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How technology helps improve China's whole-process people's democracy


Journalists line up for copies of
Journalists line up for copies of "China: Democracy That Works" before a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing, China, December 4, 2021. /CFP

Journalists line up for copies of "China: Democracy That Works" before a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing, China, December 4, 2021. /CFP

In recent years, China has taken a groundbreaking leap towards democratization, leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing, big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain to revolutionize its governance model. This move shows a significant shift towards a more inclusive and transparent democratic process, empowering citizens and holding government institutions accountable.

The concept of "whole-process people's democracy" was written into law in 2021, and its status was solidified during the sixth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

As explained by a white paper titled "China: Democracy That Works," China, as a populous country long plagued by weak economic foundations, strives to strike a balance between democracy and development. The priority always rests with development, which is facilitated by democracy and in turn boosts the development of democracy. A speaker commented during a discussion on the topic held by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, "We shouldn't focus on democracy from the perspective of the campaign promise; rather we should emphasize promise fulfillment."

China's democracy has lifted 770 million people out of poverty over the past 40 years and eliminated extreme poverty. It has secured the health and sovereignty of approximately 20 percent of the world's population. 

For roughly 40 percent of respondents surveyed globally by CGTN and Renmin University of China through the New Era International Communication Research Institute, the most important element of democracy is to "guarantee the basic right to life," followed by "guaranteeing equality for all" (29.3 percent), "developing the economy" (29 percent)," "improving living standards" (28.4 percent) and "maintaining social stability and social order" (25.6 percent).

In the past decades, the Chinese government has enacted a series of measures and mechanisms for receiving public voices and opinions, such as establishing direct communication channels between government departments and neighborhood administrators, quick response task force and the 12345-hotline service that has become widely-known in China for addressing day-to-day issues ranging from personal tax issues to noise complaints. 

As another example, the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) has set up dedicated a portal on the NPC website to gather the public's opinion on bills and drafts. In the past decade, nearly 1.2 million people have provided roughly 3.5 million pieces of feedback on 205 bills.

New technologies are now enabling the government to better survey and analyze public opinion while helping more people become involved in the political process. Cloud computing infrastructure has been pivotal in enabling real-time data processing and storage, facilitating seamless communication between government bodies and citizens. This infrastructure allows for the efficient collection and analysis of vast amounts of data, ranging from public opinion surveys to feedback on policy initiatives.

Moreover, big data analytics play a crucial role in gauging public sentiment and understanding citizens' needs and preferences. By harnessing sophisticated algorithms, the Chinese authorities can identify emerging trends, anticipate potential issues and tailor policies accordingly. This data-driven approach ensures that governance decisions are not only evidence-based but also reflective of the diverse perspectives within the society.

AI further enhances the democratic process by streamlining administrative procedures, automating routine tasks and enhancing citizen engagement. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants provide citizens with accessible platforms to voice their concerns, seek information and participate in civic discourse. Additionally, AI algorithms help in the identification of misinformation and manipulation, safeguarding the integrity of public debates and elections.

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