Sunday, 11 March 2018

So much for "internal democracy"

The idea that China did have a form of democracy, albeit one contained within the Chinese Communist Party, is often spoke about, particularly in response to criticism of the undemocratic nature of Chinese governance. Here's an example from a 2017 editorial in the Global Times:
"China has established its own democratic system with Chinese characteristics in its pursuit of national independence and prosperity, and social progress, a fruitful result of its democratic building that has been deeply influenced by the country's historical and cultural traditions and domestic conditions."
 The reality? Well, let's look at yesterday's vote on whether or not to extend Xi Jinping's rule potentially for life:
"Applause rippled through the auditorium as Xi cast his vote, using two hands to place a salmon-coloured ballot into a bright red box at 3.24pm. A further 2,957 ballots were cast in favour of the change while three delegates abstained and two voted against, a small hint of the outrage the move has caused in some liberal circles."
 This gets even worse when you consider that the single vote against confirming Xi as leader for the next five years in 2013 may well have been his own, cast in an effort to make the vote look more democratic. The two votes against here may have been cast with similar intent.

"Internal democracy" should join the other theories about high-level Chinese governance for which there is no actual indisputable on-the-ground-evidence.


Ji Xiang said...

It was two votes against and three abstained, not one against and two abstained, as you seem to be implying. Count again.

That the NPC was just a consultative body with no real power to challenge the Communist Party has always been well known. Even Chinese internal propaganda doesn't generally try to present the NPC as a genuine national parliament elected by the people, since this would probably backfire.

I think the "democracy" Chinese propaganda talks about is not directly referring to the National People's Congress. Rather, it is based upon some very loose understanding of the word democracy, according to which if the leaders listen to the voice of public opinion when making their decisions, and if the people broadly support the government, then there is "democracy". You might call this a very dubious and self-serving understanding of democracy, but you know, what else are they going to say?

Gilman Grundy said...

@Jixiang - This was what I was referring to:

edited for clarity