Democracy plays an important role in China's path to modernization
Wang Huaiyue
Members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference cast their votes in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 10, 2021. /CFP

Members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference cast their votes in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 10, 2021. /CFP

Editor's note: Wang Huaiyue is an assistant research fellow of Institute of Contemporary China Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This is the fifth piece of our "China's view of democracy" series. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN. 

Modernization has become a self-evident trend in the world. From the past to the present, all countries have been striving to get the "ticket" to modernization. Modernization means not only the shift of the economic growth engine from traditional industries to modern industries, but also the pursuit and practice of democracy in the political arena. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has united and led its people to blaze a distinctive trail in the process of modernizing the country, and democracy has played an important role.

Democracy is being pursued relentlessly on China's path to modernization. As early as the 1930s, the Constitution of the Chinese Soviet Republic clearly stipulated that citizens, regardless of gender, nationality or religion, had the right to vote and stand for election at the age of sixteen or above. 

In the 1940s, in the vast rural areas under the leadership of the CPC, farmers used beans as ballots to elect village authorities. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese people had a more stable environment and more diverse ways for political participation. In addition to democratic elections, people also have extensive and genuine rights of decision-making, consultation, governance and supervision.

For example, the "12345" government service hotline is a public service platform set up by municipal governments in China, which consists of a wide range of communication channels to receive public opinions. It consists of the "12345" hotline service, mayor's mailbox, mobile text messages, mobile apps, and social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat. 

It provides 24/7 services to the general public. In 2020, the average call-through rate of "12345 hotline" across the country was 72.31 percent, and the average waiting time was 16.20 seconds. People's concerns are effectively responded to and addressed.

People's voices are not only heard, but insights from the general public can be practically applied to the governance of the country. One of the proposals that have been incorporated in the newly revised Law on the Protection of Minors came from high school students in Shanghai. They found that domestic violence often went hand in hand with financial hardship, so they suggested that the guardians who commit domestic violence against minors should not be punished by financial means. 

Instead, the offenders should receive corrective education. Their proposal was forwarded by Hongqiao Sub-district Administrative Committee in Shanghai to the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress and was eventually adopted.

Consultative democracy is a unique, inclusive and distinctive form of democracy in China. If electoral democracy is about "selecting the right people," then consultative democracy is about "doing things right." It is the fine tradition of the Chinese people to deal with public affairs through broad-based consultations, and it is also the true meaning of Chinese democracy. 

In China, people are not only able to exercise their rights through elections and voting, but they are also fully consulted before and during major decision-making process, so as to reach consensus on common issues as much as possible.

For example, although China does not adopt a two-party or multi-party system and the CPC is the ruling party, there are eight democratic parties participating in governmental and political affairs. They are constructive and efficient advisers, helpers and colleagues of the CPC. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee has convened or asked relevant departments to convene more than 170 political party consultation meetings to sincerely consult and listen to people outside the CPC on many important issues. Many opinions and suggestions have been turned into major national decisions.

Furthermore, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is an important channel for democratic consultation and a specialized consultative body. The biweekly consultation forum of the CPPCC is a part of its regular consultation system. It provides advice and suggestions on issues related to national economy and people's livelihood, and conducts in-depth consultations on specific and highly professional issues. 

Deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) leave the Great Hall of the People after the closing meeting of the fourth session of the 13th NPC in Beijing, China, March 11, 2021. /Xinhua

Deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) leave the Great Hall of the People after the closing meeting of the fourth session of the 13th NPC in Beijing, China, March 11, 2021. /Xinhua

From October 22, 2013 to November 6, 2021, a total of 132 CPPCC biweekly consultation forums were held, giving full play to the role of the CPPCC as an important platform for socialist consultation and democracy and a specialized consultative body. These activities have drawn extensive attention from and achieved fruitful results for the society. The consultation forums have become a highlight and a brand-name event of the CPPCC in conducting political consultation and deliberation.

Democracy steers China in the right direction towards modernization. The concept of modernization originated in Europe. A few Western European countries were the first to modernize themselves, followed by a number of other countries in Europe and America. In that process, colonial invasion and expansion was their everyday story, while people in the invaded and colonized countries were drenched in blood and tears. 

That is an undeniable episode of history, but now some people are becoming "selectively blind" to this history, simply believing that the development model of those first-movers is the standard model, and other countries can only learn and imitate. If learning and imitating their approach to modernization means simply transplanting their model, it has been proven to be infeasible. Countries such as Brazil and Argentina are considered to be the first few developing countries that have achieved modernization.

But after a period of medium-to-high speed development, some of these countries quickly went into economic slowdown and recession, and even fell into the "middle-income trap." After the Second World War, the vast majority of developing countries that chose the Western development model encountered development challenges, such as economic stagnation, political disorder, social decline, and widening disparity between the rich and the poor. 

Some countries caught in geopolitical struggles are still in a state of frequent warfare. If developing countries are to learn from or replicate the stories of those early modernized countries, should they be allowed to invade and colonize other countries?

On its way to modernization, China never invaded other countries, but rather, it rose up against the aggression from other countries and then worked hard to catch up with developed economies. The Chinese people have a deep memory of the suffering they have endured since the modern era. 

They neither want to go through such suffering again, nor do they want to impose it on others. China, where people are the masters of the country, will not follow the old path of the early modernized countries in its pursuit of modernization. Instead, it will take the new path of peaceful development for the common good of the world.

There are plenty of roads leading to modernization, and the road chosen by China is a unique one. Realizing modernization is the pursuit of every country, but every country has to follow its own way to get there, right?

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