Does democracy exist in China?
CDChina Daily Updated: 2005-10-20 05:34
Are Chinese politicians and their foreign counterparts talking
about the same thing when they engage in discussions about
Where does China stand on the road to democratization?
Questions such as these have repeatedly popped up in scholarly
discourse over the nature of Chinese politics, and cultivated
If you are curious about "Chinese characteristics" in
the country's democracy, and want to know what those
characteristics are, the white paper released yesterday on the
status quo of political democracy is an invaluable reference.
The reading process may be a little tedious considering the
prevalence of unfamiliar political jargon. But ample rewards are
guaranteed - you will find out what democracy means in terms of
official Chinese political ideology, and how democracy - the
Chinese brand - is practised.
The text will guide you through the labyrinth of Chinese
concepts and designs such as the People's Congress system,
multi-party co-operation mechanism, and regional autonomy for
It goes to great lengths to explain the country's constitutional
identity as "people's democratic dictatorship," a phrase
that may sound strange to foreign ears. The invention of the late
Chairman Mao Zedong prior to the founding of the People's Republic
of China, or New China as it is called here, holds the key to
post-1949 Chinese political evolution.
That is the logical starting point for a journey of discovery
that aims to show why and how the same word - democracy - has
carried such divergent connotations and taken so many different
forms here and elsewhere. Readers will learn why the government
embraces a "democratic dictatorship." It may also help
understand why China refuses to adopt the Western-style checks and
balances system of governance.
The Chinese approach to democracy is illustrated in an all-round
manner through the design of State bodies and their interaction
with society. For example, it included statistical data portraying
progress in self-governance in rural and urban neighbourhoods.
Of course the white paper may serve as a useful guide to Chinese
politics, or the Chinese approach to democracy. But more important,
as some scholars at home point out, it can serve as a platform for
sensible discourse about the healthy growth of political democracy
The government has demonstrated a firm determination to pursue a
course of its own, distinct from the Western pattern. Having said
that, China has never ruled out the possibility of borrowing from
successful foreign models.
In fact, many of the recent moves made by the government, such
as allowing greater transparency and endorsing closer public
scrutiny, are based on time-honoured prescriptions from overseas.
In order to live up to its vow to deliver good governance, the
authorities have a lot more to learn from other nations.
The white paper demonstrates the latest Chinese approach to and
agenda for socialist democracy, helping readers better understand
the Chinese characteristics of political democracy.
The document may not answer every single question, but it is
nevertheless worth reading for an insight into Chinese
After all, the publication represents a historic first on
Beijing's part - the decision to share with the outside world
extensive details of its perspectives on democracy.
(China Daily 10/20/2005 page4