Ten Q&As on Whole-Process People's Democracy
Published: Dec 09, 2021 11:56 AM
Deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) leave the Great Hall of the People after the closing meeting of the fourth session of the 13th NPC in Beijing, capital of China, March 11, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

Deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) leave the Great Hall of the People after the closing meeting of the fourth session of the 13th NPC in Beijing, capital of China, March 11, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

What is Whole-Process People's Democracy?

Democracy is essentially about the people being the masters of the country. 

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core has stayed committed to socialist political progress with Chinese characteristics and developed a path to whole-process people's democracy. 

China's whole-process people's democracy covers all sectors of the society through electoral democracy, consultative democracy and community-level democracy, and is applied through a combination of elections, consultations, decision-making, management and oversight. It is a complete system with supporting mechanisms and procedures, and has been fully tested through wide participation. It integrates process-oriented democracy with results-oriented democracy, procedural democracy with substantive democracy, direct democracy with indirect democracy, and people's democracy with the will of the state. It serves to put into place diverse, open, and well-organized democratic channels to ensure all people administer state affairs and manage economic and cultural undertakings and social affairs through various channels and in various ways in accordance with the law. It is an extensive and true democracy that works. 

China's development achievements and Chinese people's support for the CPC have fully proved that China's new approach to democracy works and the country is in its best time of development ever.

Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, the Chinese people have every confidence and sufficient capability to give full play to the strengths and distinctive features of China's socialist democracy, and make China's contribution to the political advancement of mankind by developing whole-process people's democracy.

Q: What are the distinctive features and strengths of Whole-Process People's Democracy?

A: The leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is the fundamental guarantee for whole-process people's democracy. The CPC is committed to people-centred development, practices democracy within the Party to better serve the development of people's democracy, and enforce full democracy in formulating principles, guidelines and policies. The Party puts great importance on study and research, follows the principle of "from the people, to the people", and strives to meet people's expectations and demands. It plays the central role as the overall leader and coordinator in all areas of endeavour in every part of the country and keeps enhancing its capacity to exercise informed, democratic and law-based governance, so as to ensure that it leads the people in effectively governing the country, and that lack of leadership and disunity is prevented.

People's status as masters of the country is the essence of people's democracy and the salient feature of socialist democracy. It is also the most distinctive feature of China's whole-process people's democracy. In China, the people enjoy democratic election, decision-making, management and oversight in accordance with the law. The people-centred principle is implemented in all aspects and fields of political life, from law making, formulation of national economic and social development plans, and budget planning, implementation and supervision at the macro level, to property management and waste classification at the micro level. 

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the CPC has paid more attention to integrating the right to equal participation with the right to equal development, improvement of people's wellbeing with advancement of democracy, and electoral democracy with consultative democracy, with the goal of promoting more extensive and robust democracy. People's will has been fully represented, their status as masters of the country has been ensured with institutions and mechanisms, and their creativity and vitality has been greatly inspired. No room is left for politicians to make campaign promises and break them all once elected.

China's whole-process people's democracy has three distinctive strengths:

First, it is the broadest democracy. Secretary General Xi Jinping has pointed out that democracy is a common value of humanity and an ideal that has always been cherished by the CPC and the Chinese people. Under socialist system, the will of the broadest majority of people has been fully represented, their right as masters of the country has been fully realized, and their lawful rights and interests have been fully protected. The Chinese people have become the real masters of their country, society and destiny.

Second, it is the most genuine democracy. In socialist China, the CPC represents the fundamental interests of the greatest possible majority of the Chinese people. All the CPC's theories, lines, policies and work arrangements and plans are for the people. Whole-process people's democracy has complete institutions and extensive participation. Democratic election, consultation, decision-making, management and oversight by the people are closely integrated, ensuring people's rights to be informed, to participate, to express views, and to supervise the exercise of power. This entire chain of whole-process people's democracy reflects the principal position of the people in every aspect of the country's political and social life.

Third, it is democracy that works. The CPC is committed to upholding the people's principal position in running the country. In line with China's conditions and realities, the CPC has established the institutional framework for the people to run the country. The framework is mainly comprised of the system of people's congresses, which is China's fundamental political system, the system of CPC-led multiparty cooperation and political consultation, the system of regional ethnic autonomy, and the system of community-level self-governance. This lays the institutional foundation to protect the fundamental interests of the greatest majority of the Chinese people. It is a great innovation of the CPC and the Chinese people that provides the complete systems and procedures for whole-process people's democracy.

Q: What are the institutional procedures of China's democracy?

A: China has put in place a well-coordinated and comprehensive institutional framework of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics. This framework comprises mainly of the system of people's congresses, the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the system of regional ethnic autonomy, and the system of community-level self-governance. Ensuring the people's status as masters of the country is the philosophy that runs through the whole political life in China.

The system of people's congresses is China's fundamental political system, which integrates the leadership of the CPC, the people's principal position, and the rule of law. It is also an important institutional support to whole-process people's democracy, under which all power of the state belongs to the people.

China's Constitution stipulates that the National People's Congress (NPC) and local people's congresses at all levels are created through democratic elections. They are responsible to and supervised by the people. All administrative, supervisory, judicial, and procuratorial organs of the state are created by the people's congresses, to which they are responsible and by which they are supervised.

The Constitution also sets out detailed institutional arrangements regarding the deputies, structures, terms, mandates, standing organisations and other aspects of people's congresses at all levels, making sure that this fundamental political system embodies the people's status as masters of the country in all aspects of the democratic process. The system of people's congresses lays the political foundation and sets a clear direction for other systems in China. 

The system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC carries out democratic consultation through activities such as consultative conferences and bi-weekly seminars. Under this system, democratic parties participate in the formulation and enforcement of major principles, policies, laws and regulations of the State, in consultations regarding major political issues of the state and candidates for leaders of state organs, and in the administration of state affairs, and exercise oversight over the CPC and the state organs under its leadership. This is a new political party system and provides a new way of consultative democracy with distinctive Chinese features.

Consultative democracy is a unique form of democracy under socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics. It is realized through consultations carried out by political parties, people's congresses, government departments, committees under the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, people's organizations, social organizations, and communities. With these seven consultation channels in place, China practices a rich and extensive form of democracy. 

The system of regional ethnic autonomy upholds national solidarity and unity and ensures that all ethnic groups are masters of the country. It is an important part in whole-process people's democracy. On the precondition that national solidarity and unity is safeguarded and State laws and decrees are implemented, ethnic autonomous areas exercise autonomy according to law, and special support is provided to address their particular needs. Regional ethnic autonomy is based on ethnic equality and enjoyed by all ethnic groups in autonomous areas.

The system of community-level self-governance is the main form of democracy at the community level in China. It is achieved through rural villagers committees, urban residents committees and employees congresses. This system ensures direct public participation in the administration and decision-making concerning immediate interests of the people, and in this process, safeguards the rights of the public to hold democratic elections, practice democratic decision-making, carry out democratic management, and exercise democratic oversight, and to enjoy the fully opportunity to express their legitimate aspirations.

Q: How is democracy with Chinese characteristics practiced?

A: China follows the path of socialist political progress with Chinese characteristics. People's democracy is whole-process democracy with the participation of the whole public. It is genuine and effective democracy that suits China's conditions. Under China's socialism, matters involving many people are discussed by all those involved; to reach the greatest common ground based on the wishes and needs of the whole of society is the essence of people's democracy.

Through extensive and thorough consultations, the will, wisdom, and strength of the people are pooled to find the common ideals, converging interests and starting points to solve problems. This is a process of not only practicing democracy and collecting views but also building consensus and making informed and democratic decisions.

The composition of deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) over the years shows that they come from all regions, sectors, and ethnic groups in China. In the current NPC in particular, the percentage of workers, farmers and technicians has increased markedly, reflecting a broad public representation and participation in political affairs. 

A case in point is the Civil Code of the People's Republic of China that went into force on 1st January this year. It was compiled on the basis of views solicited from deputies, local people's congresses, local legislative information offices, central government departments and the general public. According to statistics of relevant department, the draft Civil Code was subjected to 10 public reviews through which over 1 million pieces of views from various sectors were collected. Facts show that broader participation of the people in the process of democracy ensures more extensive representation of public will and more concrete results in ensuring people's status as masters of the country.

Another example is making of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development. General Secretary Xi Jinping was personally involved and led the process. In order to combine top-level design with public opinions, he took multiple inspection tours to various provinces, presided over seven seminars and initiated the first-ever online solicitation of public views and suggestions. A total of 1.018 million responses from netizens were collected. During the annual sessions of the NPC and CPPCC this year, he attended panels and group discussions to hear the views and suggestions from various sectors, had candid exchanges with NPC deputies and CPPCC members, put forward new judgments, requirements and plans, and deepened the thinking of the strategy for economic and social development over the 14th five-year plan period and beyond. At the annual NPC and CPPCC sessions, deputies and members had intense reviews and discussions over the draft plan, drew on the views and suggestions from various sides and made 55 revisions. 

The whole process, from the initiation to the publication of the 14th Five-year Plan, was one of integrating informed, democratic and law-based decision-making. It was a concrete interpretation of the very essence of whole-process people's democracy. The practice of translating the Party's initiative to people's programme embodies the Party's leadership, people's status as masters of the country and law-based governance. It reflects in a most concrete way the character and nature of socialist democracy with distinctive Chinese features.

Q: China's National People's Congress (NPC) is the highest organ of state power. How does the system of people's congresses play its role? 

A: The system of people's congresses is China's fundamental political system. It provides important institutional support to whole-process people's democracy. People's congresses are committed to the full integration of upholding CPC leadership with reflecting people's will and safeguarding their interests. The constitutional principle that all power of the state belongs to the people is always adhered to. People's congresses at all levels are elected through a democratic process, accountable to the people and subject to public oversight. State organs at all levels are created by, accountable to and subject to oversight by people's congresses. Legislation and oversight are two important powers that the Constitution entrusts to people's congresses. 

China has been strengthening the orderly political participation by the people. Their right to vote is guaranteed in accordance with the law. Their rights of information, participation, expression and scrutiny are reflected in all aspects and the whole process of the work of the people's congresses. This ensures that the people's voice is heard by the Party and the State at all stages of governance ranging from decision-making, implementation to supervision.

The election of deputies to people's congresses is an embodiment of whole-process people's democracy. According to the Constitution, all citizens of China who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election. The deputy representation in people's congresses follows the principle of equality of citizens, regions and ethnic groups. The elected deputies exercise the power of the State on behalf of the interests and will of the people. They are also subject to the scrutiny of their voters and electoral units. 

The legislative work of people's congresses represents the interests of the people. Committed to the principle of fairness and justice, people's congresses aim to act in both the fundamental interests of the broadest majority of the people and the particular interests of various groups of people. Opinions on legislative plans and draft laws are solicited from all stakeholders. Deputies to people's congresses directly exercise the legislative power of the State, and the public have ever-expanding access to participating in law-making process and having their voices heard. Local legislative information offices have been established to collect public opinion directly from the public. The mechanism of public access to information of draft legislation continues to improve. 

Oversight of people's congresses reflects people's will. Focused on issues of concern to the people and involving their wellbeing, people's congresses conduct oversight of the government, the supervisory commissions, the people's courts and the people's procuratorates in accordance with the law. Methods of oversight include law enforcement inspection, deliberation of work reports, inquiries and research projects, and new methods are created to increase public participation, including grassroots community meetings, the integration of field inspection, random inspection, questionnaires and online research, and third-party assessment of law enforcement. 

China is committed to ensuring the people's status as masters of the country with a sound institutional framework. The system of people's congresses will be upheld and optimized, and the work of people's congresses in the new era will be strengthened and improved to advance whole-process people's democracy. 

Q: How does China ensure full exercise of democratic rights and the opportunity to voice legitimate aspirations and demands at the community level?

A: The institutions of community-level democracy are crucial to protecting the immediate interests of the people. Democracy at the grassroots in China takes multiple forms, including self-governance through villagers committees in rural areas, residents committees in urban areas and employees congresses in enterprises and public institutions. Through these organizations, the people participate extensively and directly in the management of public affairs. The Constitution, the Organic Law of the Villagers Committees, the Organic Law of the Urban Residents Committees, the Trade Union Law and other laws and regulations contain provisions on the system of democratic self-governance at the grassroots, providing the legal basis and institutional guarantee for community-level democracy.

Through urban and rural organizations for self-governance, the people directly exercise their rights to democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management and oversight, and manage their own affairs by serving the community, undertaking self-education and exercising public scrutiny. 

As of now, urban and rural residents have elected nearly 2.8 million members of the villagers and residents committees. The systems of committee meetings and congresses are improving, and the channels for participation in democratic decision-making are expanding. Grassroots discussions and consultations took flexible and diverse forms through villagers meetings, councils and hearings. Rural villager and urban residents have formulated their codes of conduct, and self-regulation has become more rule-based. Rural and urban communities have established oversight committees to oversee the local affairs; the work to make community affairs more transparent is deepening; democratic appraisal and economic responsibility audit are carried out as a norm.

Across the country, 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government have formulated 35 local regulations concerning democratic management of enterprises. A preliminary institutional framework for democratic management of enterprises has been put in place. The framework is based on employees congress, supplemented by employees committees for democratic management and employees democratic councils, and features open access to enterprise affairs, employees serving as board directors and board supervisors, and negotiation of collective contracts on an equal footing.

Q: How does intra-Party democracy work within the Communist Party of China (CPC)? 

A: The fundamental organizational principle of the CPC is democratic centralism, which integrate centralized leadership with extensive democracy. 

The CPC Central Committee leads by example in stepping up efforts to strengthen intra-Party democracy and improving democratic centralism. The Central Committee solicits opinions from subordinate Party organizations and Party members before making major decisions and plans. Political activities and conduct are strictly regulated within the Party, and criticism and self-criticism is faithfully carried out. Differences of opinion on policy or work are discussed within the Party in pursuit of consensus. 

The democratic rights of Party members are protected. The CPC's advocacy and promotion of democracy is demonstrated first in its application within the Party, with the democratic rights of Party members protected and democracy applied in elections, decision-making, management and oversight. 

Party members enjoy equal status and equal rights in political activities within the Party. They have the right to attend relevant Party meetings and read relevant Party documents, the right to participate in discussions on issues concerning Party policies and make suggestions and proposals regarding the work of the Party, and the right to participate in voting and stand for election. Views are expressed freely at Party meetings, and deliberations over differences of opinion are encouraged. 

The Party's major decisions and plans are made after soliciting opinions from Party members extensively. The system of collective leadership is adhered to within the Party which is combined with individual responsibility based on the division of work in Party committees at all levels. Major issues of the Party are discussed collectively and decisions are made with the minority deferring to the majority. This process follows the principles of collective leadership, democratic centralism, pre-meeting reflection and meeting-based decision-making.

The intra-Party election system has been improving. Delegates to Party congresses and members of Party committees at all levels are elected and represent the will of the electorate. The opinions of Party members from all walks of life and the general public are widely solicited and reflected. Direct elections are held by most primary-level Party organizations.

Continuous efforts have been made to strengthen internal oversight, focusing on leading Party organs and Party members in leadership positions, particularly those holding principal positions in leadership teams. In the selection and appointment of officials, democratic recommendation and appraisal is a basic step and an essential requirement. 

As the CPC is the governing party, its progress in intra-Party democracy exerts an important and positive influence on the political, social and economic affairs of the country. This has significantly advanced the people's democracy. 

Q: How to evaluate whether a country is democratic or not and whether its democracy is effective or not?

A: There is a saying in English that "the proof of the pudding is in the eating". In China, there is a similar saying that "only the wearer of the shoes knows if they fit or not." 

Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has pointed out:"The best way to evaluate whether a country's political system is democratic and efficient is to observe whether the succession of its leaders is orderly and in line with the law, whether all the people can take part in the management of state and social affairs and economic and cultural undertakings in conformity with legal provisions, whether the public can express their requirements without hindrance, whether all sectors can efficiently participate in the country's political affairs, whether national decision-making can be conducted in a rational and democratic way, whether people of high caliber in all fields can be part of the national leadership and administrative systems through fair competition, whether the governing party is in charge of state affairs in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and whether the exercise of power can be kept under effective restraint and supervision."

Democracy is not a decorative ornament, but an instrument for addressing the issues that concern the people. Whether a country is democratic depends on the following:

whether its people are truly the masters of the country; 

whether the people have the right to vote, and more importantly, the right to participate extensively; 

whether they have been given verbal promises in elections, and more importantly, how many of these promises are fulfilled after elections; 

whether there are set political procedures and rules in state systems and laws, and more importantly, whether these systems and laws are truly enforced; 

whether the rules and procedures for the exercise of power are democratic, and more importantly, whether the exercise of power is genuinely subject to public scrutiny and checks.

If the people are awakened only to cast a vote but become dormant afterwards, that is no true democracy. If the people are offered great hopes during electoral campaigning but have no say afterwards, that is no true democracy. If the people are offered fulsome promises during electoral canvassing but are left empty-handed afterwards, that is no true democracy. Democracy is the right of the people of every country, not the prerogative of a few countries.

Democracy is also the common value of humanity, but it can take different forms according to different national conditions. There are ample facts which show that one model or one size does not fit all. 

Whether a country is democratic should be judged by its people, not dictated by a handful of outsiders. Whether a country is democratic should be acknowledged by the international community, not arbitrarily decided by a few self-appointed judges. Assessing the myriad political systems in the world against a single yardstick and examining diverse political structures in monochrome are in themselves undemocratic.

Q: How can foreign enterprises, experts and international institutions participate in policy consultation in China?

A: In China, there are open and smooth channels for foreign enterprises, experts and international institutions to participate in policy consultation. Every year, Chinese leaders hold seminars with foreign experts and roundtables as well as other forms of dialogue and exchange with heads of international institutions and foreign entrepreneurs. Government departments at all levels also host various seminars and forums where executives of multinational corporations, senior staff members of international institutions and foreign scholars and experts are invited to share opinions and advice on Chinese government work. Through these channels, Chinese leaders and government departments carry out forthright communication and dialogue with foreign enterprises, experts and international institutions. 

There are also sound mechanisms. The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs at the central government level and the foreign expert committees set up by many government departments and mechanisms with official participation work with a wide range of foreign experts, scholars and entrepreneurs. In non-governmental sector, many Chinese think tanks providing long-term policy advice to the central and local governments engage a large number of foreign researchers. These mechanisms help pool the wisdom of various sides and include their opinions and suggestions in the policy making of the government.

In legislative actions concerning foreign investment and other important issues, the reasonable concerns and suggestions from foreign enterprises are fully respected and listened to. For example, during the legislative review process of the Foreign Investment Law, which took effect last year, the Chinese government solicited opinions and suggestions from foreign enterprises and chambers of commerce multiple times. Many of these opinions and suggestions were included to varying degrees into the final text of the law. Such efforts have been highly appreciated by foreign enterprises and strengthened their confidence in China's business environment.

China always believes that it is in the interest of rational and democratic decision-making to invite foreign enterprises, experts and international institutions to share their views on major issues concerning China's economic and social development and modernization. This is in line with the trends of domestic and international development, and it helps build consensus, pool wisdom and strength, and advance high-quality development in China.

Q: What's your comment on the "Summit for Democracy" to be hosted by the United State this month?

A: By hosting the "Summit for Democracy", the US is making itself a judge of which country is "democratic" and which is not. This is a typical manifestation of the Cold War mentality, which will only stoke up ideological confrontation and dispute in the world and create new rifts. The Chinese side firmly opposes such an act.

The US has no moral authority or legitimacy to host the "Summit for Democracy". The country's democracy is in a disastrous state. Relevant survey show that 44% of respondents around the world see the US as the biggest threat to democracy globally and 81% of Americans say there is a serious domestic threat to the future of US democracy. Having gone over its credit limit, the "US-style democracy" is already bankrupt. 

However, the US is using democracy to cover up its interference in other countries' domestic affairs, infringements upon their sovereignty and violations of the basic principles of international law and basic norms governing international relations. Its hosting of the "Summit for Democracy" is neither justified nor legitimate, but merely an old trick of shifting its domestic problems overseas. This won't cure its domestic disease.

The US hosting of the "Summit for Democracy" is in fact a move against democracy. Whether a country is democratic or not should be judged by its own people, not by any meddling foreign country. The yardstick of democracy should be whether or not it is consistent with people's needs and gives the people the sense of participation, satisfaction and fulfillment. The US, however, is determining which countries are democratic and which are not based on its own likes and dislikes. It is gauging the merits of other countries' democracy against its own yardstick. This is an attempt to "privatise" democracy and it is a betrayal of the democratic spirit. Nothing could be more undemocratic.

The US hosting of the "Summit for Democracy" is an act of pseudo-democracy. Democracy is a common value of humanity. Countries should not only advocate democracy at home but also support greater democracy and rule of law in international relations and uphold the UN-centered international system and the international order based on international law. The US is using democracy as a pretext to divide the world into opposing camps. Its true intention is to weaponize democracy and use it as a tool to advance its geo-strategic agenda and its hegemony in the guise of democracy.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the end of the Cold War. The US hosting of the "Summit for Democracy" is a dangerous move that might rekindle the Cold War mentality. The international community should be on high alert. Visionary people from all walks of life should join hands to reject anti-democratic and pseudo-democratic acts to safeguard international solidarity and cooperation, and advance world peace and development.