"We have been using the terms 'democracy' and 'science' for many years but they have never been so close to people's lives before," Secretary of Qiqihaer Municipal Party Committee of Heilongjiang Province, Yang Xin, said.
Expanding citizen participation in political affairs in an orderly way, proposing that both urban and rural areas gradually adapt the same ratio of deputies to the represented population in elections of deputies to people's congresses, implementing a system of Party congresses with a fixed term on a trial basis in selected counties, cities and districts, introducing a system of voting by local Party committees in discussing and deciding on major issues and appointment of cadres to important positions and adopting a tenure system for their delegates – all these important items are mentioned in the 17th National Congress report. They will become key expressions for the development of China's democratic politics over the next five years or even longer.
The Washington Post commented that, in his 17th National Congress report, Hu Jingtao has pledged to accompany China's economic progress with an increase in socialist democracy. Many foreign media have noted that this new experiment of the Communist Party of China is pushing forward the democratic process.
The vice president of the Institute of Political Science of the Chinese Academy of Social Science, Fang Ning, commented that a series of developmental concepts for democratic politics would establish an important position for democracy in China's future politics, mark new progress made in Chinese democratic politics and gradually improve the party's governance capability.
System of fixed tenures, voting system, system of Party congresses with fixed terms: Intra-party democracy has been raised to a higher level
Terms like system of fixed tenures, voting system, system of Party congresses with fixed terms mentioned in the 17th National Congress report have generated hot discussions about democracy among the delegates.
Director of Anhui Agricultural Committee, Bi Meijia is deeply impressed by the voting system. Last year when he was competing for the present position, he made an 8-minute speech at the Anhui Provincial People's Congress. Results were decided by member votes of the Standing Committee of Anhui People's Congress. Bi Meijia was very nervous for he had never had this kind of experience before. He knew few of the 60 members of the Standing Committee. But he finally won 80 percent of the votes. "After this experience, I have been very careful in performing all of my duties." said Bi.
Head of Hunan Academy of Science, Zhao Yaping, believes that adopting a tenure system for the congressional delegates will enable them to better play their role of supervision and consultation in their day to day work; implementing a system of Party congresses with a fixed term on a trial basis will give full play to the collective wisdom; introducing a system of voting by local Party committees in discussing and deciding on major issues and appointment of cadres to important positions will help to expand intra-party democracy.
Intra-party democracy is the life of the Party. Competitive elections, as an important symbol of intra-party democracy, have witnessed the past extraordinary 20 years. In 1987 competitive elections were first practiced at the 13th CPC National Congress and was written into the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. The candidates of the members and alternate members of the Central Committee and of the members of CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the 17th National Congress shall be elected through competitive primary elections.
Over the last five years, the party has been soliciting opinions through a variety of ways inside and outside the party concerning the affairs within the party, including major issues such as the report drafts of the congresses of the party and the choice of election candidates of the leading cadres of the party committee.
Before the drafting of the 17th National Congress report, the Central Committee sent more than 1,000 report research groups to the grass roots to solicit the opinions of the people.
The gradual enrichment of intra-party democracy is enhancing the innovative vitality of the party, enabling many outstanding cadres to come into the forefront. Over 15,000 leading cadres of the Party and government have been recruited through open selection and more than 200,000 cadres of the Party and government organs at various levels have been recruited through competition.
Transparency and participation: Democracy at various levels is expanded
The 17th National Congress asserts, "We'll increase transparency and expand public participation in decision-making. In principle, public hearings must be held to formulate laws, regulations and policies that bear closely on the interests of the public."
This expression makes Zhang Yuanhui who lives in Tiantongyuan Community of Beijing feel that public hearings are not mere formalities. She said, "Beijing's one-way subway fare was reduced from 3 yuan to 2 yuan (27 US cents) since October. Though the government has to pay more money for the public transportation services, this practice demonstrates that the government is willing to listen to public opinion."
In recent years all kinds of public hearings have been widely conducted in China. Public hearings were held before the formulation of important laws and regulations. This indicates that China's economic development is closely related to public participation in political democracy.
The report points out, "We need to improve the systems for transparency in government and village affairs to bring about effective connection and beneficial interaction between government administration and primary-level self-governance."
Wenling City of Zhejiang has been participating in the major government decision-making, administration and supervision and local financial budget through democratic discussions in recent years. "Open and transparent intra-party democracy provides strength and encouragement for the development of grass roots democracy, enabling China's 'grass roots democracy' to prosper," said Wang Jianman, Wenzhou Secretary of the Party Committee.
The 17th National Congress report asserts that since China began its reform and opening up, we have made vigorous yet steady efforts to promote political restructuring, and socialist democracy has demonstrated greater vitality in the country. As an important part of the overall reform, political restructuring must be constantly deepened along with economic and social development to adapt to the growing enthusiasm of the people for participation in political affairs.
The delegate to the 17th National Congress, Luo Qun, said, "We are proposing that both urban and rural areas gradually adapt the same ratio of deputies to the represented population in elections of deputies to people's congresses." He added, "We will incorporate political consultation in decision-making procedures." Mentioned in the report are constant explorations in expanding political channels in line with the people's active political participation. This means that more and more workers, farmers and intellectuals will be elected as the delegates to the people's congresses.
Scientific and democratic legislation: New strategy of the rule of law
The 17th National Congress report claims that the rule of law constitutes the essential requirement of socialist democracy. We must persist in scientific and democratic legislation to improve the socialist law system with Chinese characteristics.
This year's work report of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress laid out the lawmaking process of the past year: The Property Law has undergone more than 100 forums and panel discussions and seven deliberations; the Law of the People's Republic of China on Employment Contracts solicited nearly 200,000 public opinions; the National People's Congress received more than 150,000 letters from the public and 75,000 visitors in performing their supervision power.
"We have been using 'democracy' and 'science' for many years but they have never been so close to people's lives. Before," Secretary of Qiqihaer Party Committee of Heilongjiang, Yang Xin said. "The more progress is made in democracy and the sounder the laws become, the closer we get to building a harmonious society."
Reform in the administrative examination and approval system was regarded as "the self-revolution of the government". Just before the 17th National Congress another 186 administrative procedures were scraped or amended and. Sixty-eight departments inside the State Council slashed or amended 60 percent of their administrative procedures. The report stresses the point to "accelerate the reform of the administrative system and build a service-oriented government". The leader of the eighth team of Guanqiao Village of Hubei province, Zhou Baosheng, who is in charge of nearly 100 million yuan (US$13.32 million) in collective assets, was deeply touched by this point: "In the past it took us several months to apply for the provincial examination and approval of a project. But now if our project does not affect the environment, we only need to register it at the county level."
Some delegates believe that "reduce government intervention in microeconomic operations" and "step up our efforts to streamline government organs" stated in the report are also very creative concepts and will be very instructive in reducing administrative costs.
Inter-party relations and relations with religions: To unite with all forces that can be united
The 17th National Congress report clearly states that "promoting harmony in relations between political parties, between ethnic groups, between religions, between social strata, and between our compatriots at home and overseas plays an irreplaceable role in enhancing unity and pooling strengths."
Two non-Communist Party members, Wan Gan and Chen Zhu, were appointed as the Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology and Health Minister respectively earlier this year.
More than 32,000 non-Communist Party members have held leading political positions at or above the county level in government and law enforcement departments at various levels. As of this January 26 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and 15 deputy provincial cities were equipped with non-Communist Party deputy-provincial governors, vice-chairmen, vice-mayors or assistants.
Procedures and systems: Details highlight the democratic progress
Ninety-six-year-old special delegate, Fang Qiang, who attended the seventh CPC National Congress, clearly remembers voting by a show of hands at that Congress. The working staff would check several times to ensure the exact number of votes.
Computers have counted the votes since the 15th National Congress. As a famous announcer and delegate to the 15th National Congress, Fang Ming, acted as not only an announcer but also a voter. According to the procedure of the congress, Fang Ming would get the candidate list and get familiar with the names of the candidates. He said, "After the votes were counted, the names of those who hadn't appeared in the candidate list but got even one vote would be openly announced."
Details of democracy represent the crystallization of wisdom of the Party. The fourth plenum of the 16th National Congress passed the Resolution to Strengthen the Party's Governing Capability and first put forward the principle of scientific, democratic and legal administration. The 17th National Congress report points out that democracy will continue to develop in parallel with the progress of socialism.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Ming'ai, October 20, 2007)