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China's Political Reform- Keynote Speech delivered at "Ambassador Series " in Hertie School of Governance
2011/03/08

( 2011.03.02, Berlin)

Dear Prof.Dr.Anheier,

Dear Professors,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

First of all, I would like to thank Professor Anheier and you all for your kind invitation. "Public Governance" or "Public Policy" is also a very new popular subject in China. Therefore, I'm very glad to share with you my views on the topic of "China's Political Reform".

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is no universally applied democratic political system in this world. Whether a system is good or bad depends on whether it responds to its people's request and its national circumstances. So why did China choose the socialist democratic political system? That's the answer the Chinese people found through long-time struggle and arduous exploration. After the last feudal dynasty in China was overthrown in 1911 revolution, the Chinese people began a heated debate on whether to adopt the republican system or the constitutional monarchy system. The Chinese people experimented with different political systems, but none of them were successful. Bribery and cheating were wide-spread. Some parliament members were even forced to vote at a gun point. Consequently, as war lords fought each other and people were divided and suffering, some foreign powers took the opportunity to invade China. The Chinese people were actually eager to learn from the western political systems. But our "teachers" only hoped that China should best remain semi-colonial and semi-feudal so that they can possess China's market and resources for ever. The economic crisis of 1920s, the fast development of Soviet socialist system, the invasion of the Japanese imperialists and suppressions of foreign powers denied China the choice for capitalism. Under such historical circumstances, whoever can help the Chinese people stand up and china become prosperous would obviously be supported by the Chinese people. In 1949, the new PRC was founded. National independence and people's liberation were achieved. The socialist system was established and the Chinese people had finally stood up. From 1949 till today, we have been accomplishing our second task, to make our country strong and people prosperous. By now, huge progress has been achieved. The British Field Marshal Montgomery once asked a Chinese Marshal a question: how can you beat 800,000 Komingtang soldiers armed with modern American weapons with only 600,000 troops so poorly equipped? The Marshal answered: "it's very simple. When the shots were fired, their soldiers all came to our side." This vividly demonstrates that our choice of political system was supported by the Chinese people.

The core content and basic framework of China's socialist political system is the People's Congress System, the multi-party cooperation and political consultative system led by the Chinese Communist Party, the regional ethnic autonomy system, and grassroots democratic autonomy system. Mr. Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of China's reform, once identified three standards for judging a political system: 1. whether it can guarantee the political stability of a country; 2. whether it can enhance people's unity and raise people's living standards; 3. whether it can ensure the sustainable growth of productivity. The Chinese political system with its own distinctive feature, has been proven to be in line with the actual circumstances of China and aspiration of its people. It has injected huge power and essential support into China's economic and social development. That's also the reason why more and more people are trying to explore the secret in China's success and analyze the advantage of the Chinese development model.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

No political system is perfect. Political systems need to be improved constantly during its development. With the fast development of its economy, China needs to go through a historical period that took capitalist countries 300 years with only several decades. China is now encountering all kinds of serious contradictions and problems in the process of industrialization, urbanization, and internationalization. So we must unswervingly promote the political reform. Without the guarantee of the political reform, the achievements of the economic reform might be lost again and the goal of modernization would not be realized. Actually, since 1978, China's political reform has gone hand in hand with the economic reform. We have mainly done the following:

1. to promote inner-Party democracy. The CPC is the ruling party that has approximately 80 million party members. To promote democracy among the people by enhancing democracy inside the party is one of the key measures of China's political reform. Over the years, series of reforms have been carried out in the fields like perfecting the party conference system, safeguarding party member's rights, improving inner- party election etc, especially in abolishing life-long tenure in leading post, introducing competition for posts mechanisms, public review before official appointment, expanding direct elections to more grassroots party committees and raising the number of candidate for posts in central and local party committees. For instance, in Nanjing, in August 2009 and April 2010, leaders of 363 community party organizations which cover the whole city as well as 806 village party committees were elected through public recommendation and direct vote. In recent polls, 98% party members and citizens are satisfied with the work of these newly elected leaders. This demonstrates that our reform in inner-Party grass root elections system has received popular support.

2. to enhance grassroots democratic self-governance. There are 613,000 executive villages with a total population of nearly 800 million in China, their leadership has been basically directly elected. Meanwhile, there are 82,000 municipal neighborhood committees with a total population of nearly 500 million and 50% of them have been directly returned. In places where indirect elections are still being used, the number of candidates is also increased. A lot of rural areas in China have implemented transparent politics. Blackboards are erected in the villages to shows all kinds of activities. People feel more and more self governed and happily support these policies.

3. to accelerate reform on administration and management mechanisms. Separate government and enterprise, government and public institution. Streamline the organization. Transform government functions. Establish service-oriented government which is clean, responsible and efficient under the rule of law. Form administrative mechanisms in which decision-making power, executive power and monitoring power supervise each other and coordinate with each other. Cities like Chengdu and Handan have clearly identified the responsibility and authority of governments and functional departments at all levels. Government's "power list" has been prepared. "Transparent Administrative Office" has been implemented. The process of decision making, administration and supervision has been published. The procedure and standardization of administration has been enhanced. Chinese refer to it as "Sunshine Government Affairs Program". Another example: a lot of grass root governments have successfully carried out the reform on administrative approval system. The reform measures are as following: Streamline the approval procedures; reduce charges; all applications for approval can be done in public administration centers; implement "twice-ending system" – that is to notify all the detailed material required for this approval and relevant requirements at the first time and finish the approval at the second time within stipulated time. These measures vastly advanced the efficiency of governments' administrative approval.

4. to let the participating parties play the role. There are 8 participating parties with over 600,000 members in China. Since 1978 of reform and opening up, 120,000 of them have been working in the People's Congress and CPPCC at all levels. Among many central government departments, all the 31 provinces and autonomous regions, 2/3 of the counties have members of participating parties holding official posts. Before big decisions are made, comments and suggestions of the participating parties are consulted in order to bring into full play their role in political participation and democratic supervision. Meanwhile, the advantage of the political consultative system is further utilized so as to jointly promote the development of democratic politics. In recent years, the CPC central committee and the State Council held regular sessions of consultation, symposium and briefing with the participating parties and ask them to share their views and suggestions on issues that affect the people's livelihood such as constitution amendment, law drafts, the 11th and the 12th five year plan, national financial system reform, health care reform and education reform. A lot of their opinions have been adopted by relevant departments of the CPC central committee and the state council.

5. to strengthen direct public supervision. Establish public opinion and media supervision system; improving petition system; establish spokes- person system; hold public hearings before major policy implementation. Combine inner-Party supervision with administrative supervision, legal supervision, media supervision and public supervision, so as to ensure the government's cleanness and the policy accuracy. Extensively motivate and organize the people to govern national economic, social and cultural affairs by the rule of law. For instance, in recent years, before Beijing municipal government's every adjustment on water and gas prices, people's hearings were held in advance. Even if the price is only up by several RMB cents, people's opinions must be taken into consideration before any plans could be decided on. Currently, many provincial and municipal leaders are utilizing internet blogs, video pod cast, mobile phone messages and micro blogs to communicate with the people. By these measures, the government administration is closer with the public, and better ready to accept public supervision.

6. to improve legal system, respect and protect human rights. We not only established the strategy and objective of building a socialist nation ruled by law, but also established and gradually improved a whole set of legal and judicial system with Chinese characteristics, including the revised "Constitution". People's status in the country, their rights, the principles and procedures to use these rights, and punishment against acts of infringement of people's democratic rights, these are ensured and guaranteed by law. We've basically achieved the rule of law and have established solid legal basis for further improvement of the political system. China's political reform is based on the protection of Chinese people's human rights, especially the right to survive and develop, so that the people can fully enjoy the economic and livelihood benefits brought by the reform and their cultural and material needs can be satisfied. People's private properties are protected and their freedom of speech, of publication, of press is guaranteed by law. Thus, people's enthusiasm for national unity and development are greatly promoted, and conditions for further improvement of the political system are provided.

Ladies and Gentleman,

What I just talked about can not completely cover all the contents of China's political reform, but it can explain some of the major changes in China's political system. I don't think that China's political system is perfect and we should be satisfied with our current achievements. But there is no doubt that China's political reform is playing an important role in promoting and protecting social economic development. For future political reform, I think following should be done:

1. To ensure social stability is the prerequisite of political reform. Unlike developed countries, China is in the process of industrialization and urbanization. Over 10 million people flood into the cities every year. The number of people that are under the UN absolute poverty line is around 150 million. The gap between rich and poor, cities and rural areas as well as differences between regions made political reform very complicated. Both the disastrous "Cultural Revolution" and the successful experience of economic reform have taught us that if China were in chaos, not only no effective political reform could take place, but also would cause disaster to the world. The current refugee tides caused by the disturbing situation in North Africa have already made Italy and other EU countries very nervous. One could imagine if China became unstable, what kind of impact it would have on the world. Just as Mr. Dengxiaoping once said: " in China, the overwhelming issue is stability. Without stability, nothing could be accomplished." Therefore, it's a serious test to our capacity to coordinate the relations of reform, development and stability.

2. Continue to promote people democracy by advancing inner-Party democracy. The CPC is the ruling party in China and an irreplaceable leader in China's political reform. To promote people democracy with inner-Party democracy is a gateway towards democracy with Chinese characteristics. The Fourth Plenary Session of the Seventeen CPC Central Committee made comprehensive plans on developing democracy within the Party. The measures include further opening party affairs to the public, improving election system within the party and democratic decision making, strengthening supervision on party members, especially on its leaders. These measures are being implemented step by step and will actively promote and lead the democratic process of Chinese society.

3. To encourage orderly citizens' participation in politics and insist on progressive manner of development. In developing countries, especially in those without mature civil society, disorderly political movements and social chaos are often easy to occur. Therefore, to encourage citizens to participate in politics in an orderly manner is one of the key issues to the success of the political reform. We will further guarantee and expand citizens' right to know, participate, express and supervise, and enhance the role of political consultation in China's political life. Besides, just like economic reform, China's political reform should also be from the bottom up in a progressive manner. Experiments should be made in grassroots units and parts of the system. When enough successful experience accumulated, it will be further expanded. The deepening of China's political reform not only requires pilots at grassroots, but also needs overall planning. To this end, the central government has issued a series of documents guiding the political reform, so that the reform can be advanced stably and orderly.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We can see that China's political reform is of Chinese characteristics. It will be hard to measure or interpret it by western standard of democratic system. We are willing to study and learn seriously from the useful experience of other countries and to improve China's political system. We will gradually deepen our political reform. We will be concentrating on tangible benefits and will not be in a hurry to take hasty major step forward. During the past thirty years, the Chinese people created a miracle in economic development with unprecedented courage and energy. We have the same reason to believe that through joint efforts of the Chinese people, we will succeed in developing a political system of Chinese characteristics.

Thank you!

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