Real function of the CPPCC
By Liu Shinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-03-12 07:20
The three bills submitted by an industrialist member of the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) triggered heated debate among netizens and media critics across the country.
My impression of the comments was that many people were angered by Zhang Yin "speaking for the rich" while others supported the billionaire entrepreneur who is engaged in the paper-making business. She was applauded for her bravery in deviating from the conventional image of a CPPCC member.
The proponents argued: "Why can't Zhang speak on behalf of her stratum?" They said the CPPCC is where representatives from different social classes voice their opinions that concern them and the groups they represent. They were particularly excited over Zhang speaking about her group's interests, claiming it marked "great progress" in China's political democracy.
Most media critics also focused their commentary on this point rather than on Zhang's bills.
I agree that the CPPCC members' proposals were not banal or devoid of any original ideas. I also feel encouraged at the phenomenon that more and more CPPCC members are making sharp remarks over State affairs in defiance of the traditional "unanimous agreement".
But in the Zhang controversy, I think we should not get lost in the euphoria over "democratic progress" but should consider the new trend of thought on the functions of the CPPCC.
The prevalent point of view among Zhang's proponents was that the CPPCC, which consists of representatives from different socioeconomic groups, is a place where these classes should negotiate with one another to reach some balance in interests sharing.
This is erroneous.
It is correct to allege that members of the CPPCC are influenced, whether knowingly or not, by the interests of the groups they come from, and their remarks and attitudes are, intentionally or involuntarily, tinted with the characteristics of their groups. But acknowledging this does not mean that the CPPCC should be turned into a club where different interests groups blatantly assert their claims and clash, negotiate and compromise with one another for a balance of interests acceptable to all sides.
The CPPCC is an organization in which elite members of various social groups discuss State affairs, put forward suggestions and monitor the government's work. As representatives of the whole society, all their remarks and behavior should be based on the overall interests of the nation, though they are understandably influenced somewhat by their particular groups. They should conscientiously reduce this influence to the minimum.
While Zhang's proponents passionately appealed for her right to speak for her group, the entrepreneur, ironically, said she does not represent any group but speaks for the interests of the nation.
Both Zhang's opponents and proponents must not have read the reports about her bills and her relevant remarks carefully. After a careful study of these remarks, I found that she was really sincere in stating that her bills were drafted in consideration of the nation's highest interests. For instance, her appeal for reducing the progressive tax on personal income was apparently not for her personal interests, for she, as a Hong Kong resident, would not benefit from the reduction. In an interview with a Beijing based newspaper, she said she wanted to protect talented people for the nation.
Her remarks showed that she is an intelligent, responsible social member, true to the criterion of a CPPCC member.
(China Daily 03/12/2008 page9)