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Beijing upholding a democracy that works

2022-10-17 11:40:00 Source:China Daily Author:John Milligan-Whyte
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China has achieved economic and social progress unequaled in speed, size and global impact in world history because it practices "socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics". China explained this in a white paper titled "A Democracy that Works" released on Dec 4, 2021, saying the unique features of "whole-process people's democracy" eliminates the weaknesses of other forms of democracy.

The constitutions of the United States and China both place sovereignty in "the people". The 330 million people in the US and more than 1.4 billion people in China both need to have representatives of "the people" to run governments.

There are different theories and forms of "democracy", though. The US' "liberal democracy", designed to be a plutocracy, and China's "socialist democracy" have different goals and yield different results.

US citizens like to believe their country is a "democracy" and only a system of government like the US' qualifies as a "democracy". They also like to believe a country such as China can become an economic power like the US only if it has a system of government like the US'.

In reality, however, the US is a plutocracy because rich people rule the country. The drafters of the US Constitution designed the US government system to be a plutocracy with limited voting and electoral processes so it would appear to be a "democracy".

The word "democracy" does not appear anywhere in the US Constitution, which was drafted by 55 wealthy men who feared that if the US became a democracy where the poor had the power to elect the government, it would restrict the liberties of "opulent people".

In the US presidential elections of 2000 and 2016 Al Gore and Hillary Clinton received the majority of the popular votes. Yet they failed to become the US president because of the Electoral College voting system the founding fathers included in the US Constitution.

The US has a two-party political and electoral system. But only 1 percent of America's people are rich enough to decide which potential candidates for political office can raise enough campaign funding to be elected in the two parties' primaries and the general elections. As a result, rich and powerful people ensure government policies elected politicians enact are almost always according to their wishes.

Besides, US-style democracy is not focused on adequately benefiting America's poor and middle-class people. That US-style democracy is not working well for all Americans was evident in the 2022 Associated Press survey, according to which 85 percent of the respondents said the US is going in the wrong direction. Worse, the Republican Party, one of the two political parties in the US, has abandoned even the pretense that the US is a "democracy" by refusing to accept the presidential election results if it loses and seeking to limit voting rights.

On the other hand, China has successfully implemented whole-process people's democracy, which has unique features designed to overcome the weaknesses and deficiencies in other theories and forms of democracy.

Furthermore, the Communist Party of China has remained faithful to its founding mission: people-centered policies and serving the people whole-heartedly. China's system of government is designed to meet the needs of the people as a whole, not just the rich and powerful. China's governing system uses a strict process to select, train and continuously evaluate the performance of government officials.

A Harvard University survey found the support for the Party increased from 86 percent in 2003 to 93 percent 2016. The survey report said: "Chinese citizen satisfaction with government has increased virtually across the board. From the impact of broad national policies to the conduct of local town officials, Chinese citizens rate the government as more capable and effective than ever before."

China's whole-process people's democracy has enabled the Chinese economy to grow from $218 billion in 1978 to $17.72 trillion in 2021, creating the world's largest economy in terms of GDP purchasing power parity. And China is estimated to overtake the US to become the world's largest economy in terms of nominal GDP between 2028 and 2033.

The World Bank, acknowledging earlier this year that China has lifted nearly 800 million people out of poverty over the past 40 years, said: "China has contributed close to three quarters of the global reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty."

Indeed, China has demonstrated to the world that socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics can create enormous economic and social benefits for all the people.

The Party's internal consultative processes, and people's congresses and political consultative conferences from the county to the national level, have some overlapping members from across all professions, ethnic groups and parts of China. The unique political consultation system and corresponding institutions provide effective ways for the Chinese people to exercise democracy.

The Party, and the people's congress and political consultation conference systems act as continuous bottom-up and top-down feedback loops identifying the needs of China's more than 1.4 billion people. This not only enables China's political system to benefit from diverse sources of information and feedback and identify peoples' needs, but also ensures the government is accountable to the people.

The time when Americans looked at other countries' governments with a sense of superiority is past. China has built the world's second-largest economy with a system of government profoundly different from the US' and yet it is meeting the needs of all the Chinese people.

So Americans need to respect China's successful socialist government with Chinese characteristics, especially because the world economy's growth and global financial system's stability depend on US-Chinese relations. The world's two largest economies, as well as the plutocratic limited process democracy and whole-process people's democracy, must peacefully coexist for the betterment of the world.

The author is chairman of America-China Partnership Foundation, New York.

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