Since the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), inner-party democracy has made great strides. A series of achievements concerning theories, practice and institutionalization have been obtained through constant exploration around the construction of inner-party democracy by Party organizations on all levels. These achievements have laid a solid foundation that promotes people's democracy via inner-party democracy, thus enhancing social harmony through the Party's internal harmony. According to Yu Keping, Deputy Director of Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, who is also director of China Center for Comparative Politics & Economics, the CPC is the center of political power in contemporary China, which means that without inner-Party democracy, the present democracy in China symbolizes nothing but meaningless chatter.
Deepening theory research
Jiang Zemin's speech at the 16th CPC National Congress pointed out that "Inner-Party democracy is the life of the Party and plays an important exemplary and leading role in people's democracy." This theory represented a great innovation in building inner-Party democracy when it was first put forward and showed clearly the way for CPC self-construction.
Based on that theory, a basic guideline on developing inner-Party democracy was established at the 16th CPC National Congress: to establish and improve an inner-Party democratic system that would fully reflect the will of Party members and organizations, starting with the reform of the relevant systems and mechanisms on the basis of guaranteeing the democratic rights of Party members and giving priority to improving the systems of Party congresses and of Party committees.
Two years later, the fourth plenary session of 16th CPC National Congress pointed out that developing inner-Party democracy is an important part of political restructuring and constructing political civilization. The sixth plenary session of the 16th CPC National Congress further advocated the idea of "enhancing social harmony by developing inner-Party harmony."
On June 25, 2007, Chinese President Hu Jintao, also general secretary of the Central Committee of CPC, delivered a keynote speech at the CPC Central Committee's Party School. His speech requested that all Party members vigorously and properly develop democracy within the Party in order to adhere to democratic centralism, to ensure Party members' dominant status and to perfect the inner-Party democratic system in order to enhance democratic consciousness within the Party, to realize an improved democratic system and a more innovative Party. "Ensuring Party members' dominant status is not only the core content of enhancing democratic consciousness within the Party but also the theoretical basis of perfecting democratic system within the Party," noted Liang Yanhui, a professor from the CPC Central Committee's Party School. That all the Party members are equal and they share the democratic rights equally is the two foundation stones to inner-Party democracy.
Better guarantee of Party members' rights
In order to ensure Party members' dominant status, the first principle is to guarantee Party members' rights prescribed by CPC constitution. In September 2004, the CPC Central Committee issued the Regulations on the Guarantee of Rights of CPC Members, which improves the procedures for CPC members to exercise their democratic rights.
After trial implementation and revision for years, the regulations standardized and perfected stipulations about Party members' rights to know, to vote, to participate and to supervise. The regulations also improved guarantee measures and clearly defined the duties and responsibilities should be undertaken by Party organizations and their leaders at all levels concerning ensuring members' rights.
Two of most important rights – the rights to elect and to be elected are specifically stressed by the regulations.
The system of permanent Party congress extends to more places
As one of the important arrangements to carry out inner-Party democracy, the system of permanent Party congress has been attached importance to in recent years. The CPC has extended the experiment of this system to more provinces, including Zhejiang, Sichuan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Shandong, Shanxi, Guangxi and Shaanxi. Professor Liang noted two characteristics of this system: one is annual session of Party congress, which means delegates meet once a year to address big issues with main leaders of local CPC committees delivering reports at the meeting and receiving evaluation, the other is the system of permanent CPC delegates. The delegates are elected through competitive election by differential voting. They play their roles by proposing and assessing during sessions while carry out research and survey to collect opinions and demands from the people when Party congresses are not in session.
The plenary sessions of Party committees plays an active role
In July 2002, the central committee of CPC issued Regulations for Selection and Appointment of Party and Government Leading Cadres. According to article 33, "A candidate to be appointed or recommended to be the head of the Party committee or the leading group of the government of a prefecture (prefectural-level city) or county (county-level city) shall be nominated by the standing committee of the Party committee (leading Party members' group) at the higher level, examined by the plenary session of the Party committee, and his candidacy decided by a secret ballot. When the plenum of the Party committee is not in session, the standing committee of the Party committee shall make a decision. The standing committee shall, before the decision is made, consult all the members of the Party committee."
The function of the plenum of the Party committee was further strengthened after the report of 16th CPC Congress pointed out to "better exert its role". In April 2004, the Voting Methods for the Plenum of CPC Local Committees Concerning Candidates Nominated and Recommended as Head of a Party Committee or Government of an Immediate Lower Level was issued, clarified and detailed the procedure of voting methods concerning important cadres' appointments.
With strong support from the Central Committee of the CPC, local committees have been constantly exploring how to better exert roles of the plenum of the Party committee. The Standing Committee of Jiangsu Province Committee of the CPC displayed a good example in October 2004 by submitting a nominee for Party Secretary of Wuxi City to the upcoming plenary session for voting and opening the whole process to the media.
Improvement of cadre selection mechanism
The report of the 16th CPC Congress pointed out that when reforming the cadre and personnel system, "We should focus on establishing a sound mechanism of selection, appointment, management and supervision, with a view to making it scientific, democratic and institutionalized."
To achieve this goal, a series of rules and regulations have been adopted. In 2004, several regulations on the selection, appointment, management and supervision of cadres were promulgated. From the end of 2005 to 2006, five regulations on the education, management and supervision of cadres were issued. In July 2006, the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee adopted the Provisional Rules on Comprehensively Evaluating Local Party and Government Leading Groups and Leading Cadres under the Scientific Concept of Development. All these rules and regulations are supplementary to the Regulation on Selection and Appointment of Party and Government Leading Cadres.
At grass roots level, a new election method, under which candidates of leading cadres are recommended by the public and then elected directly by Party members, is being tried out. During the Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th CPC National Congress, it was pointed out that efforts should be made to "gradually enlarge the implementation of direct elections of leading Party cadres at the grassroots level". In recent years, authorities in Sichuan, Hubei and Jiangsu provinces have actively applied the method in the election of Party secretary and government chief at township level. Their practices have achieved notable results in enlarging inner-Party democracy.
Further strengthening inner-Party supervision
By the end of 2003, the CPC Central Committee promulgated the Regulation on Inner-Party Supervision (for Trial Implementation). This is the first Party regulation on major issues concerning internal supervision issues. In the regulation, it is stipulated in explicit terms that the focus of inner-Party supervision is to act as the leading organs and leading cadres at various levels, especially those persons holding key positions in the leading groups at various levels. During the same period, the revised Regulation on Disciplinary Punishment was formulated.
Since 2003, the CPC Central Committee has released a series of detailed rules on inner-Party supervision. In December 2005, two provisional rules were adopted, namely the Provisional Rules on Holding Talks with and Mailing Enquiry Letters to Leading Party Cadres and the Provisional Rules for Leading Cadres to Report Daily Works and Self-Discipline Works.
At present, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC and the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee are working to formulate the Regulation on Making Inspection Tours and a series of matching rules.
According to the statistics released by the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, since the 16th CPC National Congress, the majority of grassroots Party organizations in China have established a system of reporting on important matters. Thus, the work of the Party organizations has become more open and transparent.
The system of reporting on important matters was first tried out in Zhenjiang City, Jiangsu Province. At present, in Zhenjiang, 80 towns and residential streets, or 88 percent of the city's total grassroots Party organizations, have established the reporting system. In Jiangsu, 870 Party committees at township level and 1,287 Party organizations at county level, or 81.2 percent of the province's total, have developed the system.
In an interview, Sang Xueyu, a professor at the Party School of CPC Jiangsu Provincial Committee, said, "In the new era, reporting on important matters will be an efficient method to strengthen inner-Party supervision and enlarge inner-Party democracy. This practice has been widely acknowledged and enthusiastically supported by Party members. Therefore, the system of reporting on important matters is developing quickly throughout China."
From the CPC Central Committee to various grassroots Party organizations, the system of reporting on important matters has been institutionalized. For instance, it is now a rule that the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPC reports to the Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPC. The Standing Committee of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC reports to the Plenum of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC. At local levels, the standing committee of CPC committee and the standing committee of Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC reports to their plenum respectively.
Yu Keping said, "This is a practical method to improve socialist democracy by developing the system of reporting on important matters, enlarging inner-Party democracy and pressing ahead on nationwide democratic development."
(China.org.cn, 17thcongress.org.cn by Huang Shan, Chen Xia October 15, 2007)