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Whole-Process People’s Democracy: The Most Extensive, Genuine and Effective Socialist Democracy

Source: Xi Jinping: The Governance of China IV Updated: 2023-07-21

Whole-Process People’s Democracy: 
The Most Extensive, Genuine and Effective Socialist Democracy*

October 13, 2021

Democracy is a shared human value and an ideal that has always been cherished by the CPC and the Chinese people. To translate the concepts and values of democracy into effective institutions and concrete actions, we need to adopt appropriate systems, mechanisms, ways and means. To do this we have to combine theory and practice, form and content, past experience and current reality. 

As I have said, the best way to evaluate whether a country’s political system is democratic and effective is to observe whether the succession of its leaders is orderly and law-based, whether the people can manage state and social affairs and economic and cultural undertakings in accordance with the law, whether the public can express their needs through open channels, whether all sectors of society can effectively participate in the country’s political affairs, whether the country’s decision-making can be conducted in a rational and democratic manner, whether people in all sectors can enter the state leadership and administrative systems by way of fair competition, whether the governing party can lead state affairs in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and whether the exercise of power is subject to effective checks and oversight.

Democracy is not an ornament to be put on display, but an instrument for addressing the issues that concern the people. Whether a country is democratic depends on whether its people are truly the masters of the country, and whether the people have the right to vote, and more importantly, the right to participate extensively in governance of the country; it depends on what promises they are given during elections, and more importantly, how many of these promises are delivered after elections; it depends on what kind of political procedures and rules are set through state systems and laws, and more importantly, whether these systems and laws are truly enforced; it depends on whether the rules and procedures for the exercise of power are democratic, and more importantly, whether the exercise of power is genuinely subject to public oversight and checks. If the people are only addressed in order to solicit votes and then are left out in the cold, if they must listen to grandiose election slogans but have no voice when the elections are over, or if they are wooed by candidates during election campaigns only to be cast aside afterwards, this is not true democracy. 

In sum, democracy is the right of the people of all countries, not the prerogative of a few nations. Whether a country is democratic should be judged by its own people, not by a handful of meddlesome outsiders. In the international community, whether a country is democratic should be judged by community consensus, not by a few self-appointed judges. There is no uniform or single model of democracy; it comes in many forms. It is undemocratic in itself to measure the world’s diverse political systems against a single criterion, or to view the colorful political civilizations of humanity from a single perspective.

The Communist Party of China has always upheld people’s democracy and has always adhered to the following basic ideas:

First, people’s democracy is the lifeblood of socialism; without democracy, there would be no socialism, socialist modernization, or national rejuvenation. 

Second, the running of the country by the people is the essence and heart of socialist democracy. The very purpose of developing socialist democracy is to give full expression to the will of the people, protect their rights and interests, spark their creativity, and provide an institutional framework to ensure that the people are the masters of the country. 

Third, the Chinese socialist path of political development is the right path, as it conforms to China’s national conditions and secures the position of the people as masters of the country. It is the logical outcome of history, theory, and practice based on the strenuous efforts of the Chinese people since the 1840s. It is a requisite for maintaining the very nature of our Party and fulfilling its fundamental mission. 

Fourth, China’s socialist democracy takes two important forms: One, the people exercise rights by means of elections and voting, and two, people from all sectors of society are consulted extensively in order to reach the widest possible consensus on matters of common concern before major decisions are made. These are the institutional features and strengths of China’s socialist democracy. 

Fifth, the key to developing China’s socialist democracy is to fully leverage its features and strengths. As we continue to advance socialist democracy with soundly-designed institutions, standards and procedures, we can provide better institutional safeguards for our Party and country’s prosperity and long-term stability. 

Deng Xiaoping once said, “The democracy in capitalist societies is bourgeois democracy – in fact, it is the democracy of monopoly capitalists. It is no more than a system of multiparty elections, separation of judicial, executive and legislative powers and a bicameral legislature. Ours is the system of the people’s congresses and people’s democracy under the leadership of the Communist Party; we cannot adopt the practice of the West. The greatest advantage of the socialist system is that when the central leadership makes a decision, it is promptly implemented without interference from any other quarters.”

Since its 18th National Congress in 2012, our Party has advanced whole-process people’s democracy as a key concept on the basis of a profound understanding of the rules governing the development of democracy. Whole-process people’s democracy in China is a complete system with supporting mechanisms and procedures, and fully-fledged civil participation. China’s state system is the system under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and farmers. Its system of state power is the system of people’s congresses, and its basic political systems include the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, the system of regional ethnic autonomy, and the system of community-level self-governance. Building on these systems, China has consolidated and developed the broadest possible patriotic united front. It has formed a comprehensive, extensive and well-coordinated set of institutions that make it possible for the people to be genuine masters of our country, and it has put in place diverse, open channels for people to practice democracy in an orderly manner. This allows all the people to engage in law-based democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management and oversight and to manage state, economic, cultural and social affairs in various ways and forms in accordance with the law. 

Whole-process people’s democracy in China integrates process-oriented democracy with results-oriented democracy, procedural democracy with substantive democracy, direct democracy with indirect democracy, and people’s democracy with the will of the state. It is a democracy that covers all aspects of the democratic process and all sectors of society. It is the broadest, most genuine, and most effective socialist democracy. We should continue to advance whole-process people’s democracy, so that in concrete and tangible ways the principle of the people as masters of the country is reflected in our Party’s governance policies and measures, in all aspects and at all levels of the work of Party and state agencies, and in our efforts to realize the people’s aspirations for a better life. 

The people’s congress system is an important institutional vehicle for realizing whole-process people’s democracy in China. Under CPC leadership, we should continue to expand orderly political participation by the people, strengthen legal protection for human rights, and ensure that the people enjoy extensive rights and freedoms as prescribed by law. We should ensure that the people can exercise their lawful right to elect people’s congress deputies through democratic elections, that the people’s rights to information, participation, expression, and oversight are implemented in every aspect of the work of people’s congresses, and that the people’s voice can be heard at every step in the process of making, executing and scrutinizing the decisions of the Party and the state. 

We should improve the outreach platforms and vehicles of people’s congresses through which the general public can express opinions, we should refine working mechanisms for soliciting public comments and collecting ideas from the people, and we should advance consultation through people’s congresses and consultation on legislative issues, in an effort to protect the fundamental interests of the people by taking into account all aspects of social conditions and public sentiment. We should reinforce our study and public promotion of Chinese socialist democracy and the people’s congress system, elucidate the features and strengths of China’s political system, and share our story of democracy. 

Upholding and improving the people’s congress system is the common responsibility of the whole of the Party and society. The Party and the entire Chinese nation should stay confident in the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, continue to uphold and improve the people’s congress system, continue to consolidate and enhance political vitality, stability and unity, and contribute China’s wisdom to political progress for all.

* Part of the speech at the Central Conference on the Work of People’s Congresses.

(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)