The institutional system and decision-making capabilities of democratic centralism have proven to be the country’s advantage
This year marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the 60th anniversary of the establishment of people’s congress system and the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. In the past 65 years China has developed rapidly and has made great achievements. Democratic centralism is the core mechanism of the China model, the key to the China miracle, and China’s advantage compared with other major developing countries.
China is still a developing country, and it lags behind the developed countries in many aspects. But it would be wrong to always attribute the developed countries’ achievements to their democratic system. It’s also wrong to deny China’s success because of some partial setbacks or mistakes and to blame these on China’s democratic system.
Democratic centralism is an institutional system as well as a decision-making model. Democratic centralism is an organization principle of the governing Communist Party of China, as well as national organizations, which links the CPC and the national mechanism based on the people’s congress system.
Under democratic centralism, the decision-making process is first democratic discussion and then consensus on opinions on a democratic basis, which guarantees the decision-making process responds to public opinion to the greatest extent.
Currently there are two major political systems in the world: democratic centralism and representative democracy. If we want to make a comparison between the two systems, we should first make sure the premise of “comparability” holds. In other words, China should be compared with those developing countries that also have a long history, huge population and suffered a long time as a colony or semi-colony.
We can divide all the 12 countries with populations of more than 100 million into three groups. The first contains developed countries such as the United States and Japan, whose development is not due to representative democracy, but freedom of speech, rule of law, a market economy and exploitation of other countries.
The second group contains countries that have turned to representative democracy such as Russia. In the 1990s, the former Soviet Union fell apart and terrorism was widespread. The public called for Vladimir Putin’s “controllable democracy”, which has enabled Russia to revive.
The third group contains those developing countries that were colonized for a long time, such as Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Representative democracy is the bottleneck for most of these countries’ development and their people’s welfare because of strong social forces and weak national power. The political organizations and family forces behind representative democracy make local social forces in these countries ever stronger, while national power is often too weak to turn national will into reality in this political system.
Some Western people compare India with China and expect India, the largest democracy according to the West’s definition, to surpass China someday because they believe that representative democracy is the biggest advantage of India.
Yet in the Human Development Index, China has risen from the rank of 101 in 2001 to the rank of 91 in 2014, while India has dropped from 122 in 2001 to 135 in 2014. In the Poverty Population Index, 11.8 percent of China’s population is below the international poverty line, while the percentage of India is 32.68. In the Corruption Perceptions Index, China ranks 80th while India ranks 96th. In the Ease of Business Index, China ranks 90th while India ranks 134th. In 2013, China’s per capita GDP was $6,629, which is more than four times the $1,592 of India. The gap of per capita GDP between China and India is larger than two decades ago.
Why has the gap between China and India become larger? India is a democratic society but still has some feudal legacies, and the unfairness under feudalism can hardly accelerate market economy development. As to its “superior” political system, Indian-American political commentator Fareed Zakaria describes it as “bandit democracy”. That means, a candidate who committed a crime yesterday may be elected today. India has about 2,000 parties. The country’s high degree of fragmentation means it fails to propel public policies that benefit its citizens. The representative democracy of India is fragmented democracy that lacks authoritative policy execution.
Compared with the major developing countries that practice representative democracy, China’s centralized democracy guarantees freedom, autonomy, a market economy and also authoritative governmental organizations. China has a lead in governance compared with other major developing countries mainly because of democratic centralism.
Democratic centralism has gone through the first stage during the revolutionary period, the second stage during the first three decades after the founding of New China, and the third stage during the three decades after reform and opening-up. From history and reality we can clearly see the advantages of this political system.
By Yang Guangbin (China Daily)/Asia News Network
The author is a professor of political studies with Renmin University of China.
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