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China's Perspective and Practice of Democracy


History of Democracy

Democracy is one of the common achievements and values of human civilization realized in the long course of human history and pursued by entire mankind. There are over 2,000 ethnic groups in more than 200 countries and regions in the world. As they differ in social conditions, history, culture and levels of development, they achieve democracy in different ways and forms. Democracy has brought lots of benefits to China and will definitely continue to do so in the future.

At present, China is in her primary stage of Socialism. The essence of her socialist system is to strive for political, economic, social and cultural rights and interests of all her citizens, to realize highly economic and social development, high-level democracy and welfare for them.

China is a country with over 5000 years of history, profound and abundant national cultural heritage and 2000 years of feudal autocratic history. And ever since the Opium War in 1840, China had been reduced to a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country and had suffered from aggression, occupation, enslavement and plunder from the major imperial powers. In a word, China had lacked democratic tradition and practice in the past.

The Revolution of 1911 ended the feudal monarchy in China, opened a window for this ancient nation to smell some tinge of democracy. Although it didn't bring democracy, freedom, prosperity and development to the Chinese people, it did enlighten the elites of the Chinese nation to carry forward the cause of democracy and forge ahead into the future, making arduous efforts and exploring political system, mode of development and modernization path suitable for China's actual situations under the banners of democracy and science. After struggle for dozens of years between democracy and autocracy, science and ignorance, especially after fighting for national emancipation and resisting foreign aggression and occupation for eight consecutive years, the Chinese people achieved success in their New Democratic Revolution and established the People's Republic of China in 1949, which ushered in real sense the democratic political pursuit and development course in China. From then on, China has not only made great progress and achievements, but also made mistakes and drew lessons in her pursuit of democracy. From late 1970s, China has carried out the Reform and Opening up policy, initiated the grandest political, economic and social transformation in the Chinese history and walked on the path of national modernization suitable for this populous country with long history and rich culture, namely the Socialism with the Chinese characteristics.

Socialism with the Chinese characteristics

The Socialism with the Chinese characteristics is set up on the basis of the concept of "People-oriented" as embodied in the Chinese traditional culture. Taking people as the ultimate goal of development, we have made remarkable achievements in adopting mode of development, social system and democracy suitable for China's actual conditions, improving the living standard of the common people sustainably and step by step, perfecting the democratic system, enforcing the rule of law, realizing social justice and safeguarding people's rights and welfare.

In the political construction, China has established direct election system for Rural Autonomous Village Committee and Urban Resident Committee. The citizens are able to decide, manage and supervise their own affairs in a democratic manner. People's congresses have been established at national, provincial, municipal, county and township levels respectively. According to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, people's congresses at all levels exercise legislative power, supervise the enforcement of the Constitution and other laws, appoint or remove personnel and make decision on important issues. Local people's congresses at county and township levels are elected directly by their constituencies. People's congresses at national, provincial and municipal levels are elected by the people's congresses at the next lower level. The National People's Congress exercises powers to elect the President and the Vice-President of the People's Republic of China and decide the Premier of the State Council upon nomination by the President.

The political party system that China adopts is the Multi-party Cooperation and Political Consultation System under the leadership of the Communist Party of China(CPC), which is fundamentally different from both the western two-party or multi-party competition system and the one-party system practiced in some other countries. There are nine political parties in China at present, with the CPC as the ruling party and other eight parties participating fully in the exercise of state power and administration of state affairs. The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Committees, which have been established at national, provincial, municipal, county levels, are composed of members of all parties, personages without party affiliation, representatives from non-governmental organizations, ethnic minorities and all walks of life. They exercise the functions of political consultation, democratic supervision and participate in the administration and discussion of state affairs.

China is, like Kenya, a unified multi-ethnic country with 56 ethnic groups. In order to enable all ethnic groups, minority groups in particular, to enjoy equal political, economic, social and cultural rights, China practices the system of ethnic regional autonomy according to the Constitution. Under the central leadership of the state, organs of self-governance are established for the exercise of autonomy and regional autonomy in areas where people of minority groups reside in compact communities. The organs manage independently the internal affairs of their ethnic groups in their autonomous regions in accordance with the laws.

Human Rights and Religions

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates "The state respects and safeguard human rights " and her citizen's basic rights and freedom. After enormous efforts in the past dozens of years under the socialist system, the Chinese people have greatly improved and safeguarded their Survival and Development Rights. China has successfully solved the problems of feeding 22% of the world population with less than 10% of the world arable land. Within less than 30 years, the number of people living under the poverty line has been reduced by 228 million to 21 million. The per capita GDP has been increased from less than 200 USD to 2003 USD in 2006. The average life expectancy has jump to 72 year from 35 years in 1949. Nine-Year Compulsory Education has been popularized and the social security system has been established and perfected unceasingly.

China's Constitution and laws protect citizen's rights to freedom of religion, speech and press, and of association. There are now in China five major religions, namely Buddhism, Taoism, Christianism, Catholicism and Islamism, and over 100 million religious believers, 300,000 members of the clergy and more than 100,000 venues for religious activities in China. By the end of 2004, there were 290,000 NGOs of various types. In 2004 alone, 26 billion copies of newspapers, 2.7 billion copies of periodicals of various kinds and 6.5 billion copies of books were published. At present, the amount of Internet users has reached 150 million.

Unique Mode of Democracy

We can say, the livelihood, democracy and civil rights people enjoy in China at present have been unprecedented in the Chinese history. It is unfair and dishonest to disregard the great achievements China has made in the economic, political and social fields in the past dozens of years. The history and reality of human political civilization have proved that there is no single and absolute democratic mode in the world that is universally applicable. The democratic mode of China is different from that of the United States and Europe, because our history, economy, culture, tradition, society and national conditions differ. China cannot just copy their democratic modes. Therefore, it's also unreasonable to accuse China of lacking "democratic environment" simply because China's democratic practices differ from that of the USA, Europe or other countries.

Of course, the democratic mode and practice in China isn't perfect, especially when it sprouted and developed in a country with 2000 years of feudal tradition and 1.3 billion people. It will be a long and zigzag way for China to realize its modernization. With its economy, society and culture keeping on changing, China will definitely continue to advance, mature and perfect its democratic mode and practice gradually and steadily. More than two thousand years ago, one of the students of Confucius, the great ancient Chinese philosopher and educationalist, asked him how to rule a country. Confucius replied that "Do not do things in haste and do not seek petty gains. More haste, less speed, and you can not accomplish great cause if you only see small gains." China pursues steady and sustainable development. If we look at China as a cart on its way for modernization, political reform and economic reform are her two indispensable wheels. In order to move the cart smoothly and unceasingly, China should try its best to balance two wheels prudently to avoid overturning or "Shock Therapy". The Chinese democratic system aims at the long-term welfare of the Chinese people. China will spare no efforts to do appropriate things at appreciate time to maximize and sustain the interest and welfare of all her people, and ensure that democracy will bring more benefits to the country.

One Country, Two Systems

China has no intention to impose her political system and mode of development on others, or even on her Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Macao Special Administrative Region and Taiwan province due to special historical background. On the contrary, under the framework of "One China, two systems" policy initiated by the late Chinese leader, Mr. Deng Xiaoping, China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macao in 1997 and 1999 respectively, maintained their original social system and life style and safeguarded and further promoted its economic prosperity and social stability. The Hong Kong and Macao residents enjoy much more sufficient rights and freedom than during the colonial rule. The Chinese government will also fulfill the peaceful reunification of the motherland in due time under the policy of "One country, two systems ".

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