The Socialist Path of Political Advancement with Chinese Characteristics and China’s Political Reform

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-05-28 19:17
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In line with new conditions in China’s reform and development and new expectations from the public, the Communist Party of China (CPC) outlined a set of overall requirements and important arrangements for adhering to the socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics and promoting political reform at its Eighteenth National Congress. 

March 3, 2008, three migrant worker deputies to the National People’s Congress, Kang Houming (left), Hu Xiaoyan (middle), and Zhu Xueqin (right), talk away with each other in Beijing. This was the first time that migrant worker deputies were admitted to the National People’s Congress, China’s highest organ of state power. / Xinhua 

I. The socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics has pointed out the right direction for achieving the most extensive people’s democracy

1. Political advancement constitutes an important aspect in the overall development of socialism with Chinese characteristics

All political phenomena are subject to the notion of advancement. This is true regardless of whether we are talking about a system, mechanism, or rule, or an idea, action, or process. Political advancement refers to a process of change in which political concepts are updated, political systems are improved, political conduct is advanced, and political civilization and modernization are realized through the changing and adjustment of political relationships, structures, and activities.

People’s democracy is the lifeline of socialism. The more developed socialism is, the more developed democracy will be. Developing socialist democracy and establishing a socialist political culture are not only important goals for building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, but also constitute an important political guarantee for China’s economic and social development. Therefore, political advancement and development have an extremely important role to play in socialism with Chinese characteristics as a whole. 

2. The socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics is the choice of both history and the people 

Above all else, the political path that a country takes is decided by the nature of that country and the national conditions that it faces. Whether a country chooses the right political path or not will have a decisive bearing on whether that country prospers or declines. A correct path of political advancement is one which conforms to the basic national conditions and realities of the country in question, and which is able to unite that country’s people in a common endeavor to achieve national development goals. 

The socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics was initiated and gradually developed by the Communist Party of China through the course of its long-term efforts to lead the Chinese people in combining the basic principles of Marxism with actual conditions in China. This path of political advancement represents an inevitable outcome of Chinese history over the past century, an inevitable outcome of the historic changes that have taken place during more than three decades of reform and opening up, and an inevitable result of the Chinese people having seized control of their own destinies and united in a common struggle for prosperity and development. 

Development in the present is a continuation of development in the past. The key to why the socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics is best suited to China, and to why it is able to focus the will and strength of over one billion Chinese people, lies not only in the inevitability of this path as a logical product of historical progression, but also in the solid political foundations, profound cultural roots, and wide social consensus that it boasts under new contemporary conditions. Being geared to national conditions, reflecting the will of the people, adhering to contemporary trends, and being able to provide a fundamental political guarantee and correct political direction for establishing China as a strong and prosperous country, achieving national rejuvenation, improving the wellbeing of the people, and creating social harmony—these constitute the most salient features and outstanding functions of this path of political advancement. Therefore, adhering to this path bears major implications for ensuring that the people remain masters of their own country, for achieving the modernization of the country, and for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

3. The basic connotations of the socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics 

The socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics represents a new path for the development of democratic politics that has been successfully initiated and upheld by the Communist Party of China through its efforts to lead the people of all ethnic groups of China as one under new historical conditions. The basic connotations of this path include the following: (1) to expand socialist democracy, build a socialist country under the rule of law, and develop a socialist political culture under the leadership of the CPC and on the basis of China’s fundamental national conditions. (2) to maintain the close integration between the leadership of the Party, the position of the people as masters of the country, and the rule of law, and to uphold and improve 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-level self-governance. (3) to deepen political reform and promote the self-improvement and development of the socialist political system in line with requirements for economic and social development and increasing public interest in political participation. (4) to adhere to the principle of putting people first, to respect and safeguard human rights, and to promote social fairness and justice with a view to realizing, safeguarding, and developing the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people.

4. The socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics demonstrates unique superiorities

With beginnings going back to the early days of the People’s Republic of China, the socialist path of political advancement came to shape during a new period of reform and development after much searching and many setbacks. During this great historical process, this path has displayed, and will continue to display its immense political superiorities. These include the following:

—The leadership of the CPC. The Communist Party of China brings people of all ethnic groups in China together and leads them in a constant effort to seek progress, thereby forming a strong leading core for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

—A set of common ideals and pursuits which have brought together the will and strength of all ethnic groups in China. Together, these ideals and pursuits form a solid ideological foundation for working together in solidarity.

—A fundamental political system, a set of basic political systems, and a series of institutions and mechanisms which together ensure that the people are able to act as masters of their own country; orderly political participation by citizens, which has been expanded on different levels and across different fields; and the rule of law, which ensures that the people enjoy extensive rights and freedoms in accordance with the law.

—The capacity to organize the people’s participation in socialist construction as masters of the country, to bring the people together as one, and to pool strength in major undertakings, which allows the country to progress orderly towards national development goals under proper leadership.

—The system of democratic centralism, which allows us to balance the relationships between democracy and centralism, between dividing tasks and working in collaboration, between supervision and support, between implementing restraints and pursuing efficiency, and between the whole and its various parts, so that state organs can be run efficiently, in a coordinated manner, and in accordance with the law.

—The capacity to mobilize all positive forces, properly balance the interests of various parties, and urge members of society to express their demands and safeguard their rights and interests in a legal and rational manner, which allows for negative influences to be promptly dispelled.

—The capacity to maintain national unity, ethnic solidarity, and social harmony, and to safeguard the unity, dignity, and authority of the national legal system, which allows us to consolidate and develop a democratic, united, lively, harmonious, and stable political atmosphere. 

5. The socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics is a path for political advancement that is oriented towards the future

Development and progress are inherent requirements of our path of political advancement. China’s political thinking, political systems, and political practice at present are characterized by being forward-looking, attuned to the times, exploratory and innovative, open-minded, and inclusive. They are able to constantly draw new life from new experiences and thereby maintain their vitality. The mission of the socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics is to safeguard and develop democracy. This path is promoting active yet prudent political reform, and working to constantly open up new horizons for our democratic politics, never coming to a halt, never becoming close-minded, and never being rigid. Therefore, it has laid down solid foundations, put us in the right direction, and provided us with broad prospects for realizing the most extensive people’s democracy.

During the process of political advancement, we must learn actively from all the achievements of human civilization, including political achievements. At the same time, however, we must be aware that there is no such thing as a “universal” political model. If we are to attain our goals and missions for political advancement, it is essential that we adhere unswervingly to our own path. Under no circumstances can we copy Western political systems; under no circumstances can we implement a multi-party system, a bicameral system, or a system in which executive, legislative, and judicial powers are separated; and under no circumstances can we give up China’s socialist political system.

II. Political reforms represent the self-improvement and development of the socialist political system

1. Political reforms constitute an important part of China’s overall reforms

The CPC’s attitude towards political reform is clear-cut, its commitment to political reform is resolute, and its efforts to promote political reform have been vigorous. As far back as 1979, Deng Xiaoping clearly pointed out, “In addition to significantly increasing our productive forces, we should also reform and improve our socialist economic and political structures, build a highly-developed socialist democracy, and develop a sound socialist legal system.” Having drawn lessons from both our positive and negative experiences in the development of socialist democracy, since the launch of the reform and opening up drive, we have emphasized that people’s democracy is the lifeline of socialism; maintained the close integration between the leadership of the Party, the position of the people as masters of the country, and the rule of law; and continued to regard political reform as an important aspect of China’s overall reform and development. Owing to this resolute commitment, we have been able to make a series of major achievements in political reform. 

—We have made changes and improvements to the leadership system of the Party and the state. By abolishing the de facto practice of life tenure in leading posts, we have ensured the orderly changeover of Party and government leadership.

—We have adhered to and improved the system of people’s congresses. By adhering to the principle that all state power belongs to the people, and continuously expanding orderly political participation by citizens, we have guaranteed that the role the people enjoy as masters of their own country can be broadly realized.  

—We have upheld and improved the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC. By organizing in-depth political consultations, democratic supervision, and participation in the deliberation and administration of state affairs, we have consolidated and expanded the broadest possible patriotic united front.

—We have reformed and made changes to a system of leadership in which power was over-concentrated and in which there was no distinction between the Party and the government and between the government and enterprises. By implementing the reform of the administrative system, the judicial system, the system for the management of enterprises and public institutions, as well as other related mechanisms, we have succeeded in formulating a set of clearly defined, well-coordinated, and highly efficient systems and mechanisms.

—We have established and implemented the rule of law as a basic principle for national governance. By developing a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics in which the Constitution serves as the supreme law, we have ensured that state organs exercise their powers and perform their duties in accordance with the law.

—We have respected and guaranteed human rights, safeguarded social fairness and justice, and ensured by legal means that all members of society enjoy the right to participate and develop equally.

—We have reformed and improved our policy-making mechanisms. By enhancing the transparency of policy-making and increasing public participation in the policy-making process, we have placed our policy-making on a more scientific, democratic, and legal footing.

—We have made changes to our cadre and personnel system. Through the establishment of a vibrant personnel system which allows for the widespread sourcing of talent, makes the best possible use of people’s talents, and provides for the possibility of both promotions and demotions, we have created a broad range of channels and prospects for various kinds of outstanding talent to establish their careers.

—We have established and developed systems and mechanisms to restrict and supervise the application of power, formed a range of systems for the punishment and prevention of corruption, and ensured that the power that has been granted by the people is always used in the interests of the people.

—We have made changes and improvements to the way that the CPC leads and governs. Preserving the role of the CPC as a leading core that exercises overall leadership and coordinates the efforts of all, we have raised the capacity of the Party to govern scientifically, democratically, and in accordance with the law.

2. The general state of China’s political system and the problems it is facing

The glorious achievements that we have made in more than 60 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and especially in more than 30 years of reform and opening up, offer an ample proof that on the whole China’s socialist political system is suited to China’s national conditions. These achievements have demonstrated that this system is conducive to upholding the leadership of the CPC, to ensuring that the people continue to be masters of their own country, to emancipating and developing productive forces, and to maintaining national unity, ethnic solidarity, as well as social harmony and stability. As an important guarantee ensuring that the cause of the Party and the country can be carried forward, this political system has won widespread recognition and firm support from all of China’s ethnic groups.

China’s political system fully demonstrates the marked superiorities of socialist democracy. Hu Jintao once remarked, “The key to judging whether a political system is democratic or not lies in whether the will of the overwhelming majority is fully reflected, whether the right the overwhelming majority enjoy to act as masters of their own country is fully realized, and whether the legitimate rights and interests of the overwhelming majority are fully guaranteed.” The reason why China’s political system demonstrates such huge superiorities, and why it has been able to achieve “good governance,” can be attributed to the fact that the Communist Party of China and the government have always seen the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people as their purpose and source of strength. This approach can be attributed to the fundamental nature of the Communist Party of China and the government. It not only constitutes the goal that we have always strived towards, but also the fundamental reason for the enormous strength of this political system and the major source of its legitimacy. Therefore, we must be clear about the nature of this system, preserve the unique characteristics of this system, and reaffirm the confidence that we have in this system.

There are, however, still some aspects of China’s political system that are not fully adapted to the newest conditions in our economic and social development, or to new requirements with regard to putting people first and safeguarding social fairness and justice. For example, there are still shortcomings and weaknesses in the specific democratic systems that we employ, and more still needs to be done with regard to safeguarding the people’s democratic rights and bringing the inventiveness of the people into play. Therefore, in order to meet new demands for expanding people’s democracy and promoting economic and social development under new conditions, we must continue to promote political reform in an active yet prudent fashion, be more conscientious and active in the development of socialist democracy, and give better play to the superiorities of China’s socialist political system.

3. Political reforms must be carried out in the right political direction 

Political reforms have a bearing on the overall initiatives of the CPC and the government, and on the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people. Therefore, maintaining a staunch commitment to reform, we need to proceed in an active yet prudent manner. In particular, we must ensure that our reforms are carried out in the right political direction. Deng Xiaoping stressed on many occasions, “The purpose of reforming the system of Party and state leadership and other systems is to take full advantage of the superiority of socialism and speed up China’s modernization.” He also stated, “In the reform of the political structure, our general objectives are the following: (1) to consolidate the socialist system, (2) to develop the socialist productive forces and (3) to expand socialist democracy in order to bring the initiative of the people into full play.” The core question at hand, therefore, is not whether or not we should engage in political reforms, but what direction that our political reforms will move in.

In upholding the right political direction, nothing is more important or fundamental than maintaining the close integration between the leadership of the Party, the position of the people as masters of the country, and the rule of the law. The leadership of the CPC is the fundamental guarantee for ensuring that the people are able to act as masters of their own country and for ensuring the rule of law; the role that the people play as masters of their own country is the essence and the core of socialist democracy; and the rule of law is the fundamental principal by which the CPC leads the people in governing the country. These three elements define the fundamental nature of China’s socialist state power, being the essential features that distinguish China’s political system from those of capitalist countries. The three come together to form an organic whole in the actual implementation of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics. Therefore, under no circumstances can we allow our commitment to any one of them waver, or favor a single one at the expense of the others. 

4. Promoting active yet prudent political reform 

Without democracy there can be no socialism or socialist modernization. The overall requirement for deepening the reform of China’s political structure is the development of broader, fuller, and sounder people’s democracy under the leadership of the CPC. On the basis of ensuring that the people continue to act as masters of their own country, and with a view to boosting the vitality of the Party and the state and bringing the initiative of the people into play, we must expand socialist democracy, speed up the development of a socialist country under the rule of law, and develop a socialist political culture. To attain this, we need to do the following: First, we need to attach more importance to improving the means by which the CPC exercises leadership and governance, thereby ensuring that the Party is capable of leading the people in effectively running the state. Second, we need to attach more importance to improving our democratic systems and to introducing more diverse forms of democracy, so as to ensure that the people are able to participate in democratic elections, democratic policy-making, democratic administration, and democratic supervision in accordance with the law. Third, we need to place a greater emphasis on exerting the role that the rule of law plays in the governance of the country and in social management, safeguard the unity, dignity, and authority of our national legal system, and ensure that the people are able to enjoy extensive rights and freedoms in accordance with the law.

Moreover, in the reform of the political structure, we need to be aware of the fundamental, overall, and long-term significance of institutions as well as the bearing that they have on national stability. Highlighting the importance of institutional development as an aspect of our political advancement and reform, we must make major efforts to promote the building, renewal, and optimization of institutions, so as to bring the superiorities of China’s socialist political system into full play and create more favorable prospects for the socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics. 

III. Carrying out the tasks that have been set for China’s political advancement and reform

Political advancement and reform constitute a major systematic undertaking that not only involves political ideas, systems, and processes, administrative management, the development of law-based governance, and the safeguarding of human rights, but also objectives such as political democracy, political efficiency, political order, and political integrity, as well as considerations that range from the macroscopic to the microscopic levels. At the same time, political advancement has a bearing on the development of our overall cause, being a precondition for economic development, cultural development, and social development just as they are a precondition for political advancement, with each having an influence on the other. Therefore, political advancement and political reform need to be coordinated as a whole, and advanced on a step-by-step basis under the necessary guidance.   

In a bid to secure new victories for socialism with Chinese characteristics, the Party integrated new requirements for the development of democracy and rule of law into the goals of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and deepening reform and opening up in an all-round way at its Eighteenth National Congress. These requirements are as follows: People’s democracy should be steadily expanded, the institutions of democracy should be improved, and the forms that democracy embodies should be enriched. People’s enthusiasm, initiative, and creativity should be fully leveraged. The rule of law should be fully implemented as a fundamental principle, the construction of a law-based government should be basically completed, judicial credibility should be steadily enhanced, and human rights should be fully respected and protected. To this end, we must work faster to establish our socialist democracy on the basis of clearly prescribed institutions, standards, and procedures, expand orderly political participation by citizens in different fields and on different levels, and achieve law-based governance in the various operations of the government. 

At the same time, the CPC identified priority tasks in seven aspects of political development at its Eighteenth National Congress.

1. Providing support and guarantees to ensure that the people are able to exercise state power through the people’s congresses. Being suited to China’s national conditions and reflecting the nature of the socialist state, the system of people’s congresses is the fundamental political system that China employs to ensure that the people are able to act as masters of their own country. This system also represents the best form for the Communist Party of China to fully promote democracy and fully implement the mass line in state governance. We need to be adept at turning the propositions of the Communist Party of China into the will of the state through legal procedures, and support the people’s congresses and their standing committees in giving full play to their role as organs of state power, in performing their roles in legislation, supervision, decision-making, and personnel appointments and dismissals, in strengthening the coordination of their legislative tasks, in enhancing their supervision over people’s governments, people’s courts, and people’s procuratorates, and in tightening the examination and oversight of all government budgets and final accounts. We need to raise the proportion of deputies from local communities and lower the proportion of deputies who serve as leading cadres in the Party and government. We need to establish liaison offices and improve the systems we employ to keep deputies in close contact with the public. In addition, we need to make further improvements to staffing systems for state organs, and seek a more optimal knowledge and age spread among members of standing committees and specialized committees.

2. Improving the socialist system of consultative democracy. Consultative democracy is a major feature and superiority of contemporary democracy in China. China’s socialist democracy takes two important forms, one in which the people exercise their power by means of elections and voting, and the other in which people from all walks of life consult extensively in order to reach the widest possible consensus on matters of common concern before major decisions are made. The Report to the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC formally advanced the concept of “socialist consultative democracy” for the very first time. The promotion of this concept has strong implications for the development of socialist democracy. We need to further improve our system of consultative democracy and its working mechanisms, and make efforts to promote institutionalized consultative democracy that is carried out over a broad scope and on multiple levels. Making use of channels such as organs of state power, committees of the Chinese people’s political consultative conferences, political parties, and people’s organizations, we need to engage in broad consultations over major issues in economic and social development and practical issues that have a close bearing on the immediate interests of the general public. We must uphold and improve the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, give full play to the role of the Chinese people’s political consultative conferences as a major channel for consultative democracy, and press forward with efforts to develop systems for political consultation, democratic supervision, and participation in the administration and deliberation of state affairs.

3. Improving community-level democracy. We need to make improvements to mechanisms for highly active self-governance at the community level under the leadership of CPC organizations. Placing our emphasis on expanding orderly participation, promoting the disclosure of information, enhancing the deliberation and consultation of public affairs, and stepping up supervision over the exercise of power, we must widen the scope, broaden the channels, supplement the content, and diversify the forms of self-governance at the community level in order to ensure that the people are able to enjoy more by way of practical democratic rights. We need to rely whole-heartedly on the working class, improve our system for the democratic management of enterprises and public institutions, which is primarily manifested through employee congresses, and protect employees’ rights to participate democratically in management and supervision. We should also encourage the collaboration of various different kinds of organization at the community level in a bid to realize the sound integration of government administration and community-level democracy.

4. Promoting the rule of law in an all-round manner. We should make laws in a scientific way, enforce them strictly, administer justice impartially, and ensure that everyone abides by the law. At the same time, we need to make sure that all are equal before the law, and ensure that laws are always observed, strictly enforced, and that lawbreakers are always held accountable. We need to further improve the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics, strengthen legislation in key areas, and widen channels for orderly public participation in the legislative process. We need to promote administration in accordance with the law, and make sure that laws are enforced in a strict, fair, and civilized fashion in accordance with prescribed regulations. We need to further deepen judicial reform, ensuring that we uphold and improve the socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics. We need to deepen efforts to publicize our legal system, promote the spirit of socialist rule of law, and firmly establish the concept of socialist rule of law. We need to enhance the capacity of leading officials to apply the concept and methods of the rule of law in deepening reform, promoting development, resolving problems, and maintaining stability.

5. Deepening the reform of the administrative system. In line with the goal of establishing a socialist administrative system with Chinese characteristics, we must deepen reforms aimed at separating government administration from the management of enterprises, state assets, public institutions, and social organizations, and build a well-structured, clean, efficient and service-oriented government that has scientifically defined functions and that the people are satisfied with. We need to deepen the reform of our administrative approvals system, continue to streamline administration and delegate power to lower levels, and promote the shifting of government functions towards creating a sound environment for development, providing quality public services, and upholding social fairness and justice. We need to press ahead steadily with reforms aimed at establishing larger government departments and improve the division of duties and responsibilities between these departments. We need to optimize the setup of administrative levels and administrative divisions, introduce new modes of administrative management, and strictly control the number of staff in administrative organizations. We also need to improve mechanisms for coordinating reforms.

6. Improving systems for the restraint and supervision of power. We need to ensure that powers of policy-making, execution, and supervision not only keep each other in check, but are also exercised in coordination with one another, so as to ensure that state organs exercise their powers in accordance with the limits and procedures prescribed by law. We must maintain a commitment to scientific, democratic, and law-based policy-making, improve mechanisms and procedures for policy-making, give play to the role of think tanks, and establish sound systems for decision-making accountability and the correction of erroneous decisions. We need to promote openness and standardization in the operation of power, improve measures for making Party affairs, administrative affairs, judiciary affairs, and other affairs known to the public, and tighten intra-Party supervision, democratic supervision, legal supervision, and supervision through public opinion.

7. Consolidating and developing the broadest possible patriotic united front. We need to hold high the banners of patriotism and socialism, consolidate the ideological and political foundations of the united front, and correctly handle the relationship between uniformity and diversity. Upholding the principles of long-term coexistence, mutual supervision, treating each other with full sincerity, and standing together through thick and thin, we need to strengthen unity and cooperation with democratic parties and personages without party affiliation, and seek to pursue common goals by thinking and acting alike. We need to correctly implement the policies of the CPC on ethnic minorities in an all-round way, and uphold and improve the system of regional ethnic autonomy. Sticking closely to our goal of working as one and prospering together, we must consolidate and develop our socialist ethnic relations, which are characterized by equality, solidarity, mutual aid and harmony, so that all ethnic groups in China can live and develop together in harmony. We need to implement the basic policies of the Communist Party of China on religion, and give play to the positive role of religious personages and believers in promoting economic and social development.


(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.24, 2012)

Author: Deputy Secretary General of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress

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