2012 NPC & CPPCC Sessions

Political Consultation, Democracy China Style

( 2012-March-14 09:17:12)

An interview with Li Junru, a member of the CPPCC National Committee

By staff reporter YAO BEI


Every March, participants from all walks of life and political parties gather in Beijing to take part in China's two most important political events of the year. At the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC), its highest legislative body, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), its top political advisory body, deputies to the NPC and members of the CPPCC National Committee bring their experience, knowledge and opinions together to review the work of government over the previous year and plan for the coming months.


Our foreign readers often raise questions about issues such as the respective functions of the NPC and the CPPCC, how the CPPCC embodies Chinese democracy and why China has opted for a multi-party cooperation system rather than the multi-party system found in may countries. Against the background of the NPC and CPPCC's gatherings, China Today put these questions to Li Junru, a member of the 11th CPPCC National Committee and vice president of  the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.


The NPC and the CPPCC


In response to China Today's opening question, Li first clarified the nature of appointments in the two bodies. NPC deputies are elected by the public, while CPPCC members are nominated through consultation and recommendation.


He went on to explain that, as the nation's highest legislative body the NPC makes and amends the Constitution and other laws, and elects and appoints members to central state organs, including the president, the premier, the chairman of the Central Military Commission, the president of the Supreme People's Court and the procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate. The NPC deputies monitor these top officials' performance by reviewing and approving their work reports at the annual gathering.


The CPPCC is a political advisory body that participates in national politics by soliciting opinions and suggestions on state affairs from representatives of different ethnic, political and professional backgrounds. "This is why the premier starts his report at the annual NPC session with the words, 'On behalf of the State Council, I now present to you my report on the work of the government for your deliberation and approval, and for comments and suggestions from members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC),'" Li Junru said.


Combining Elections with Consultations


In Li's opinion, the development of human civilization has produced three forms of democracy – democracy through election, democracy through consultation and democracy through negotiation. "It was not until recent decades that democracy through consultation – the mission of the CPPCC – received due attention in the world, including in China itself. After the May Fourth Movement, which heralded the new democratic revolution in China, Chinese people were mostly more interested in Western democracy, which happens through elections," Li said.


But in the 1960s and 1970s, the election process began to lose its appeal in countries engaged in this form of democracy. Voter turnout declined and people became disenchanted with elections. Li offered his explanation for this phenomenon.


"Often elected state leaders don't honor the promises they make during their running campaigns and steer state policies to serve the interests of a particular group they represent," said Li. "This has greatly disappointed voters. These problems have promoted Western politicians and scholars to rethink their democratic systems. Jürgen Habermas, renowned German philosopher and sociologist, proposed to combine elections with political consultations, providing citizens with a channel for dialogue with the government prior to and after elections.


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