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White paper on political democracy
Updated: 2005-10-19 11:01

With the energetic assistance and support from the state and the more-developed areas, the ethnic autonomous areas have fully exploited their own advantages and maintained a sound situation featured by economic growth, political stability, social progress and harmony between ethnic groups. From 1994 to 2003, the GDP of the ethnic autonomous areas grew by an annual average of 9.87 percent, which was nearly one percentage point higher than the national average. In 1994, the per-capita GDP of these areas was equivalent to 63.5 percent of the national per-capita figure; in 2003, it rose to 66.5 percent. Also in 2003, the local revenue of the ethnic autonomous areas reached 67.4 billion yuan, 3.3 times that of 1994. In the same year, the per-capita GDP in Tibet was 6,871 yuan, equivalent to 75.5 percent of the national per-capita average; and the per-capita GDP in Xinjiang was 9,700 yuan, equivalent to 106.6 percent of the national per-capita average.

The successful implementation of the system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities has enabled the ethnic minorities to manage their own affairs in accordance with the law and participate in the democratic management of state and social affairs. It has also ensured that all ethnic groups in China, whether their populations are big or small, enjoy equal economic, political, social and cultural rights and work together to safeguard national unity and national solidarity and fight against any attempt to split the country and destroy national solidarity, thus form among them harmonious relations characterized by mutual support, mutual help, striving in unison and common prosperity.

VI. Grassroots Democracy in Urban and Rural Areas

Expanding the scope of grassroots democracy is an inevitable trend and the important base for the improvement and development of political democracy with Chinese characteristics. Along with China's development and progress, the scope of grassroots democracy in urban and rural areas has been expanding continuously, with more channels for citizens' orderly political participation and ever-increasing ways to realize democracy.

China has now established a grassroots democratic self-government system, which mainly includes the rural villagers' committee, urban neighborhood committee and the conference of workers and staff in enterprises. In these grassroots mass organizations of self-government 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 has become the most direct and broadest practice of democracy in China today.

(1) Building of Grassroots Political Democracy in Rural Areas

Among China's population of 1.3 billion, over 800 million are rural residents. So, it is an issue of great importance in China's building of political democracy to expand and develop rural grassroots democracy, so that the farmers can fully exercise their democratic rights as real masters in their villages. After years of exploration and practice, the CPC has led the hundreds of millions of Chinese farmers to find, in view of China's realities, an appropriate way to promote the building of grassroots political democracy in rural areas - villagers' self-government.

Self-government by villagers is a basic system by which the broad masses of the rural people directly exercise their democratic rights to run their own affairs in accordance with the law and carry out self-administration, self-education and self-service. Burgeoning in the early 1980s, developed in the 1980s and popularized in the 1990s, this system has become an effective way to develop grassroots democracy and improve the level of governance in rural China.

The Chinese Constitution prescribes the legal status of the villagers' committee as a mass organization of rural grassroots self-government. The Law of the People's Republic of China on Organization of the Villagers' Committee expressly specifies the nature, functions, procedures of establishment, term of service and other issues related to villagers' committees to ensure the healthy development of grassroots democratic self-government in rural areas. The implementing rules of the Law on Organization of the Villagers' Committees and the measures of election of villagers' committees have been enacted or revised in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government on the mainland of China, which provides a more specific legal guarantee for the villagers' self-government.

Democratic election, democratic decision-making, democratic management and democratic supervision are the major contents of villagers' self-government.

- Democratic election. Villagers can directly elect or dismiss members of the villagers' committees according to the Constitution and the Law on Organization of the Villagers' Committee. A villagers' committee is composed of three to seven members, including the chairperson and vice-chairpersons. Each committee serves a term of three years. In the process of election, the candidates of the committee members are nominated and voted for directly by the villagers, and the election results are declared on the spot to ensure that the election is just, open and fair. The villagers are enthusiastic about these elections and, according to incomplete statistics, the average participation rate in such elections is above 80 percent in rural China, with some places even boasting over 90 percent. By the end of 2004, some 644,000 villagers' committees had been established throughout the country, with most of the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government having elected their fifth or sixth committees.