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Consultative Democracy at the Local Level

2018-03-01 15:29:00 Source:China Today Author:LI YUAN
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By staff reporter LI YUAN
THE Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) constitutes an important form of democracy in China. In the new era, local CPPCC committees are taxing their brains to find effective ways to bring the role of CPPCC members in consultative democracy into full play. They have explored new channels for CPPCC members to perform their duties and devised new systems to make the people’s political consultative system be well carried out at the local level. 
Extending the Consultative Democracy to the Grassroots
On June 25, 2017, a consultation session of CPPCC members sponsored by the CPPCC Shenzhen Municipal Committee and organized by the CPPCC Yantian District Committee was held in the central book mall of Shenzhen’s Futian District. It revolved around the topic “what can we do for people in Shenzhen’s healthcare field?” Local CPPCC members put forward their suggestions concerning building a medical environment proportional to the city’s economic level.
A consultation session of CPPCC members is held in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province concerning health and elderly care industries on August 20, 2017.
During the consultation session, which was totally open to the public, when the CPPCC members had their discussion on the stage, the audience could be engaged into the discussion by raising their signs of “agree” or “disagree.” The prepared signs are available for each seat. The whole discussion session was exposed to visitors to the book mall. Anyone who was interested in the session could stop for spectating. The distinctive form of political consultation has operated for nearly four years in Shenzhen. Being free and open is its defining feature.
Xi Jinping’s report delivered at the 19th CPC National Congress stressed, “The essence of the people’s democracy is that the people get to discuss their own affairs.” The CPPCC members’ consultation sessions in Shenzhen have allowed wide engagement of experts, governmental departments, and the general public by providing a platform via which the public can learn more about the issues that concern them from diverse perspectives, and the local government can get direct information about people’s needs and demands. Thus the people’s democracy is realized through widely-participated consultation.
As the core participants of the consultation sessions, the CPPCC members rack their brains to find a way to communicate with the public well. Those members believed the new form of political consultation has laid a higher requirement on their professional competence. In the past, they mainly did their jobs by writing proposals, participating in symposiums, investigation, and inspections, but now they need to face the public directly, which makes it necessary for them to give explanations and advice to the public in plain language.
According to Xie Songquan, an official with the CPPCC Shenzhen Municipal Committee, valuing the opportunity to directly express their professional opinions to the public, the CPPCC members have all taken consultation sessions seriously and prudently. They usually do a lot of preparation work in advance, trying to get an adequate understanding of the issue in discussion. Their on-site elucidation of opinions is often supported by specific cases and figures, both professional and persuasive. Several CPPCC members indicated that the consultation sessions not only provided a new channel for their participation in the administration and discussion of state affairs, but offered a platform for their self-improvement as those sessions require them to get a comprehensive understanding of the issues concerned and their sustained attention to the topics. 
Close to People’s Livelihood
The practices of consultative democracy at the grassroots level have not only built a platform for consultation with the people, but shown their clear direction of serving the people in their selection of topics and implementation of CPPCC members’ suggestions which are in line with people’s interests.
On May 11, 2017, a consultative activity about renovating old communities to make them more senior-friendly is organized by the CPPCC Haidian District Committee in Beijing.
The CPPCC Haidian District Committee in Beijing took the lead in the country to establish a biweekly consultation forum system. By leveraging its strength in high-level human resources, Haidian committee has shaped the system into an important regular platform for political consultation featuring wide participation, specific topics, deep discussion, and fruitful results. 
On September 4, 2017, on the scene of Haidian’s consultation forum themed “Haidian District’s position in optimization of industrial structure,” when the clock ticked away the session hours and the secretary of the CPC Haidian District Committee was about to start his conclusion speech, participants still wanted to linger around the topic for a little more. “As it’s a key topic in the new situation, the attendees have all made a good preparation and delved into it quite deeply. This made today’s discussion exceptionally hot,” Chairman of the CPPCC Haidian District Committee, also host of the session Fu Shouqing claimed the attention of participants, “Don’t be worried! Today’s forum is just a beginning. Our committee will continue to establish platforms for you to offer advice and suggestions. I believe we’ll finally submit a satisfying proposal on the topic to the CPC Haidian District Committee and the government.”
According to Fu, via the biweekly consultation forum, Haidian’s CPPCC members have contributed to the development of Haidian’s winter sports and the construction of related venues, the establishment of a kindergarten mainly for recruiting kids of ethnic minorities in Haidian, the advancement of traditional Chinese culture education in elementary and middle schools, and the development of ecological and leisure tourism in the big Western Hill area, to name a few.
A collection and donation event about historical documents is given on August 1, 2017 by the CPPCC Haidian District Committee.
Close to people’s lives, the topics for democratic consultation have sparked ordinary citizens’ passion for participation in discussion and riveted the public’s attention.
Echoing the statement in Xi Jinping’s report delivered to the 19th CPC National Congress “to ensure the people’s broad, continuous, and intensive participation in day-to-day political activities,” local committees of the CPPCC are pioneering a new model featuring wide, multilevel consultation with the people and for the people via such innovative activities as biweekly consultation forum and CPPCC members delivering speeches and communicating with citizens in residential communities. 
Allowing Diverse Voices Heard
The practices of consultative democracy don’t just involve the CPPCC members and ordinary citizens, but also related governmental departments, which play a sizable role in the process.
On October 20, 2017, the CPPCC Haidian District Committee convenes its 2017 state affair discussion meeting.
Responding to problems in Shenzhen’s medical field such as insufficient and unevenly distributed medical resources, lack of a local medical college and lack of a platform supported by high-caliber professionals, the CPPCC members held a consultation session themed “what can we do for people in Shenzhen’s healthcare field,” Zhang Hong, vice director of Shenzhen Emergency Center, said, “I can assure you that local community health service centers are addressing or have already solved some problems.” According to Zhang, as long as the medicine needed is listed in the catalogue of health insurance, it can be ensured that within 24 hours the medicine can be delivered to the community residents. To offer excellent healthcare by professionals at the community level, medical experts from tertiary hospitals are encouraged to provide outpatient services in community health service centers. Then without setting foot out of the community, residents can enjoy quality medical services offered by prominent doctors in large hospitals. A witness of Shenzhen’s medical reform, Secretary of Shenzhen People’s Hospital Party Committee Xu Yong indicated that the fundamental goal of hierarchical diagnosis and treatment is to make the medical resource available, affordable for ordinary citizens so that they can enjoy an effective medical care service. Xu applauded the medical treatment combination (through the introduction of graded diagnosis and treatment services and contracted family doctors) as an effective way to address current problems, “The medical treatment combination allow unimpeded two-way transferring for medical treatment and establish a green channel for stubborn diseases. The combination improves subordinate hospitals’ management levels on the one hand, and expands the service coverage of comprehensive hospitals on the other, making it possible for local residents to enjoy quality medical services in their communities.”
According to Xie Songquan of the CPPCC Shenzhen Municipal Committee, each session of the CPPCC members’ consultation includes several major steps: introduction of the related topic, experts’ interpretation, CPPCC members’ discussion, participation of the public, and the government’s response. The merits of the new form of political consultation are obvious. First, it allows face-to-face communication among the government, CPPCC members, and citizens, and provides the opportunity for the government and the CPPCC members to explain relevant policies fully, which can help neutralize extreme opinions and nurture an environment for orderly communication and rational thinking, and make the complexity of the concerned issue and government’s efforts in this regard visible. Second, public environment and free and open discussion also require government officials to be able to communicate directly and effectively with the public in plain language. The joint consultation of people from all walks of life sees different voices, opinions collide and blend with each other and finally find their consensus.  
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