Building of Political Democracy in China


Preface    I.    II.    III.     IV.    V.    VI.    VII.    VIII.    IX.    X.   Conclusion

I. A Choice Suited to China's Conditions

The experience of political civilization of mankind over a history of several millenniums is ample proof of the truth that the political system a country adopts and the road to democracy it takes must be in conformity with the conditions of that country. The socialist political democracy of China is rooted in the vast land of fertile soil on which the Chinese nation has depended for its subsistence and development over thousands of years. It grew out of the experience of the CPC and the Chinese people in their great practice of striving for national independence, liberation of the people and prosperity of the country. It is the apt choice suited to China's conditions and meeting the requirement of social progress.

China has a history of 5,000 years of civilization. Boasting a splendid civilization in the same league as those of ancient Egypt, India and Babylon, China has contributed greatly to the development and progress of mankind. The Chinese people are industrious, courageous and full of wisdom. It is generally acknowledged in the world that the Chinese nation has a long, uninterrupted history and a rich cultural heritage.

China had a long history of feudal society, and when, from 1840 on, the Western imperialist powers launched, time and again, aggressive wars against China, the corrupt and weak feudal ruling class buckled, and China was reduced to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society. For nearly 110 years after that, China became a target of plunder for almost all the imperialist countries, big and small. The Chinese nation was plunged into the most dangerous situation: suffering from invasion by imperialism from the outside and oppression by feudalism on the inside. The Chinese people had no democratic rights whatsoever. To change the fate of the country and the nation, generation after generation of Chinese people rose up and waged heroic struggles, one stepping into the breach the moment another fell.

In this movement to save China from destruction, some of the elite turned their eyes to the West for a road that would save the country and the people. They started a bourgeois democratic revolution in China. The Revolution of 1911, led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, forerunner of the democratic revolution in China, brought to an end the autocratic monarchical system that had been in place for more than 2,000 years. But the bourgeois republic, including the parliamentarism and multi-party system that were subsequently established after the Revolution of 1911 in imitation of the mode of Western democracy, did not fulfill the fervent desire of the Chinese people for independence and democracy. The new republic soon collapsed under the onslaught of domestic and foreign reactionary forces. A contemporary said in anger and grief, "Many lives were lost and a lot of blood was shed, but what we achieved was a counterfeit republic." The Chinese people had still not shaken off oppression, slavery and exploitation. What was the way out for China? The Chinese people were pondering, exploring and struggling in the dark.

Through painstaking exploration and hard struggle, the Chinese people finally came to realize that mechanically copying the Western bourgeois political system and applying it to China would lead them nowhere. To accomplish the historic task of saving China and triumphing over imperialism and feudalism, the Chinese people needed new thought and new theories to open up a new road for the Chinese revolution and establish a totally new political system. The important historic task of leading the Chinese people to find this new road and establish a new system landed on the shoulders of the Chinese communists. In 1921, some progressive intellectuals who had studied the ideology of democracy and science combined Marxism and Leninism with the Chinese workers' movement, and founded the CPC. After that, under the leadership of the CPC, the Chinese revolution entered the period of New Democracy, characterized by thorough opposition to imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism. After fighting bravely for 28 difficult years, China finally achieved national independence and the people's liberation.

As the vanguard of the Chinese working class, the Chinese people and the Chinese nation, the CPC has taken as its own task the realization and development of a people's democracy right from the date of its founding. The goal of the CPC's leadership of the people in revolutionary struggles is to realize democracy for the overwhelming majority of people, and not just for a minority of the people. The CPC creatively combines the general truth of Marxism-Leninism with the actual situation of the Chinese revolution, setting out such democratic concepts as "democracy for the workers and peasants," "people's democracy," and "new democracy," to enrich and develop Marxist theories on political democracy. In its history, the CPC has adopted many different organizational forms, such as the congress of workers on strike, peasants' association, the Soviet of representatives of workers, peasants and soldiers, the congress of councilors, and the congress of people from all walks of life. These forms of political democracy were suited to the actual conditions in China at various periods of time and were able to guarantee that the people were the masters of the state. These forms of political democracy were a striking contrast to the ruling system of the Kuomintang, and they reflected the people's wishes and enjoyed popular support. The first plenary session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was convened in September 1949, on the eve of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It was an important meeting at which the CPC discussed major matters concerning the founding of the new republic in line with the principle of democracy with all democratic parties, people's organizations and democratic personages without party affiliation. It decided on the state system and organizational form of state power of New China. The meeting adopted the "Common Program of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference," which served as a provisional constitution of the new republic. The Common Program clearly stipulated, "The People's Republic of China is a state of new democracy, or of the people's democracy. It will practice people's democratic dictatorship under the leadership of the working class, on the basis of the alliance of workers and peasants, uniting all democratic classes and people of all ethnic groups in China"; "The state power of the People's Republic of China belongs to the people. The organs through which the people exercise state power are the people's congresses and people's governments at all levels." The founding of the PRC on October 1, 1949 marked the great victory of the New Democratic Revolution won by the Chinese people under the leadership of the CPC and the fundamental change that had taken in the political status of the Chinese people. From then on, the Chinese people became the real masters of their country, society and their own fate. The establishment of New China marked a great leap from the 2,000-year-old autocratic feudal political system and the unsuccessful trials in contemporary China imitating the mode of Western democratic political systems to the new people's democratic political system.

Not long after the founding of New China, the first general election in Chinese history -- with the biggest-ever turnout of the people -- was held all over the country in 1953. The people exercised the power of being masters of the state by electing their own deputies, and people's congresses were held first at lower levels and then at higher levels. In September 1954, the first session of the First National People's Congress was held, marking the formal establishment of the system of people's congress all over China. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China, which had been discussed widely among the people prior to the session, was adopted at the congress. It established the state system of the people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants, and the political system, i.e., the people's congress system, as the basic political systems of the PRC. It also clearly stipulated that "All power in the People's Republic of China belongs to the people. The National People's Congress and the local people's congresses at various levels are the organs through which the people exercise state power. Democratic centralism shall be practiced in the National People's Congress and the local people's congresses at various levels as well as in all other state organs."

The establishment of the system of people's congress and the promulgation of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China meant that the Chinese people's exercise of the right to be masters of the state now had a reliable institutional guarantee and constitutional basis. By 1956, most areas in China had completed the socialist transformation of the private ownership of the means of production, thereby completing the transition from the historical period of New Democracy to that of socialism. Thus, the basic system of socialism was established, and the widest and deepest social transformation in Chinese history has accomplished. But, New China made some detours in its quest of the way to build political democracy. The grave mistakes of the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976), in particular, caused a serious setback for China in building its political democracy, and the nation learned a bitter lesson.

After China adopted the reform and opening-up policies in the late 1970s, the CPC summed up both its positive and negative historical experiences, and led the people into a new period in building China's socialist political democracy. Without democracy there could be no socialism, much less socialist modernization; the socialist legal system had to be strengthened so that democracy could be institutionalized; it was necessary to govern the country by law and build a socialist country under the rule of law; socialist political democracy had to be developed and socialist political civilization had to be built; the CPC's leadership, the people being the masters of the state and governing the country by law had to be integrated; and the people had to be put first, and the country must be governed for the people so as to build a harmonious socialist country. All these have become the common understanding of the CPC and the people of all ethnic groups of China as they improve and develop socialist political democracy, and will serve as their guiding principles as they move forward.

Over the past 20 years and more, great progress has been made in China's practice of building a socialist democratic political system. The system of the people's congress, the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, and the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities -- all important components of China's democratic system -- have been continuously improved and developed. The democratic rights of people at the grassroots level in urban and rural areas have been constantly increased, and the citizens' basic rights are respected and guaranteed. The CPC's capability to rule the country in a democratic manner has been enhanced further, while the government's capability to administer the country in a democratic manner has been strengthened noticeably. Continual progress has been made in building a democratic system within the legal framework. Marked achievements have been recorded in the reform of the state leadership system, legislative system, administrative management system, decision-making system, judicial system, personnel system, and supervision and checking system. Guided by the objective of ruling the country by law and building a socialist country under the rule of law, more efforts are being made to build socialist democracy so that it is institutionalized, standardized and in line with prescribed procedures. A socialist law regime with Chinese characteristics and with the Constitution at its core has been preliminarily formed. Major aspects of China's politics, economics, culture and social life are now within the purview of the rule of law.

In building socialist political democracy, China has always adhered to the basic principle that the Marxist theory of democracy be combined with the reality of China, borrowed from the useful achievements of the political civilization of mankind, including Western democracy, and assimilated the democratic elements of China's traditional culture and institutional civilization. Therefore, China's socialist political democracy shows distinctive Chinese characteristics.

-- China's democracy is a people's democracy under the leadership of the CPC. Without the Communist Party there would be no New China. Nor would there be people's democracy. This is a fact that has been borne out by history. The Chinese people won the right to be masters of the state only after many years of arduous struggle under the leadership of the CPC. The democratic political system in China was established by the Chinese people led by the CPC. The development and improvement of this system are also carried out under the CPC's leadership. The leadership of CPC is a fundamental guarantee for the Chinese people to be masters in managing the affairs of their own country.

-- China's democracy is a democracy in which the overwhelming majority of the people act as masters of state affairs. That the people are the masters is the quintessence of China's socialist democracy. In China, the publicly owned sector of the economy is the economic foundation of China's socialist system. In the primary stage of socialism, the state persists in the basic economic system with public ownership playing a dominant role and diverse forms of ownership developing side by side and the distribution system in which to each according to his work is predominant while other forms of distribution exist side by side. This ensures, from the perspective of economic foundation, that China's democracy will not be manipulated by capital; it is not a democracy for a small number of people, but one for the overwhelming majority of the people. In China, people enjoying the democratic rights include everyone who has not been deprived of political rights by law.

China's democracy is a democracy guaranteed by the people's democratic dictatorship. Under the people's democratic dictatorship, on the one hand, democracy of the widest scope is practiced among the people, human rights are respected and ensured, and state power is in the hands of the people and serves the interests of the people. On the other, criminal activities, such as sabotage of the socialist system, endangering state security and public security, infringement on citizens' rights of the person or their democratic rights, embezzlement, bribery and dereliction of duty, are penalized according to law so as to safeguard the fundamental interests of the broad masses.

China's democracy is a democracy with democratic centralism as the basic organizational principle and mode of operation. Democratic centralism is the fundamental principle of organization and leadership of state power in China. When democratic centralism is practiced, it requires that we give full play to democracy and discuss matters of concern collectively, so that people's wishes and demands are fully expressed and reflected. Then, all the correct opinions are pooled, and decisions are made collectively so that the people's wishes and demands are realized and met. The practice of democratic centralism also requires that "the majority be respected while the minority is protected." We are against the anarchic call for "democracy for all," and against anybody placing his own will above that of the collective.