Sheng Hong (center left), a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), seeks residents' feedback on an amendment to the Charity Law at a Shanghai community on February 7. The NPC is China's top legislature(XINHUA)
The world features different types of democracy, with the concept rooted in the history, tradition and culture of each country. But how can we evaluate whether a country's political system is, in fact, democratic?
Democracy must give people the opportunity to participate in the process of their country's development. It must be effective and change people's lives for the better. Also, the people should be the judges of their own political systems.
Whole-process people's democracy is a socialist form of democracy developed by and in China. It is a holistic and systemic concept. It is not only a procedural concept but also a substantive one. It is not only about the right to vote, but also about the right to participate.
The annual Two Sessions are the most important political gatherings in China. The term "Two Sessions" refers to the annual meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body. Both bodies have distinct but fundamental roles in China's political life. Usually set in March, the sessions gather NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members from across the country to discuss and approve national priorities.
People's congresses and CPPCC committees are also indispensable in local-level governance. Every year, deputies to the congresses and members of the committees from all segments of society will gather to discuss issues that matter to local lives.
The core of China's political system is the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
When evaluating this political system, we must assess it based on how it works. China eradicated absolute poverty nationwide in 2020, a major achievement. I believe the Chinese people consider their political system to be very effective as it brings them tangible benefits.
China also has eight non-communist parties. The CPC, the governing party, consults with the other parties and prominent individuals without any political party affiliation on major national and local policies and matters. This is interesting because Western political systems generally feature partisan divisions—which sometimes go against the interests of the nation by large.
In Western democracies, people have the right to vote and to choose their leaders. But after they've cast their ballot, participation ends. And so, many politicians promise to deliver grand solutions throughout the electoral process but once elected, the people don't have the opportunity to know what they are factually doing for them. And this is exactly why Western-style democracy is facing a legitimacy crisis. This is also exactly why I think Western democracies are becoming more and more dysfunctional with an increasingly divided society as well as an increasing inequality within society. What is the value of a democratic system if it doesn't help people lead better lives?
Through its whole-process people's democracy, China is doing something different—and it's been working for people all over the country. This is something Western countries must understand.
I learned more about China and its unique governance philosophy by reading Xi Jinping: The Governance of China. The fourth volume in the series contains a line that I think sums up the idea of democracy. It reads, "Democracy is not an ornament to be put on display, but an instrument for addressing the issues that concern the people." I think this is the core of the country's democracy.
The author is a professor of international law at FGV Law School in Rio de Janeiro, and the Faculty of Law at Fluminense Federal University, Brazil
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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