China Has Found and Developed Its Own Form of Democracy: Prof. Zheng Yongnian

Successful democracies are based on their own civilizations, cultures and national conditions.

Editor’s Note: The second International Forum on Democracy: The Shared Human Values was held in Beijing on March 23. Over 300 guests from more than 100 countries and regions engaged in extensive discussions on diverse forms of democracy, slamming monistic and hegemonic narratives on the subject. Zheng Yongnian, Professor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen) and President of the Qianhai Institute for International Affairs, made a keynote speech at the forum.

“There is no single model of democracy, no single definition of democracy,” Zheng began the speech with his first point on democracy. Even though the countries like the UK, the U.S. and the Europe share capitalism system, they have different forms of democracy, such as presidential system, parliamentary system, the two-party system, and the six or even more parties. However, “empirically speaking, successful democracies are based on their own civilizations, cultures and national conditions,” he stressed.

According to Zheng, there are good democracies and bad democracies. Is democracy good? “Not necessarily,” answered Zheng. In many countries, poverty and democracy have coexisted for a long time. The West always said that democracy is good for development, but in Zheng’s opinion, vote democracy in the West didn’t start until the 1970s, and in most modern times, the right to vote is for the elite. Only a handful people can vote and take part in politics. To summarize, he said a good path to development should be: economy first, then social rights like welfare and finally political rights.

When talking about China’s democracy, Zheng said China has found and developed its form of democracy, which fits best its own civilization, culture and national conditions. Since China’s reform and opening up, it has become one of the most successful states in achieving simultaneously “three sustainabilities”. First, China has achieved sustainable economic development. China has helped more than 800 million people out of absolute poverty. As Zheng observed, if the economy develops well, whether democratic or not, people will be happy. “So don’t over emphasize democracy,” he said.

Second, China has achieved sustainable social stability. Zheng pointed out that American middle class has shrunk from 60-70 percent to about 30 percent and many people fell again into poverty. But China, given the same context of globalization, took millions of people out of poverty, which means China has achieved basic level of social justice. “That’s the base for stability,” he added.

Third, China has achieved sustainable institutional innovation, which, as Zheng said, is easily ignored by many western scholars. China’s political system has demonstrated flexibility and sustainability. “I believe Communist Party of China today is the most modernized party in this world,” Zheng said.


The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of China Focus.