Holding on to the hearts of the people: the essence of democracy

Chinese national flags. / CFP

Chinese national flags. / CFP

Editor’s Note: Xia Lu is an associate professor at the School of Marxism Studies and a research fellow at the National Academy of Development and Strategy, Renmin University of China. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of CGTN.

More than two years ago, after the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the 4th Plenum of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) ratified a resolution emphasizing categorization of almost all the systems and institutions that have been created since 1949 in very diverse aspects: economic, social, political and ideological.

Although Comprehensive People’s Democracy as a concept was only recently invented, the practice has long been reflected in the process of materializing and consolidating popular power under the leadership of the CCP. In the early 1930s, when the Soviet Republic of China, the first national regime founded by the CPC, was established, democratic elections were established as one of the important tenets of the new regime. The word “Soviet” itself literally refers to “congress” or “assembly” in Russian, so democratic elections are the meaning of the Soviet political system and the concrete form of participation of workers and peasants in the management of the State.

After arriving in a remote region in the northwest, the CCP transferred the regime to the border region of Shaan-Gan-Ning. But even during the war of resistance to the Japanese invasions, the practice of democratic politics led by the CCP never stopped its progress.

It is precisely because of the adoption of a participatory model centered on the population that the inhabitants of the border areas showed great enthusiasm for political participation, and thus the election became a conscious action. The participation rate can be taken as an indicator. In the first elections in the border region, the turnout was over 80%, and in some places it was higher, such as Panlong District in Yan’an, where almost all voters voted. In modern societies, people tend to view elections as a criterion of democracy, and low turnout is viewed by academics as a sign of the decline of democracy. So how can one still argue that a certain country is the prototype of democracy when its own people are unwilling to go to the polls?

At the beginning of the PRC, proletarian democracy was established with the triumph of the socialist revolution and it persisted throughout the period of transition from the new democracy (1949-1956) to socialism (1956 to the present day). With the achievements in building socialism, proletarian democracy has evolved into socialist democracy of the whole people, or process-wide popular democracy.

The distinguishing features of socialist democracy of all people are, first of all, that it is appreciated by all strata of society. Second, it implements democratic ideals, namely government by the people, and the equality and freedom of the individual. Thirdly, on the basis of the raising of the standard of living and the cultural level of the population, the democracy of the whole people creates the conditions for the participation of all the citizens in a fruitful productive activity and in the administration of the people. business of the company, and for the constant development of the initiative and capabilities of each.

The difficulties in promoting democracy arise from the material potentialities of society, the level of people’s consciousness and their knowledge of politics, from the fact that a socialist society does not develop in greenhouse conditions, nor in isolation from a world full of uncertainties and changes. To perfect socialist democracy, it is necessary to eradicate bureaucratic regimentation and formalism – anything that stifles and erodes the initiatives of the people and hinders creative thinking and work.

Socialism with Chinese characteristics of the new era ensures a significant extension of the rights and freedoms of citizens. The Constitution of the PRC codifies and protects the fundamental rights of the Chinese people and clearly defines the systems of social, economic, political and legal guarantees of each of the rights and freedoms. Among the key socio-economic and political rights of the Chinese people enshrined in the Constitution is the right to participate in the administration of state and social affairs. A constitutional norm is also the right of everyone to submit to state agencies and institutions suggestions on how to improve their functioning and to criticize the shortcomings of their work. All state and public bodies, as well as the executives and officials who work there, must respect these aforementioned rights.

The Great People’s Palace in Beijing, China. / CFP

The Great People’s Palace in Beijing, China. / CFP

The extension of legal guarantees is also expressed in the right of individuals to judicial protection against attacks on their honor and dignity, their life and health, their personal freedom and their property. Important standards include the right of individuals to lodge complaints against improper actions of certain executives and officials, and such complaints should be investigated in accordance with the procedure and time limit set by law; and the right of individuals to appeal against inappropriate actions of certain executives and officials who violate the law and infringe the rights of individuals.

The Chinese people also enjoy the right to associate in public organizations which contribute to the development of their political activity and initiative and to the satisfaction of their various interests. These rights and freedoms are granted to the Chinese people in accordance with the interests of the people and for the purpose of strengthening and developing the socialist system.

The ideological debate and the political struggle that have taken place in recent years on the question of human rights have brought to light two fundamentally different attitudes: the concrete and tangible one promoted by China versus the abstract and inconsistent one advocated by the West. . The first attitude embodies a truly democratic approach, underlying a concern for the rights of all. China’s democracy emphasizes, above all, the tangible social rights of the individual, such as the right to work, rest and leisure, education and socio-economic freedoms, including protection against exploitation. from man to man. Meanwhile, this latest stance centers on hypocritical praise of freedom of opinion, expression and the press despite all major media guaranteeing these freedoms – newspapers, TV stations, websites and news. social media platforms – are controlled by monopoly capital.

A recent study conducted at two leading universities suggests that the concept of democracy in America may have become more of a fable than a fact. US academics Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page seek to answer the question, “Who really rules (in America)?”, Challenging some of the most basic ideas people hold about the US government. After systematically examining the variables key to more than 1,779 policy issues, the two researchers found that the impact of the ordinary citizen is virtually negligible.

In some cases, people can have a say in politics; yet, unfortunately, researchers have found that majority benefits are the exception, not the rule. What may even surprise is that the researchers found that business groups generally want policies that harm the majority of the population. If one still considers a government where policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of wealthy people as democratic, then one may want to revisit the concept and essence of democracy and drop the illusion and come back to reality. After all, democracy is meant to be the rule of the people.

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