“Public opinion preparation” begins for the next CCP session

By David Bandurski — As we approach the next lively session of the 17th CCP Central Committee — this will be the third plenum for any poor soul who’s counting — the process of “preparing public opinion,” or yulun zhunbei (舆论准备), has already begun. Preparing opinion for what, exactly? Well, that’s almost anyone’s guess. [Frontpage Image: Tiananmen Square photographed by Noneck available under Creative Commons license at Flickr].

But a major policy piece in yesterday’s edition of Beijing Daily, and splashed up at top Web portals and newspapers, gives readers a mouthful about political reform, or what is called in Chinese “political system reform,” or zhengzhi tizhi gaige (政治体制改革).

The Beijing Daily piece is written by Li Junru (李君如), the vice president of China’s Central Party School (CCPS), the top training facility for CCP leaders. Directly above Li at CCPS is newly-minted politburo standing committee member and probable Hu Jintao successor in 2012 Xi Jinping (习近平).

One of the CCP’s top academicians, Li Junru is generally seen as a proponent of ideas associated with President Hu Jintao. He has been an active voice in praising the policies of Hu, particularly efforts to promote “intra-party democracy,” or dangnei minzhu (党内民主).

Li’s central point in the Beijing Daily piece is to take issue with the notion that China’s reform up to now has been predominantly economic in nature, and that political reform has waited in the wings. Political reform, Li says, has always been an “integral part” of the overall reform process.

For the moment, we will spare readers an analysis of Li’s points — which again and again elicit the eye-rolling response, “Yes, but . . . ” — and offer the fullest translation we can of the text given time restrictions:

For many years now a certain kind of public opinion has held that reform in China began with economic reforms, that China’s reform has primarily consisted of reforms to the economic system, and that up to now perhaps no political reforms have taken place. This is a misunderstanding.

Everyone is concerned about China’s reform and opening, particularly about political reform (政治体制改革) and the building of democratic politics (民主政治建设), and this is a normal thing to see. Because as an integral part of our country’s overall reform, political reform must deepen along with economic and social development, and it must be steadily promoted as interest in political participation grows among the people. In fact, our party places great priority on this question. We needn’t look to the future, for it was raised at last year’s 17th National Congress that “people’s democracy is the life of socialism,” and the Second Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee said [back in February this year] that we “must lift up even higher the flag of people’s democracy.”

For many years now a certain kind of public opinion has held that reform in China began with economic reforms, that China’s reform has primarily consisted of reforms to the economic system, and that up to now perhaps no political reforms have taken place. This is a misunderstanding. Because the basic fact it fails to recognize is that the reason the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee [in 1978] could raise the task of reform was because that year’s debate over the standard for measuring the truth created an atmosphere of thought liberation and made possible the advancement of democratic politics (民主政治). One need only read Comrade Deng Xiaoping’s essay, “Looking Ahead with Emancipated Minds, a Practical and Realistic Mindset and a Sense of Solidarity,” to have a sense that from the very beginning China’s reforms happened as democratic politics was driven forward. Seeing as ours is a vast nation of more than a billion people, and our party has tens of millions of members, we can expect to have all kinds of opinions. And this determines that carrying out reform and opening and modernization in China without democracy is unfeasible, and not promoting democracy in an orderly manner is also unfeasible.

One important reason why people have had misimpressions about China’s political reform is that we have spent a lot of time researching Comrade Deng Xiaoping’s strategic thinking, but not enough time researching his tactical thinking about leading reforms. When we look at these 30 years of reform and opening we can see that our party has been both strategic and tactical in the process of promoting political reform.

Political reform in China has at least eight methods and characteristics, and these characteristics and methods have already brought profound changes to Chinese society over the last 30 years.

Looking at this from the vantage point of tactics and strategy, political reform in China has at least eight methods and characteristics that deserve our attention and priority:

The first is that [the party] has linked political reform and economic reform, using reforms to the economic system to advance [political reforms]. When the household responsibility system was instituted, for example, this dissolved the people’s communes that had been referred to as one of the “three red flags,” and this brought the set up of organs of political power at the township level – county-level people’s congresses were established, and delegates from the county level down were directly elected by citizens. In fact, over the last 30 years, every advance in economic reforms has been matched with a deepening of political reform, and this process has never halted. Institutional reforms that we have instituted more recently also have this character. This reform process within State Council institutions that people have termed “super-ministry reform” is a major move toward deepening reform of the administrative system; it is a necessary step in developing the socialist market economy, and it is also an integral part of the deepening of political reforms and an important aspect of the development of socialist democracy (社会主义民主). In particular, this [“super-ministry”] reform has great significance for changing the orientation of our government, in working toward a service-oriented, responsible and clean government under rule of law, and in bringing about a mechanism for the mutual checking and coordination of the powers of decision-making, administration and monitoring.

Second is the linking of democracy development and the building of rule of law, emphasizing that democracy must by systematized, have legal sanction and promote the running of state affairs according to the law. Addressing the “Cultural Revolution” mindset equating democracy with anarchy, and the tendency to periodic surges of populism, Deng Xiaoping emphasized early in the reform and opening process that democracy had to be systematized and have legal sanction. Over the past 30 years, we have amended and improved our Constitution, abolishing clauses and regulations that do not accord with the Constitution and the democratic spirit. We have laid out a whole series of laws and regulations, including a Criminal Law, a Civil Law, a Code of Criminal Procedure and a Law of Civil Procedure. We have, moreover, created a system of lawyers, and we have built a fair, efficient and authoritative judicial system, and have carried out judicial reforms with the goal of ensuring that judicial organs and prosecutorial organs carry out trial proceedings independently and in a fair manner as specified by law. A society with thousands of years of autocratic tradition is in the process of changing to a society under rule of law.

Third is the tying of political reform to the respect and protection of human rights, ensuring the whole society’s right to equal participation (平等参与) and right to equal development (平等发展). Ever since the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CCP Central Committee [in 1978] we have been working to set things right, thoroughly correcting the trampling of human rights that has occurred in the past, and undertaking a large-scale rehabilitation of unjust cases. Since reform and opening was instituted, we have not only developed the economy, working hard to ensure citizens’ right to subsistence and right to development, but we have also permitted and supported citizens in taking part in various non-public sectors of the economy, affirming that the political identities of new social strata are “builders for the work of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” We instituted the personal identification system, permitting citizens to freely seek employment including in other domestic areas; we instituted an entry and exit system permitting citizens to go overseas to study or travel. In recent years we have taken further steps to build democratic mechanisms, diversify the forms of democracy, widen the channels for democracy, and have in accordance with the law promoted democratic elections, democratic decision-making, democratic governance and democratic monitoring, working hard to ensure the citizens’ right to know, right to participate, right to express and right to monitor (知情权、参与权、表达权、监督权). These reforms have safeguarded citizens’ human rights, and they have stirred up the vigor and vitality of Chinese society.

Fourth is the linking together of the development of democracy and rule of law and the improvement of grass-roots self-governing institutions, allowing the people to experience first-hand the material benefits of reform. Within China’s political system, the set-up in the countryside and in urban districts and enterprises of village committees, community committees, professional committees and other autonomous peoples’ organizations is a major distinguishing characteristic. Since the onset of the reform and opening policy, we have not only carried out direct elections for village committees and township reform experiments throughout the countryside, but we have also uniformly carried out systems of openness in government affairs and openness in village affairs. We have also made clear strides in the building of communities (社区建设). Moreover, the building of grassroots democracy is now linking up with the project of building a harmonious society, for which improvement of democracy is a focus, and this has found broad support among the masses.

Fifth is the linking together of governance by the ruling party according to the law and the principle of legal participation in the government affairs by parties not in power. Many people probably do not understand what it means that the China democracy parties (中国民主党派) participate in politics. Within our political system, while China’s eight democracy parties and federations of industry and commerce are not political parties, they are parties that participate in government affairs. There are four basic points to this process of participation: 1) participation in government, including serving in leadership positions within the national government; 2) participating in the deciding of state policies and principles and in negotiation for the selection of leaders; 3) participating in the management of state affairs; 4) participating in the formulation and implementation of national principles, policies, laws and regulations. This can be seen particularly in the degree of participation of democracy party delegates and non-party affiliated delegates in the people’s congress, the standing committee of the NPC and in special committees of the NPC. These [changes] were set down in the Central Committee’s 1989 document. Over the last several years, with the support of the ruling party, the role of participating parties in democratic politics in China has grown larger and larger.

六是把党内民主与人民民主结合起来,以党内民主来带动人民民主。中国共产党是一个大党,有7300多万党员,比欧洲一些国家的国民还要多。党要保持先进性,并且在引领全社会的民主政治发展中体现先进性,必须积极推进党内民主。中国共产党已经充分意识到这一问题的重要性和紧迫性。十七大报告在保障党员民主权利、完善党代会制度、严格实行民主集中制、改革党内选举制度等方面,提出了一系列创新的思路和举措。特别是在选拔任用干部问题上,已经废除了终身制,完善了以民主为原则的干部任免制度,给广大德才兼备的从政人员提供了竞聘上岗的机会,等等。这些党内民主举措,也为广大人民群众提供了民主的知情权、参与权和监督权。

七是把党内监督、行政监督、法律监督与公民直接监督结合起来,建立和完善了公民舆论监督和信访制度。十一届三中全会的一大功绩,就是重新建立了中央纪律检查委员会。这几年,在党内监督方面进行了一系列制度创新,并且把党内监督与群众举报结合起来,成效显著。特别是媒体介入监督序列,对于中国民主政治的发展起了很大作用。

八是把选举票决民主与协商民主结合起来,完善了公民有序的政治参与形式。人民通过选举、投票行使权利和人民内部各方面在重大决策之前进行充分协商,尽可能就共同性问题取得一致意见,是我国社会主义民主的两种重要形式。改革开放30年来,中国的选举票决民主不断完善和发展,不仅在公民自治组织的范围内实行了直接选举制度,而且在其它实行间接选举的领域扩大了差额选举,完善了候选人提名方式;特别是在党内民主发展进程中,扩大了基层党组织领导班子成员直接选举和中央、地方党委成员差额选举的范围,实行了候选人无记名投票推荐等民主形式。与此同时,中国的协商民主也在进一步完善和发展。特别是,中国人民政治协商会议这一中国特有的重要民主政治形式,按照政治协商、民主监督、参政议政这三大职能,推动和组织中国各党派、各界别、各民族的政协委员,在党和政府重大决策之前和决策执行过程中,积极参与民主协商、民主监督,很有成效;各级政府也主动实施民主恳谈会、听证会等制度;各人民团体在民主协商中也发挥了积极作用。

应该讲,中国民主政治的这八个方面特点还在发展中,不能说都搞得很好了,但是,这八个方面或者说至少这八个方面,确实是中国政治体制改革的一些具体做法和重要特点,这些做法和特点已经使得中国社会在这30年中发生了极为深刻的变化。那些认为中国只搞经济体制改革,不搞政治体制改革的人,不仅看不到这些基本事实,而且陷入了自身的逻辑悖论。因为他们解释不了,为什么在一个他们认为“高度集权的专制社会”中,会允许公民在市场经济中自由发展,会出现那么成功的市场体系和经济发展。所以,观察和研究中国政治体制改革的特点及其走势,必须立足中国现实,客观地全面地认识中国的改革实践。

-中国的民主政治还刚刚起步,中国的政治体制改革必然还要继续深化

在这里还要强调一点,我们观察中国问题,观察中国的政治体制改革,不仅要观察做了什么,还要从这些已经做的事实中,深入地观察中国政治体制改革和民主政治发展的走势。

作为中国问题的观察者和研究者,我希望大家注意,改革开放以来中国在建设和发展政治文明的过程中出现了三大值得重视的走势:公民有序的政治参与,民主的制度化、法律化,是中国民主政治发展的一大走势;通过党内民主来带动人民民主,是中国民主政治发展的第二大走势;中国共产党在宪法和法律的范围内活动,坚持依法治国、依宪治国,是中国民主政治发展的第三大走势。这三大走势的指向很明确,最终将在中国建立一个坚持中国共产党的领导、人民当家作主和依法治国有机统一的社会主义民主政治体制。

以上是我这几年观察和研究中国政治发展的一些体会。我并不认为中国在民主政治发展方面已经做得很好了,相反,我倒是认为,中国的民主政治还刚刚起步,中国的政治体制改革必然还要继续深化。但是,在中国进行任何一项改革,都必须根据中国的实际,才能健康、有序地发展。我们致力于探索的,应该是、也只能是符合中国的历史和今天国情的,能够真正给中国人民带来安定和幸福的政治体制和民主政治形式。在民主政治的问题上,我们既向人家学习,也不妄自菲薄;既积极推进,也不盲目发展、急于求成。我相信,我们中国人在经济上能够创造出令世人瞩目的奇迹,在政治上也能够创造出既顺应时代发展的进步潮流又具有鲜明中国特色的民主政治体制。

(作者李君如 系中央党校副校长)

FURTHER READING:
New headway with its Party building concept,” China Daily, November 7, 2007
Full text of Hu’s speech to the 17th National Congress, October 24, 2007

[Posted by David Bandurski, September 11, 2008, 4:20pm HK]

2 Comments to ““Public opinion preparation” begins for the next CCP session”

  1. wei says:

    good chanslate

  2. dongdong says:

    Good POST!

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