideration conditions in the country and the tasks that need to be accomplished in the current stage in determining the development course of democratic politics, so that the development of democratic politics is in line with the level of the country’s economic and cultural development and the form of democracy is compatible with the current social conditions, neither getting ahead nor lagging behind, in order to gradually develop socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics in an orderly way. 

 The outstanding strengths of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics

 Socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics provides the basic guarantee for mobilizing, uniting and organizing all of the Chinese people to develop socialism, maintain social stability, promote social harmony and ensure that society is full of creativity and vitality. It is the political prerequisite for the liberation and development of the productive forces, the elimination of exploitation and polarization, and the ultimate realization of prosperity for all. Socialist democracy shows obvious institutional strength in bringing about comprehensive development of the Chinese economy and society.

 First of all, socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics helps to mobilize the zeal, initiative and creativity of the people. Socialist democracy is genuine and extensive democracy that truly ensures that the people can be masters of the country. Under the socialist system, the legally mandated democratic rights that people enjoy are not dependent on property ownership, professional position, nationality or sex. Socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics guarantees the freedom and rights of the people on the basis of the fundamental socialist economic system. The people can legally elect deputies to the people’s congresses and legally exercise democratic administration of the affairs of state and society, participate in democratic decision-making and exercise democratic oversight, thereby truly becoming political masters of the country. In social and cultural activities, the law stipulates that people enjoy equal access to education, religious freedom and extensive cultural rights in terms of cultural innovation and various types of cultural entertainment, truly making the people masters of their culture. The people are truly masters in economic, political and cultural affairs, allowing them to fully mobilize and display their zeal, initiative and creativity.

 Second, socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics makes it convenient to map out the line, principles and policies that represent the overall, fundamental and long-term interests of the Chinese people. As a socialist country, China must realize the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people by fully mobilizing the zeal, initiative and creativity of the entire nation. Ensuring that the line, principles and policies defined by the government accurately reflect the overall, long-term and fundamental interests of the entire nation is fundamental to the fulfillment of this mission. In working to develop socialist democracy, the CPC in its position as the leading party represents the people of all ethnic groups in the country and not any single interest bloc or interests of its own. Therefore the CPC is fully capable of correctly identifying the overall, fundamental and long-term interests of the Chinese people and map out the line, principles and policies that are in conformity with the general laws of scientific development and meet the objective conditions and requirements for the country’s social development, thereby maximizing the interests of the people.

 The system of people’s congresses is China’s basic political system. The deputies to the people’s congresses differ from the MPs of Western countries in that they represent the opinions and voices of all sectors of Chinese society in the various levels of legislative bodies rather than the interests of a particular interest bloc. Moreover, the deputies to the people’s congresses review the various opinions of the public and take into consideration the overall situation to ensure that the laws and regulations and policy measures of the country balance the interests of all quarters. China’s system of political parties is a system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, and political consultation is a major feature of China’s system of democracy. Through political consultation, the various interests and demands of the people can be reflected and the tensions among different groups of people can be properly resolved, thereby balancing the interests of different groups and particular interests with overall interests and fundamental interests.

 China is now in a period of rapid development, encountering the same sorts of problems commonly confronted by other countries in the course of industrialization and modernization, including growing gaps in development among different regions, between urban and rural areas, and among different sectors of society. An effective system of democracy should be able to ensure fairness and justice in society and maintain a basic equilibrium in society during the process of modernization. China has formulated the concept of the Scientific Outlook on Development and worked to develop a harmonious socialist society in recent years specifically to address the new problems and issues cropping up in the course of development. Moreover, the country has adopted a number of major strategies to rapidly resolve new problems that have emerged during the course of development, ensure that the overwhelming majority of the people share in the fruits of social development and ensure that China’s social development is sustainable. Through internal adjustments, China has been able to resolve problems that many other developing countries were completely unable or only partially able to resolve. This shows that one of the strengths of the Chinese political system is that it is capable of representing the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people and realizing the interests of society as a whole.

 Third, socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics helps ensure lasting social stability, sustained economic development and continuous improvement of living standards. Government authority is highly stable and government policy has a high degree of continuity under the system of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics. China as a developing country must have a carefully and scientifically drawn long-term development strategy and work untiringly over a long period of time to achieve development by leaps and bounds, if it wishes to catch up with the developed countries. Thanks to the current political system in China, the country has been able to adhere to and implement the national development objectives it gradually formed following the founding of New China. This political system has enabled China to concentrate the country’s resources, forces and wisdom on building up and developing the country while keeping waste of time, energy and resources to a minimum. Thanks to this political system, China has worked out a strategy for economic and social development that is foresighted and continued to implement its economic and social development policies for a long time. Therefore, the fact that the system of democracy with Chinese characteristics has contributed to the country’s long and steady development is one of its obvious advantages.

 In summary, the history and facts of political civilization show that there is no universally applicable and absolute model of democracy. The most fundamental criterion for judging the merits and drawbacks of a political system is to see whether or not that political system is suitable for the economic foundation of the country and can promote social and economic progress. The key criterion for judging the democratic nature of a political system is to see whether or not that system can fully reflect the will of the people, whether or not it enables the people to be truly the masters of the country and whether or not it provides adequate guarantees for the legitimate rights of the people. 

(From Qiushi in Chinese, No. 6, 2010)

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