Greater Rights, Better Protection
The Chinese government and people understand that while extracting positive results from foreign political cultures is viable, the country must not forgo its own political system.
During the 2022 Spring Festival holiday in early February, Zero Tolerance, a documentary on the anti-graft campaign of the Communist Party of China (CPC), went viral online, with many applauding the central authorities for curbing corruption with an iron fist. The program also documented China’s achievements in advancing whole-process people’s democracy.
Whole-process people’s democracy differs from the Western concept due to differences in traditional cultures and national conditions. In China, no consideration outweighs that of the people. As the documentary stated, the Chinese detest corruption; if corrupt officials are left unpunished, the public interest will suffer.
China’s democratic system keeps pace with national economic growth and social progress, with the people acting as true masters of their country.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in November 2012, particularly, the Party’s efforts to promote a clean and honest government, as well as whole-process people’s democracy, have made great headway. The national congress of the CPC, which takes place every five years, is the highest governing organ of the Party.
Through its actions, the CPC intends to ensure that the power entrusted to the government by the people is used for the good of the people. The concept of whole-process people’s democracy is gradually blending into all aspects of political life. Today, a landscape where officials are honest, the government is clean, and political integrity is upheld has taken shape, and it is advancing continuously.
Different from the United States, where the ruling elite often only caters to the interests of the upper class, in China, the people run their own country.
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the country implemented the system of governance of the people’s democratic dictatorship together with the fundamental political system of people’s congresses. Other institutional procedures of whole-process people’s democracy include multiparty cooperation and political consultation under CPC leadership, a broad patriotic united front, regional ethnic autonomy, and community-level self-governance. These well-coordinated procedures serve to put into place diverse, open, and well-organized channels to ensure that the Party’s policies and the state are integrated with the people’s aspirations.
The people’s democratic dictatorship combines two aspects: democracy for the people and resolute action against any attempt to subvert the country’s political power or endanger public or state security. Democracy and dictatorship appear to be a contradiction in terms, but together they ensure the people’s status as masters of the country. A tiny minority is sanctioned in the interests of the great majority, and “dictatorship” serves democracy.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) is the highest state organ of power and the national legislature of the PRC. Since the 12th NPC, in session from 2013 to 2018, every NPC deputy, i.e., the voice of the people in their area, has been elected based on the same number of voters in both rural and urban areas, meaning urban and rural residents have equal levels of representation. Residents in cities had eight times more representation than those living in the countryside in the NPC from 1953 onward; that gap narrowed to 4:1 in 1995.
Take the 13th NPC, in session from 2018 to 2023, for example. Among the roughly 3,000 deputies are 468 workers and farmers, accounting for 15.7 percent of the total; 613 professionals, making up 20.6 percent; and 438 members of ethnic minorities, constituting 14.7 percent.
Recent years have witnessed deepened reforms of CPC and state institutions, lifting the country’s governing capacity to a new level.
Governments at all levels must first consider the people’s opinions before making decisions and give priority to improving the lives and addressing the concerns of the people. The government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic fully reflected its governance concept: putting the people first. Resources are marshaled from around the country to support the fights against outbreaks in individual cities and treatment is free of charge. As a result, China’s COVID-19 mortality and infection rates are far lower than those in the U.S.—a nation with far more advanced public health facilities.
The past decade has seen the Chinese population become more passionate about participating in state governance and politics, and satisfaction with the government’s overall performance, too, has gone up. According to a 2020 survey by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University, the Chinese people’s satisfaction with their government was 93.1 percent.
In China, human rights are respected and protected. The people enjoy extensive rights and freedoms endowed by law.
In November 2021, people’s congress deputy elections at both the county and township levels were held across the country. President Xi Jinping cast his vote at a polling station in the Zhongnanhai electoral district of Beijing’s Xicheng District. The elections saw over 1 billion people cast their votes.
China’s Constitution protects the people’s right to vote and to be voted for, an entitlement reinforced by the 18th CPC National Congress. Mobile ballot boxes are one of the new measures taken since then to ensure the voting rights of people with diminished mobility. Li Chaolan, who is 106 years old, a voter in Tianquan County, Sichuan Province, put her choice into the mobile ballot box.
To push forward the modernization of the country’s governing system and capacity, the Party has ramped up human rights protection. In 2014, the Fourth Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee adopted a resolution on advancing law-based governance. “We need to strengthen legislation in key areas, and quickly improve legal systems that ensure equal rights and interests, equal opportunities, and fair rules for all; ensure that citizens’ personal rights, property rights, basic political rights and other forms of rights are inviolable; and ensure that citizens’ economic, cultural, and social rights are respected,” the document read. It also underlined the importance to provide stronger judicial protection of human rights.
Currently, China has the largest social safety net in the world, covering senior care, healthcare, social welfare, and more. In 2020, 1.36 billion people nationwide had access to basic health insurance.
The right to education, too, is guaranteed. Compulsory education is free in both rural and urban areas; in 2020, 95.2 percent of students in the nine-year compulsory education stayed in school until graduation.
While the West buzzes with rather critical rhetoric regarding China’s democratic theories, systems and practices, the Chinese Government and people understand that while extracting positive results from foreign political cultures is viable, the country must not forgo its own political system. Blindly copying other models of democracy would be a problematic endeavor—it risks creating cultural conflict, political volatility and even social turmoil, which would stop growth, rather than stimulate it.