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Developing Whole-Process People’s Democracy and Ensuring the People Run the Country

By Core Theoretical Study Team of the CPC Leadership Group for the Working Bodies of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2023-09-13

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in 2012, President Xi Jinping has comprehensively reviewed achievements and experiences in building China’s socialist democracy, deepened understanding of the laws governing the development of democracy, and put forward a key concept of whole-process people’s democracy. This concept has further enriched Marxist democratic theory and represents a historic achievement and landmark in the development of democracy in China in the new era.

I. President Xi Jinping’s original theoretical achievement in the area of socialist democracy

Whole-process people’s democracy is a new form of political advancement developed by the people under the leadership of the Party. Its essence is the principle of the people running the country. In November 2019, during his visit to Hongqiao Subdistrict in Shanghai, President Xi first proposed that “people’s democracy is whole-process democracy.” In July 2021, at the ceremony marking the CPC’s centenary, he declared that the Party would “practice a people-centered philosophy of development and promote whole-process people’s democracy.” In October 2021, at a central conference on work related to people’s congresses, President Xi provided a comprehensive and systematic elucidation of whole-process people’s democracy. In November 2021, the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee adopted the third resolution concerning the Party’s history, which listed “developing whole-process people’s democracy” as an important element of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. At its 20th National Congress in October 2022, the Party set forth overarching plans for “developing whole-process people’s democracy and ensuring the people run the country.”


People’s Congress deputies conduct field research in an orchard at the Jinggang Honey Pomelo Base in Baishui Town, Jiangxi Province, April 20, 2023. The Baishui Town People’s Congress arranged for deputies at various levels to conduct field research into the development of the Jinggang honey pomelo industry to invite suggestions on strengthening this distinctive local industry. PHOTO BY LIAO MIN

The efforts to propose, implement, and develop whole-process people’s democracy have clearly illustrated the CPC’s firm commitment to the position of people’s democracy and the principle of the people running the country and provided sound guidance for promoting socialist political advancement in the new era. Furthermore, they have offered Chinese insights and solutions for other countries as they explore and develop paths of democracy suited to their own conditions.

President Xi has repeatedly emphasized that there are eight criteria to evaluate whether a country’s political system is democratic and effective, specifically, “We must observe whether the succession of its leaders is orderly and law-based, whether the people can participate in the management of state, social, economic, and cultural affairs 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 of all fields can join 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.”

President Xi has also creatively put forward a framework for judging whether a country is democratic or not: “The key factor in deciding whether a country is democratic or not is whether the people truly run the country. We must evaluate whether the people have the right to vote, and more importantly, the right to participate; what promises they are given during elections, and more importantly, how many of these promises are delivered after elections; 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; and 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.”

The president has also stressed that “Whether a country is democratic or not should be determined by its own people, and not a handful of outsiders.”

These important conclusions have provided well-founded answers to questions concerning democracy, debunked some of the myths about democracy, and demonstrated firm confidence in our path and system. They have effectively countered attacks and distortions directed toward China’s socialist democracy by certain Western countries. They have also bolstered the Chinese people’s confidence and resolve in upholding and developing whole-process people’s democracy and reinforced their commitment and determination to follow the Chinese socialist path of political advancement.

President Xi has summarized the CPC’s adherence to and development of people’s democracy in five basic points.

First, people’s democracy is the life 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 a system of institutions to ensure that it is they who run the country. Third, the Chinese socialist path of political advancement is the right path, as it conforms to China’s national conditions and guarantees the position of the people as the masters of the country. It is the logical outcome of history, theory, and practice based on the endeavors of the Chinese people in modern times. It is a requisite for maintaining the nature of the Party and fulfilling its fundamental purpose. Fourth, China’s socialist democracy takes two important forms: one in which the people exercise their rights by means of elections and voting, and another in which people from all walks of life are consulted extensively in order to reach the widest possible consensus on matters of common concern before major decisions are made. Together these make up 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 well-defined institutions, standards, and procedures, we can provide better institutional safeguards for our Party and country’s prosperity and long-term stability.

These five basic points systematically encapsulate the essence of socialist democracy. They enrich and expand the political, theoretical, and practical significance of socialist democracy and set the goals, direction, and approach for developing whole-process people’s democracy.

II. An embodiment of the rich essence, characteristics, strengths, and practical requirements of socialist democracy

Whole-process people’s democracy is deeply rooted in Chinese society and well-suited to China’s national conditions and realities. It has garnered unanimous support from the Chinese people. It was the people who decided that China should develop whole-process people’s democracy and improve the institutions and systems by which the people run the country. This was an inevitable choice given China’s national conditions and realities and the result of long-term development, gradual improvement, and internally driven evolution based on China’s history, cultural traditions, and economic and social development. The reason why whole-process people’s democracy truly works is that it has grown out of the soil of Chinese society. To continue thriving in the future, it must remain deeply rooted in this soil.

The main actors in whole-process people’s democracy are the people, and the ultimate goal is to ensure that the people run the country. The development of whole-process people’s democracy embodies the Party’s ideals, convictions, fundamental stand, and founding mission. It embodies the CPC’s fundamental purpose of wholeheartedly serving the people and the constitutional principle that all power in China belongs to the people. The CPC leads the people in developing whole-process people’s democracy in order to provide support and guarantees for the people running the country. It ensures that our more than 1.4 billion people can exercise state power through democratic systems and channels at all levels and in all fields to realize their aspirations for a better life.

China’s various systems are designed and built around the principle of the people running the country, with the entire national governance system revolving around this tenet. In terms of institutional procedures, the principle of the people running the country is reflected in China’s form of state, form of government, and the series of basic political systems it has instituted. As a result, a comprehensive and well-integrated system for ensuring the people run the country has taken shape, and diverse, smooth, and orderly democratic channels have been established. The basic elements of these institutional procedures are enshrined in both the CPC’s Constitution and the state Constitution and laws, thus providing a robust institutional guarantee for the development of whole-process people’s democracy. To ensure complete participation in practice, this principle is applied in all areas and at every stage of the democratic process, including elections, consultations, decision-making, management, and supervision, all of which are conducted in strict accordance with the law. In accordance with legal provisions, the people also manage state, economic, cultural, and social affairs through various means and forms, thus the principle of the people running the country is realized in an extensive and multilayered manner.

Whole-process people’s democracy functions extraordinarily well and offers notable advantages. In China, people not only enjoy the right to vote but also the right to extensive participation. They not only express their will but also see it effectively fulfilled. They not only promote national development but also share in its gains.

Whole-process people’s democracy spans all links in the democratic chain from elections and consultation to decision-making, management, and supervision. It permeates all spheres of political and social life and encompasses all initiatives and efforts toward economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological advancement. China, the world’s largest developing country, covering a territory of 9.6 million square kilometers, with more than 1.4 billion people comprising 56 ethnic groups, has created an extensive, authentic, and effective democratic system. This has facilitated broad and sustained participation from the vast majority of people and helped develop a vibrant, stable, and united political atmosphere.

It is important to define the objectives, trajectory, and key tasks for the development of whole-process people’s democracy. On the new journey before us, we must unswervingly follow the Chinese socialist path of political advancement and maintain the unity of Party leadership, the people running the country, and law-based governance. We must firmly grasp the values, concepts, principles, institutional procedures, tasks, and requirements of whole-process people’s democracy, continue to boost public participation in political affairs, enrich democratic forms and broaden democratic channels to develop a more extensive, complete, and robust people’s democracy. In doing so, we will form a mighty force for inspiring our people to strive in unity.


People’s Congress deputies listen to the opinions and suggestions of voters in the village of Xiushan in Runzhou District, Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province. On February 15, 2023, the People’s Congress Working Committee of Guantangqiao Subdistrict arranged for deputies from Runzhou to meet voters in Xiushan Village, so they could directly hear people’s opinions and resolve their concerns and difficulties. PEOPLE’S DAILY / PHOTO BY SHI YUCHENG

III. An important institutional vehicle for realizing whole-process people’s democracy

President Xi Jinping has pointed out, “The system of people’s congresses is an important institutional vehicle for realizing whole-process people’s democracy in China.” This statement encapsulates the theoretical and practical development of this system over the past 60-plus years and augments both the contemporary significance and practical requirements of this system.

The system of people’s congresses is not merely an important means but also the highest form through which the Chinese people run their own country

All power in China belongs to the people. The organs through which the people exercise state power are people’s congresses at all levels, which are formed through democratic elections and are accountable to the people and under their oversight. State administrative, supervisory, judicial, and procuratorial bodies are formed by, accountable to, and under the oversight of people’s congresses. All state bodies and their employees must rely on public support, maintain close contact with the people, listen to their opinions and suggestions, accept public oversight, and work hard in the people’s interests. Deputies to people’s congresses at all levels faithfully represent the interests and will of the people in exercising state power.

These are the important elements of the system of people’s congresses. They provide reliable institutional guarantees for developing whole-process people’s democracy and ensuring the people run the country.

The system of people’s congresses vigorously promotes the development of whole-process people’s democracy

Democratic principles are upheld throughout the system of people’s congresses, from elections and consultations to decision-making, management, and supervision, thus ensuring the people can exercise their democratic rights according to law.

The electoral system for people’s congresses operates on the principles of universal suffrage, equal rights, multiple candidates, direct and indirect elections, and secret ballot. These principles constitute the foundation of the system of people’s congresses. Newly elected deputies across the five levels of people’s congresses total more than 2.77 million, achieving a high degree of representativeness. Of these, about 2.62 million are deputies to county and township congresses. They were elected by more than 1 billion voters nationwide, based on one vote per person. This is an exemplification of China’s whole-process people’s democracy.

When deliberating and formulating laws and regulations, reviewing and approving plans and budgets, deciding on major issues concerning economic and social development and issues regarding the vital interests of the people, and making resolutions and decisions, people’s congresses adhere to the principle of democratic centralism. They extensively solicit opinions and conduct thorough discussions and consultations to pool wisdom and build consensus. Collective decisions are made according to the opinions of the majority to ensure sound and democratic decision-making. In accordance with the law, they also conduct oversight of state bodies and their employees, respond to public concerns, and safeguard people’s rights and interests, while consciously accepting public oversight.

The system of people’s congresses has provided robust legal guarantees for developing whole-process people’s democracy

People’s congresses and their standing committees have advanced whole-process people’s democracy and ensured that the people run the country on the basis of complete law-based governance by formulating and refining laws and regulations. The National People’s Congress (NPC) and its Standing Committee, through the exercise of state legislative power, have formulated and revised China’s Constitution to define citizens’ basic rights and obligations and stipulate that the state shall respect and protect human rights. They have formulated and amended laws and regulations to guarantee people’s political rights and regulate the methods and procedures through which people exercise their democratic rights. They have formulated and amended laws in the civil, criminal, administrative, economic, cultural, social, ecological, and environmental spheres to safeguard people’s interests, enhance their wellbeing, and ensure social fairness and justice. When formulating or amending laws and regulations such as the Legislation Law, the NPC Organic Law, and the NPC Rules of Procedure, they have adhered to the requirements of whole-process people’s democracy. Moreover, through law enforcement inspections, work report hearings, and other means, they have promoted comprehensive and effective enforcement of the Constitution and laws to ensure that people’s democratic rights and other lawful rights and interests are guaranteed.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 12, 2023)