William Dere


The Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China was  held from November 8 to 15 at the Great Hall of People in Beijing. Hu Jintao was replaced by Xi Jinping as the General Secretary. A significant issue discussed at the Congress was Political Reform. Below are two commentaries (Eds.) 


For those of us who were immersed with Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong  Thought in our political youth are tinged with the principles of “dictatorship of the proletariat” and “democratic centralism”. The question of  “political reforms” requires a fresh approach.


The process of democratic reforms in China has come a long way since the liberation in 1949, given the historical and cultural conditions existing in China. Many of us in the West talk about democracy in the abstract. Democracy in China develops according to the historical and cultural experience of the people. Since liberation, attempts were made to establish grass root democracy at the village and work unit levels. The Cultural Revolution was an exercise in mass democracy that became anarchic. Economic reforms occurred at such a pace that political reforms could not catch up since the CPC spent its efforts in controlling the economic explosions. Now, after 30 years of economic reforms and stability, the CPC feel it is time to address the question of  political reforms, especially the political abuses that have taken place due to the fast pace of economic development.

Political reforms would be taking place through the institutions of the National People’s Congress, as well as at the grass roots levels. There should be multi-candidate elections, reducing the percentage of party cadres voted into the NPC through “equal vote, equal power.” Political reform would also have to take place within the CPC through this new interesting concept of “deliberative democracy”, “a concept in political science that emphasizes societal discourse in decision-making.” How does this compare to the political circus we just saw with the US presidential elections?

The new head of the Party Xi Jinping is putting emphasis on the power of the people and not only on the power of the CPC. Corruption is on everyone’s list to tackle. It remains to be seen how that will be done, since corruption is as old as the Chinese bureaucracy. Nevertheless, the new CPC policy statement is encouraging as China tackles the issue of political reform. For those of us who take a longer view of history, it will be interesting times in China over the next few years.

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