BEIJING, March 14, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — An interview with Wang Xiaohui, editor-in-chief of China.org.cn, on people’s democracy:
Some international friends have noticed a phenomenon in China’s political system: it seems that the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s supreme organ of state power, often passes legislation and major resolutions with few nays. Sometimes, the vote is even unanimous. Is this real democracy, or is it a “rubber stamp” parliament? Furthermore, in China, the only ruling party — the Communist Party of China (CPC) — exercises leadership over all areas. So, how does it truly reflect the will of the people?
I want to preface this by saying that democracy is a common value of all humankind. Over the past few hundred years of political and social development in Western countries, a representative democracy has formed, featuring parliamentary elections and two-party or multiparty systems.
However, the original intention of all countries in the pursuit of democracy is ensuring the people have a voice and right to participate in governing the country. This means that democracy is a process entailing continuous exploration and development based on national conditions and realities. Moreover, democracy should not and will not have only one system or form.
Over the past 70 years, China has been improving the institutional guarantee system of people’s democracy, and gradually developing a whole-process democracy in national governance. This form of democracy focuses not only on “voting” but also on “sustained and extensive participation.”
Let me share an example with you. In 2020, the NPC adopted the country’s first-ever Civil Code. Before this, during the five-year compilation process, the legislature solicited opinions from the whole of society 10 times, with some 425,000 people providing 1,020,000 opinions.
Moreover, research at the local level is also conducted after each review of the draft sections. For example, in response to property management disputes and other issues of major social concern, the legislative working group held meetings at the community level to solicit opinions from representatives of residents, neighourhood committees and property management staff.
After the full text of China’s draft Civil Code was unveiled, NPC deputies and members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) deliberated and discussed the draft during the “two sessions.” Over 100 revisions were made in accordance with the views from all sides.
“Open-door legislation” and transparent decision-making like this are requirements for the work of China’s legislative and administrative bodies at all levels. The so-called “open-door,” in fact, has two implications. For one, the public can participate in the decision-making process, such as through the solicitation of public opinions and hearing system. Meanwhile, decision-makers are also required to step outside the office, proactively visit the community level, interact with the general public and understand their concerns. Whenever China makes major decisions, it will always conduct research first. These measures allow the public to participate in the decision-making process in an equal and orderly manner, while enabling the government to listen to public opinions and pool their wisdom in a more extensive way.
I’d like to give you another example, which is related to the new round of medicine and healthcare system reforms that China launched in 2009. I want to address this issue because healthcare reform concerns a huge number of stakeholders, affecting the general public as well as pharmaceutical retailers and manufacturers. Government bodies participating in the policy formulation were very divided, and the situation was rather complicated.
So, how should the reforms be carried out? One of the important measures that China took was to negotiate at all levels.
For instance, regarding the reform of public hospitals, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance and the National Development and Reform Commission each had their respective ideas. They would communicate in advance when drafting their own sections, and give priority to consensus on the issues that needed to be resolved most urgently. In terms of unresolved controversial issues, the health reform coordination team would hold interdepartmental meetings to discuss.
In addition, the entire policy preparation process was not held behind closed doors. Decision-making departments conducted independent research on the reform of public hospitals, visited multiple provinces and cities, and met with officials, community-level healthcare staff and ordinary people like workers and farmers. In the meantime, symposiums were also held to include policy experts from home and abroad in the communication and coordination process.
Extensive consultation among the people prior to making major decisions is an important and distinctive form of democracy in China. Consultation means that it is not a simple vote, nor a one-time deal. Instead, through communication and discussion, the views of both the majority and minority are conveyed as much as possible in a bid to reach consensus. As a result, the public are given more opportunity to participate in the policy formulation process, and these policies can be implemented to the greatest extent.
There are many other similar examples.
China introduces tens of thousands of pieces of legislation and policies every year, and each and every one of them is a vigorous practice of whole-process people’s democracy.
Democracy should be concrete rather than abstract, and it should enable the people to truly participate in all aspects of political affairs. China develops whole-process people’s democracy and constantly improves the system of democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management and oversight. All of these aim to give the people the opportunity to participate in the whole process of exercising state power and to let their voices be heard.
Now back to the original question: Why are there few nays in the final voting stage? This is because the interests and aspirations of the vast majority of society have been fully reflected and the broadest consensus has been built throughout the entire policy formulation process.
We Chinese often say, “An issue is best discussed by all parties.” Public issues are discussed by all those involved to reach extensive consensus. This is the essence of people’s democracy.
Of course, no political system in today’s world is perfect. The road ahead is long and we must keep exploring far and wide. Rooted in the 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, the CPC has continued to strive in practice to safeguard the fundamental interests of all Chinese people and meet their wishes for a better life. In this process, the CPC has been pressing ahead with perseverance and staying true to its original aspiration.
The exploratory path of the CPC and the governance practices of other countries will offer inspiration to each other, and together contribute to the political advancement of humankind.
How do the people in China run their own country?
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