China fully committed to democracy
Updated: 2011-12-09 08:35
Dong Yunhu, vice-minister of the State Council Information Office, delivered a speech at the fourth Bali Democracy Forum on Thursday. Text below:
I am very glad to have this opportunity to attend the fourth Bali Democracy Forum. Today, state leaders and experts from different countries gather together at Bali, the beautiful "Flower Island," to share experiences and exchange views of developing democracy, and explore ways to promote the democratic development of our own countries. It carries great significance in this era, when the world focuses its attention on Asia and is generally optimistic about the prospects for its development. First of all, I would like to express my heart-felt thanks to the Indonesian government for its kind invitation and thoughtful arrangements, and extend my warm congratulations to the success of this forum.
Democracy is a significant achievement during the progress of human society and an important symbol of modern civilization. It is not only the common pursuit of people all over the world, but also the important goal of the revolution, construction, reform and development of China. For more than 100 years in modern times, the Chinese people had indomitably fought against imperialism and feudal autocracy to achieve national liberation and democracy for the people. In 1949, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Chinese people won a great victory in the New Democracy Revolution, founded the People's Republic of China and realized their rights as masters of the country. After the founding of New China, the Chinese government and its people went through all kinds of hardships and setbacks to explore ways to build and develop socialist democracy in such a big oriental country, at the time poor and underdeveloped. Since the reform and opening up, the Chinese government and its people, based on the country's unique situations, have unswervingly advanced reforms in both its economic and political structure. Continuously improving the democratic system and enriching the forms of democracy, we have actively promoted democracy in the country's political and social life. We expanded citizens' orderly political participation and successfully blazed a path of development for socialist political democracy with Chinese characteristics. We have infused vigorous vitality for China's peaceful rise.
China's political democracy, adhering to the universal value and the basic principles of democracy, has distinct Chinese characteristics.
First, China's democracy is the people's democracy, that is, people are masters of the country. The essence of China's socialist democracy is that the people are masters of the country. According to the Constitution, 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. Having a unicameral legislature the National People's Congress China did not adopt the system with the separation of three branches or a two-chamber parliament democracy. The National People's Congress is the highest organ of state power. All administrative, 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 people's congresses exercise the powers of legislation, supervision, appointment and removal of officials, and make decisions on major issues; the administrative organs are responsible for implementing laws, resolutions and decisions adopted by the people's congresses, and courts and procuratorates, in accordance with the laws, exercise the judicial and procuratorial power independently and respectively. The National People's Congress and the local people's congresses at various levels are constituted through democratic elections. They are responsible to the people and subject to their supervision. Deputies to the people's congresses at the county and township level are directly elected by their constituencies; deputies to the people's congresses above the county level are elected by the people's congresses at the next lower level. Deputies to the people's congresses at various levels come from different ethnic groups, industries, social strata and parties. They hence have a broad representation of the society. In practice, it has been proven that the people's congress system is China's fundamental political system to ensure the people's position as masters of the country.
Second, China's democracy is to implement the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC. In addition to the CPC, there are eight other political parties in China: Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang, China Democratic League, China Democratic National Construction Association, China Association for Promoting Democracy, Chinese Farmers and Workers Democratic Party, China Zhi Gong Party, Jiu San Society and Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League. The system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC is a political party system with distinct Chinese characteristics, which was established and has been developed during the long-time cooperation between the CPC and eight other democratic parties in the course of the Chinese revolution, construction and reform. It's different from both the two-party or multi-party competition system and the one-party system practiced in some countries. Its salient characteristics are: multi-party cooperation under the leadership of the CPC, with the CPC holding power and the democratic parties participating fully in state affairs. The eight democratic parties are close friends of the CPC. They unite and cooperate with the latter in their participation in state affairs, instead of being opposition parties or out-of-power parties. The CPC takes a leading role in the country's political principle, political orientation, and major policies and programs. These democratic parties participate in the exercise of state power, the consultation in fundamental state policies and the choice of state leaders, the administration of state affairs, and the formulation and implementation of state policies, laws and regulations. They also exercise democratic supervision over the work of the party in power and the state organs through diversified channels and means. As a basic political system with people's democracy, the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC is not adversarial or competitive like the one in Western countries, but collaborative and consultative. It can achieve wide political participation of the democratic parties, mass organizations and people of all walks of life, and promote the scientific and democratic decision-making of the party in power and the governments at all levels. Moreover, it can avoid both the problem of insufficient supervision common under one party rule, and political chaos and a lack of stability and unity that may be caused by the disputes and strife among several parties.
Third, China's democracy is based on equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China's ethnic groups. China is a unified multi-ethnic country. Besides Han, there are 55 ethnic minority groups. In order to guarantee equal rights among all ethnic groups and special interests of ethnic minorities, China practices the system of regional ethnic autonomy in areas where people of ethnic minorities live in compact communities. There, government organs are established to exercise the autonomous rule. China currently has 155 ethnic autonomous areas, including five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties (banners). In addition, there are 1,173 townships where ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities. According to law, ethnic minorities not only enjoy equal rights to participate in the administration of state affairs, but also have the exclusive right to govern the local affairs of their ethnic groups and other affairs within their respective administrative regions. The ethnic autonomous areas have the power to formulate autonomous regulations and separate regulations on the basis of the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the local ethnic group(s). Where certain provisions of the laws and administrative regulations are concerned, adaptation may be made in autonomous regulations and separate regulations. They also have the power to independently arrange, manage and develop the local economic, social and cultural undertakings. The head of an ethnic autonomous area shall be a citizen of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. The country provides special support in terms of policy, capital and personnel, speeds up the economic, social and cultural development in ethnic minority areas, and ensures all ethnic groups have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, have the freedom to preserve or change their own folkways and customs, and enjoy the freedom of religious beliefs. In practice, it has been proven that the system of regional ethnic autonomy is a significant system to guarantee that all ethnic groups work together for their common development and prosperity.
Fourth, China's democracy is to practice extensive self-governance at the grassroots level. The grassroots democratic self-governance system is the most effective and widely-used way for the people to directly exercise their democratic rights and realize their positions as masters of the country. China has now established a grassroots democratic self-governance system, which mainly includes the rural villagers' committee, the urban neighborhood committee and the conference of workers and staff in business organizations. In these grassroots mass organizations of self-governance in urban and rural areas, the Chinese people directly exercise their legal rights of democratic election, democratic decision-making, democratic management and democratic supervision, so that they can manage the public affairs and welfare undertakings of their grassroots organizations and communities by themselves. This is a great achievement during the development of China's political democracy. In particular, it has become the most direct and widely-used democratic practice in contemporary China to successfully implement villagers' self-governance in rural areas with a total population of around 700 million. That has greatly aroused the enthusiasm of the masses living in rural areas and enhanced their creativity and sense of responsibility.
Fifth, China's democracy is to implement the rule of law. It is an important principle for China's building of political democracy to integrate the people's status as masters of the country and the rule of law. Since the reform and opening up, China has been adhering to the basic strategy of governing the country according to law, actively promoting the building of a socialist country under the rule of law, continuously improving the legal system to guarantee people's democratic rights, and making great efforts to bring all work of the state under the rule of law. By pushing forward the institutionalization, standardization and proceduralization of political democracy, China has strode ahead on the road of democracy and the rule of law, and opened up a new realm in the development of human political civilization. Now, the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics has been established, with the Constitution reigning supreme and the laws, administrative and regional regulations at various levels as the major components. There are laws to abide by not only for carrying on state affairs and social life, but also in legislation, judicial, governance and administration activities. The system of people's democracy is hence under reliable legal protection.
Sixth, China's democracy is to put people first, respect and safeguard human rights. Respecting and safeguarding human rights is the important content and purpose of China's political democracy. Since the reform and opening up, the Chinese government has embraced respecting and safeguarding human rights as one of the major principles for managing state affairs, applied it to the various fields of economy, politics, culture and social construction, and continuously promoted the development of its human rights protection and modernization. Especially, during this new century, the principle of respecting and safeguarding human rights has been enshrined in China's Constitution and the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. China has been the first among the world powers to promulgate and implement a national plan on human rights protection, the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010). The plan promotes the all-round development of its human rights. Now, China is drafting a new national human rights action plan for the period from 2012 to 2015, the second of its type in China. For more than 30 years, the nation's poverty-stricken population has been reduced by more than 200 million. The overall living standard of the Chinese people has completed two historical leaps, from poverty to subsistence, and then to being well-off. With an average life expectancy of up to 73 years, all Chinese people have gained dignity and more freedom to lead their lives in their own ways.
From the practices of China's building of political democracy, we have obtained the following implications:
First, the development of democracy must hold on to and always adhere to the essence of democracy. There are various definitions for democracy, among which the most fundamental, I think, is that the government should follow the will of its people and act according to the will and requirements of most people. This is the essence of democracy, and also the touchstone to judge and examine whether a political system is democratic. If a government, against the interests and requirements of the majority, acts according to the will of a minority and implements its "democracy" in a variety of dazzling yet superficial forms, it will not be democracy in the true sense. The greatest characteristics and advantage of China's building of democracy is that the CPC and the Chinese government have always been committed to realizing the fundamental interests and requirements of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. In semi-colonial and semi-feudal old China, the Chinese people's greatest wish was to realize national independence, national liberation and people's democracy. The CPC has led the Chinese people to fulfill this wish and requirement, and hence won their support. After the founding of New China, the Chinese people's greatest wish and requirement was to get rid of poverty and backwardness, bring the people wealth and the country strength. The CPC and the Chinese government have led the Chinese people to continuously explore and successfully blaze a development path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The country has hence achieved the rapid economic and social development, people's life has been greatly improved and the comprehensive national power and worldwide influence has significantly increased. Step by step, the Chinese people's century-old dream is coming true, and therefore the CPC and the Chinese government are supported by most people. According to the 2008 survey on the public's levels of satisfaction with their own government by the Pew Research Center, among 24 participating nations, the Chinese people expressed the greatest level of satisfaction with 86 percent being satisfied with the way things were going in China. Also, they were the most satisfied with their country's current economic situation 82 percent say the economy is good.
Second, the development of democracy must be customized to China's own conditions, and we should seek a political development model suitable to the nation's needs. Both history and recent experiences show that the development of democracy is restricted by historical, social, economic and cultural factors in various countries. Due to their different historical backgrounds, cultural traditions and development levels, they tended to adopt different models to achieve democracy. There is no universal model of democracy in the world. Only based on its own history and unique conditions can one country explore a development model of democracy suitable to its own situations, so that the country and its people would be full of vitality. It's very harmful to ignore the objective reality and copy the model of democracy from other countries. China's democracy is effective, because it not only fully draws on the achievements of human political civilization, but is rooted in the Chinese nation's traditions in culture and knowledge for thousands of years. It was created by the Chinese people according to China's unique conditions, during their great works of striving for national independence, people's liberation and the country's prosperity. China is the biggest developing country in the world. Due to its large population, inadequate resources per capita, underdeveloped economy, aged culture, imbalanced development and other basic characteristics, the country for a long time faced a tough task of going through the modernization, which it only took decades to match what developed countries achieved in a hundred year or even hundreds of years. China needs a strong government to carry out its plans and push forward modernization. It needs to safeguard stability and unity for its development and mobilize the masses to bring their initiative and creativity into full play. Just based on this reality, China has found its own democracy, feathered with a unicameral legislature the National People's Congress, the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, the system of regional ethnic autonomy and the grassroots democratic self-governance system. They all meet the needs of development for contemporary China and the requirements for the people's democratic participation, and embody the Chinese traditional culture which advocates harmonious cooperation and the basic spirit of "harmony but not uniformity." Such a model of democracy guarantees a strong system for China's modernization.
Third, the development of democracy must adhere to reform and innovation, gradual and orderly development. Democracy is a continuously developing historical process. It cannot be achieved in one go, nor can it stray from the objective reality, or surpass or lag behind stages of social development. China's experiences have proven that its building of political democracy must adapt to continuous changes of the economic and social development, as well as the people's continuously growing enthusiasm and level for political participation. China must continuously study new situations and problems with the spirit of reform and innovation, explore and create the new mechanism and means to realize democracy, and promote its orderly political development in accordance with the rule of law. Like China's modernization, its building of political democracy is now in the development stage. It faces many problems and challenges, and needs to be improved and developed through further reform and innovation. China will adhere to taking the path of political development under socialism with Chinese characteristics, and carry out political restructuring in an active yet prudent manner. By further improving systems, enriching forms and broadening channels, it will expand citizens' orderly political participation at various levels and in different fields, mobilize and organize the people on the largest scale to manage state and social affairs and economic and cultural undertakings according to law. It will continuously improve and develop the system of political democracy, and make due contributions to the development of human political civilization.
For a long time, developing countries have been making great efforts and paying a huge price to seek the model of democracy suitable for them. Encouragingly, some emerging countries, based on their countries' own unique conditions, have actively drawn on the helpful experience of developed countries and strived hard to explore the path and model of democratic development with their own characteristics. They have made remarkable achievements and accumulated rich experience. When advocating for democracy, the international community should take into consideration the experience and contributions of both developed and developing countries. Especially, adequate consideration should be given to the actual conditions of developing countries, their exploration for development of democracy, their efforts, contributions and valuable experience. The international community should listen more to the voices of developing countries. It does not conform to the spirit of democracy if a small number of developed countries hold a dominant control of democratic discourse and interpretation. The Bali Democracy Forum provides an important platform for countries with various cultural backgrounds and in different stages of development to hold dialogues and discussions on the issue of democracy. This is a good first step.
We have come into an information age. The development of the Internet has greatly changed the human society, people's mode of production, lifestyle, way of thinking, as well as means of communication and government administration. It not only provides a wider space for people from various countries to enjoy their rights to be informed, to be heard, to participate and to supervise, but also poses daunting challenges for the political development of both developing and developed countries. The information age calls for innovation of the concept and system of democracy, and urges all countries to strengthen cooperation and seek political development.
China is willing to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with other countries in the world. We can learn from each other and join hands to explore and push forward the new progress of political democracy in the information age, and make unremitting efforts to build a harmonious world with lasting peace and common prosperity.
(China Daily 12/09/2011 page9)