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China is seeking Democracy of its own choice

14:07, April 20, 2011

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By Li Hongmei

China and the West have been bickering over the democracy issue for decades. The protracted ideological conflict has also bewildered some of the Chinese people and aroused the cloud of doubts within them over the direction China's reform is pointing to and what a real democracy means.

China is currently on the way to seeking after democracy of its own and all by its own, while the West is entertaining high hopes in converting China into a democracy based on their political mode and approved by the Western standards. This is somewhat likened to the situation back to 1938, when Mao Zedong created the theory of "localization of Marxism" by shrugging off the Soviet-style dogma.

Mao Zedong's contribution to the localization of Marxism in China is still considered as one of the greatest theory innovations in China, inspiring the then new and weak China to explore a way of its own to a socialism democracy. Only by breaking away from the stereotyped and doctrinal Soviet framework, can Marxism survive and thrive on the Chinese soil.

Albeit the fact that the "localization of Marxism" is far from an unparalleled theory modification in history, it is indeed an unprecedented movement of seeking the truth from facts while smashing the shackles of the outside force and free from the ossified way of thinking , this benefiting China to this day.

Premier Wen Jiabao has mentioned many a time on different occasions that China will and need to embark on a political reform, which does not mean China should follow in the footsteps of the West but highlights the very need for China to come up with a reform that is agreeable to the Chinese conditions. "Flowers flourishing in others' courtyard might be unaccustomed to your soil and climate", a popular saying goes, so does the democracy defined by the West.

Admittedly, China needs to be more open to outside world and, for a steady rise and growth, it is highly advisable that China establish a comprehensive theory of its aims and methods to communicate with its neighbors and the West rather than persistently and defensively rebutting their criticisms. But China is not supposed to lose itself while engaging others.

As a matter of fact, the notion of democracy was introduced to China as early as 1910s, and has since gained popularity in China. Today, even the ordinary Chinese have the awareness of democracy and rule by law and the values of democracy have won the common understanding of the Chinese society.

But it is almost certain that although democracy is a globally shared value, no political mode on the planet can make up a universal principle worth every nation's applause and copycat.

Further, Is the Western-style democracy an ideal one in the real essence of democracy ?

The government of Europe is scarcely more accountable than that of China, columnist Christopher Booker remarks in his article.

"Quite a few eyebrows will have been raised at the sight of our Prime Minister (British PM David Cameron) in China extolling the virtues of democracy. If democracy means anything, it is a system which makes a government accountable to its people and gives them the chance to replace it with another one…But how much does it apply in Britain, where almost everything our Government does is either dictated or constrained by decisions taken at a higher level by our new system of government centered in Brussels?... So, in intoning to the Chinese about the virtues of democracy, is he (Cameron) trying to kid the rest of us, or is he just deceiving himself?" says Mr. Booker.

Therefore, China needs to develop its own form of democracy blending the shared values of democracy with its own national conditions.

To demonstrate the reasons why China should employ a different type of democracy, Chinese scholar Liu Xirui wrote an article called "Integration: the essential characteristics and final destiny of Chinese democracy" In it, he claims that the form of democracy in modern China is a combination of the results of China's development in conjunction with certain fundamental beliefs. He says that "China values the communication and harmony between the upper and the lower classes, elites and general public, and among different sectors of society". In the article, he named this type of democracy "fusion-style democracy."

"The various western versions of democracy are based on their culture and history and are only suited to westerners. Freedom to intervene, invade and colonize sits well with their psyche. Non- interference in others' affairs would be extremely painful for them. And, like a wild animal, once they tasted blood they want more," says a netizen in his posting to People Forum.

In the context of social transformation, China will persist in seeking its own way to achieve the goal of democracy while expanding public participation in the political process and establishing a more inclusive and trustworthy public policy-making system.

Even when there is contention that arouse suspicion of Chinese Democracy in the West world, China's "peaceful and harmless approach to democracy", rather than the Western countries' hard push upon others to accept "democracy" satisfying their beliefs, is more commendable, and proves the best method by which China can ensure economic growth and social stability.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."