Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Reform must be incremental

By Yu Keping (China Daily) Updated: 2011-06-11 07:49

Stability is indispensable for China's economic and social development and its shift toward a more democratic society

Over the last 32 years, China has undergone an impressive economic transformation, including an average annual GDP growth of 9.5 percent. It has overtaken Germany and Japan to become the world's second largest economy. In 2008, when the global financial began, China emerged as the counterbalance to failing economies in the West, and achieved a GDP growth of 11.2 percent in 2010.

China's unprecedented economic growth has astonished the world, but the global opinion on its rise has been distorted. Many people in the West are likely to say that China has risen as a new economic power but its political development lags far behind and democracy seems to be non-existent. This is a misunderstanding.

The international community has overlooked China's use of democracy to advance its economic and social development. Direct elections for heads of villages and Party secretaries have been a vital element in the country's transition to a social democracy. Another shift toward a more democratic society is the policy to allow public recommendations and hold direct elections for Party leaders at the township level.

Civil society has been emerging as an increasing force in the country's social and political life. People are no longer prohibited from joining civil organizations. Instead, they are encouraged to participate in greater numbers.

More importantly, human rights have become a basic political value and have been written into the Constitution. Safeguarding the rights of migrant workers, through trade unions, has been another primary focus of social development.

Using the rule of law to establish a government, which is accountable, transparent and committed to service-oriented development, has become fundamental in recent years. Public hearings on matters concerning people's lives are now held across the country.

So what is China's road map for political development?

In China, everything has certain "Chinese characteristics", including its political development. Since China began its political transition, incremental democratic reform based on the need to avoid a disorganized and hasty transition to democracy has been one of its most important factors.

A pluralistic structure of governance, with emphasis on the core value of stability, is critical to the political development of China. The use of rule of law is also an important attribute of China's democratic transition.

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