'People' is clearly engraved on China’s whole-process people’s democracy
Published: Mar 24, 2023 10:16 PM
Deputies to the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) walk towards the Great Hall of the People for the opening meeting of the first session of the 14th NPC in Beijing on March 5, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

Deputies to the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) walk towards the Great Hall of the People for the opening meeting of the first session of the 14th NPC in Beijing on March 5, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

Editor's Note:

When the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the 20th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China met with Chinese and foreign journalists in Beijing on October 23 last year, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, emphasized that "On the journey ahead, we shall always act for the people and rely on them in everything we do." It once again demonstrated Xi's deep feelings for the people. Adhering to "putting people first" has been vividly reflected in the practice of governing the country in the new era for 10 years. In this series, the Global Times selected the opinions from several experts and scholars to conduct in-depth discussions from multiple perspectives of this topic. This is the third article of this series. 

The annual two sessions are a great event in China's political life, as well as a vivid embodiment of the whole-process people's democracy. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, pointed out in the report of the 20th CPC National Congress that "Whole-process people's democracy is the defining feature of socialist democracy; it is democracy in its broadest, most genuine, and most effective form." As a major summary of the theory and practice of Chinese democracy, the whole-process people's democracy is also China's answer to the chaos of the West and the confusion of Western democracy.

Alienation of Western democracy beefs up worldwide political dilemma

In the more than 30 years since the end of the Cold War, the word "democracy" has been wantonly abused by US and other Western politicians as well as media elites. They have coined terms, such as "democratic peace theory" and "democratic alliance," and boasted tones, such as "the end of history" and the universalism of freedom and democracy, creating a large amount of ideological haze and academic bubbles internationally. This has become one of the theoretical scourges of the world's unrest in recent years.

In this process, the US has taken the lead in instrumentalizing and weaponizing democracy. But today, US politics itself is in deep trouble. The Capitol riots in January 2021 fully exposed the chaos of US-style democracy. The event has also pushed political differences, power struggles, and interest disputes to the extreme, deeply tearing apart the US political elite and the public. During this period, US political, media, and intelligence circles attacked each other; power constraints turned into chaotic decision-making and mutual constraints; political party competition turned into mutual vetoes, and the US-style "beacon of democracy" fell into an unprecedented democratic dilemma and political quagmire. This has also resulted in some US allies on the other side of the Atlantic being discouraged, and they can't hide their disappointment with US-style democracy.

The impact of the populist wave, combined with inherent genetic defects, has led to the foundation of Western-style democracy represented by the US being shaken. The "city upon a hill," once proud by Americans, is now being devoured by "democracy," infected with political viruses. It has been witnessed the degeneration of the Western-style democratic model, characterized by one-person-one-vote, multi-party competition, and the separation of powers, as it presents various political chaos, such as election manipulation and veto showdown. The alienation of Western-style democracy is considered to be the main political root of the current systemic crisis in Western society.

The profound law of political development across the world proves that democracy is historical and developmental, and no country can claim to be the sole authority of democracy and turn democracy into a tool for wantonly suppressing other countries. Democracy is growing and diverse, and no country in the world can monopolize it or turn it into a pathogen that forcibly exports "democracy" overseas by labeling and standardizing it.

Developing democracy must rely closely on the people

People around the world have witnessed the failure of Western-style democracy, the sicknesses of Western society, and the failure of exporting democracy. In the face of the chaos of Western-style democracy and various crises, an increasing number of people across the world have begun to reflect on the problems of Western-style democracy and seek to break through US-style democratic illusions and escape from the pitfall of Western-style politics. A rising number of wise people are placing the emphasis of the narrative of democratic comparison on practical effectiveness and political efficiency, paying more attention to the quality of democracy.

Democracy should not be an arena of electoral competition. Developing democracy must rely closely on the people. Xi underlined that the people will "always have our back and give us confidence." Just as the Chinese saying goes, "If you can employ the strength of the people, you will be invincible under Heaven; if you can employ the wisdom of the people, no sage will be cleverer than you." Socialist democracy upholds the fundamental interests of the people. Adhering to the whole-process people's democracy can better gather the wisdom and strength of the people into the cause of the Party and the people.

As the essential attribute of socialist democracy, the whole-process people's democracy is established on the basis of the "people's view," which puts people first and implements the people-centered philosophy.

The whole-process people's democracy is integrated into the mass line, the lifeline of the Party. The people's position and the principle of putting the people first are the clear embodiment of the people's view in the new era and the value pursuit of the Party's mass line. The correct view of democracy with the people as the main body is the inheritance and development of the Marxist theory of democracy. It is also because of this that the people's view, the concept of democracy, and the mass line are in line with each other.

The view of democracy in contemporary China is a brand-new view of democracy in today's world. People's democracy is a brand-new form of democracy and a great political creation of the Chinese people. Contemporary China adheres to the correct concept of democracy, overcomes the disadvantages of Western-style democracy with brand new, high-quality, comprehensive development, breaks the paradox of Western-style democratization, overcomes the trap of Western-style democracy and human rights discourse, promotes the shift of the world political agenda, expands the new path of Chinese modernization, and creates a new state of human political civilization.

Whole-process people's democracy is rooted in the people

The Chinese Communists in the new era uphold the determination to work selflessly, live up to the expectations of the people, serve the people, and take on the responsibilities that should be borne. In the new era, behind China's great leap from standing up, growing rich, and becoming strong, the "people" are the logical starting point of historical achievements and the value starting point of historical changes.

The foundation of true democracy lies in the people. In the West, people have the right to vote but not to participate in governance in large numbers; people are only "awakened" when they vote and then enter a "dormant period" after voting - this kind of democracy is inefficient, suspended, and formalistic. Today, Western-style democracy has devolved into a "vote market, election farce, politician show, party casino." In the eyes of Western politicians, there are only "votes and voters." How can there be "people?" In China, however, the Party's foundation, blood, and strength lie in the people. The development of a whole-process people's democracy is based on the fundamental needs and interests of the people.

Only by widely gathering the wisdom of the people and following the will of the people can democratic and scientific decision-making be achieved. Xi once highlighted that no political consideration is more important than the people. Chinese Communists are good at seeking the opinions, needs, and suggestions of the people. Over the past decade and more, they have listened to the opinions and suggestions of the people in top-level design, respected the pioneering spirit of the people in social governance, and fully unleashed the vitality of innovation and creation of hundreds of millions of people in the tide of promoting high-quality development. They embodied the will of the people, protected their rights and interests, and aroused their creative vitality in the process of promoting whole-process people's democracy. The process of millions of people writing the epic and working together to achieve great accomplishments is the best footnote to this.

The quality of democracy depends on people's livelihood. The people-centered democracy in China is not an empty slogan. It is demonstrated in improving people's livelihood, developing people's rights, responding to people's demands, resolving people's concerns, listening to public voices, and gathering people's wisdom. Based on poverty eradication, the CPC has further promoted common prosperity through high-quality development, the optimization of public services, and the alleviation of people's urgent problems.

The level of democracy lies in public opinion. The whole-process people's democracy is essentially a reflection of the interests of the people and popular sovereignty, and the evaluation of a democratic system should also be based on whether the people are satisfied. The CPC has always regarded the mass line as the lifeline and fundamental working line. It has insisted that the development of democracy should be guided by the satisfaction of the people, rather than "putting on a show," let alone comparing to and pleasing other countries. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that "The people's concerns are my concerns, and the people's expectations are my goals." The Chinese Communists deeply understand that what the Chinese people want is upright governance, prosperous life, and a peaceful country.

Democracy in China is of high efficiency and quality. The core of ruling a country is to satisfy people's interests. "Democracy is not a decorative ornament, but an instrument for addressing the issues that concern the people." In the new era, the Chinese Communists "regard the practical results they have done for the people as an important criterion for testing their political achievements."

We should carry forward the spirit of democracy and give full play to public oversight. Public oversight is a classic concept put forward by the CPC in Yan'an, an old revolutionary base in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, and the key to "the Party does everything by relying on the people." In order to continuously improve the working style of the Party and government, maintain the integrity of various organs, prevent the recurrence of bureaucratism, and boost the governance effectiveness, it is crucial to improve the system of public oversight and give full play to public oversight.

In a broad sense, the oversight by people's congresses, non-CPC political parties, the public, and public opinion together constitute a complete democratic oversight system, forming a comprehensive and effective socialist oversight system with Chinese characteristics alongside discipline inspection and supervision. This system supervises both staff and affairs, while investigating cases and regulating working styles. It is not only to monitor the work of the government, but also to oversee the implementation of policies; it carries out the will of the central government, and reflects the will of the people. Public oversight is the precise demonstration, important direction, and practical path of the whole-process people's democracy, which is featured by wide coverage, low cost, and high efficiency.

In short, the development of democracy must be adapted to a country's national conditions, subordinated to the needs of the people, practiced by the masses, and tested by the people. China's new vision and path of democracy, which insists on putting the people at the core, have broken through the previous development model and framework of Western-style democracy. They have greatly advanced the process of political development, thus providing a solid political guarantee and driving force for the comprehensive and coordinated development of Chinese society.

The author is director of the Institute of Political Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn