Democracy, China and Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping democracy

Democracy, China and Xi Jinping

What’s the connection between democracy, China and Xi Jinping? Well, President Xi Jinping said “democracy is not a decoration” yesterday as he delivered a speech to the government’s political advisers on his approach to developing China’s consultative political institution.

Speaking at the 65th anniversary of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Xi called for building a practical political system to embody “consultative democracy”, one that included all levels of society.

“Democracy is defined not only by people’s right to vote in an election but also the right to participate in political affairs on a daily basis,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying. “Democracy is not a decoration … it’s for solving people’s problems.”

Xi added that citizens should be consulted before the authorities made key decisions. He said local party agencies, governments and judicial departments should improve the transparency of their work so that common people would be well informed.

Early this month at the national legislature’s 60th anniversary, Xi discussed development of a “socialist democracy” and cautioned against a situation where “people seem to have power but are actually powerless”. The two speeches came ahead of next month’s fourth party plenum, which is expected to focus on rule of law, along with economic development. Analysts said Xi’s recent comments could reflect his call to modernise the country’s system of governance as laid out at last year’s plenum.

“The ongoing anti-corruption campaign, the reform of social services and the expected reform in the judicial system are all part of this governance modernisation. The political consultation is another aspect,” said Zhu Lijia, a professor of public policy at the Chinese Academy of Governance.

Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Beijing-based Renmin University, said the speeches were a sign Xi wanted to develop “socialist democracy” through revitalising both the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the political advisory body functions, without the need to implement real political reforms. “The NPC and CPPCC systems are both known as having little real political influence now. Xi obviously wants to make them operational and unleash their power,” Zhang said. “But the question is – can he really achieve that without introducing democratic election?” he said.

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