Words on inner-Party democracy abound these days as local committees of the Communist Party of China (CPC) begin electing their new leaders.
Inside and outside of the CPC, hopes are high for democracy within the Party to spearhead democratization in larger contexts.
Four weeks ago, at a high-profile press conference, CPC vice-minister of organizational work Ouyang Song pledged to broaden inner-Party democracy "in a healthy and orderly manner" throughout the nationwide leadership rearrangement.
He promised CPC members the right to know, to participate in, and to supervise in the entire process so that the elections do not go awry.
Those rights are indispensable components of democracy.
But Li Shenming, a vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and veteran CPC theorist, brings up a less-talked-about aspect of inner-Party democracy, which we believe is a very constructive supplement.
In an article published in the latest issue of "Qiu Shi," or "Seeking Truth," the most authoritative CPC publication, Li calls for guarantees of full latitude for CPC members to air different opinions, and create a fine inner-Party political atmosphere in which people dare to speak the truth.
He called on CPC members to forsake the worn-out mindset of blind followers, think independently, and demonstrate a sense of mission. They should be encouraged to tell the truth, speak their minds, bravely expose and correct faults and mistakes, and to fight resolutely against corruption, Li suggests.
"Listen to both sides and you will be enlightened, heed only one side and you will be benighted." That is a famous line from ancient sages to admonish prejudice-prone people.
The CPC has thrived on alliances with people of divergent ideas. But some people's obsession with unanimity has cultivated a harmful prejudice that having and expressing a different idea is a sign of discord.
The CPC has suffered from a dislike of different opinions. Had there been due respect for nay-sayers, many of its past mistakes could have been avoided.
Late Chairman Mao Zedong's proposal to "let a hundred flowers blossom, and a hundred schools of thought contend" is still cited today. In order to harvest the dividends of democracy, people should first learn to appreciate differences.
(China Daily August 9, 2006)