On a visit to Shenzhen last month, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (温家宝) allowed us to hear from one side of the political reform divide in China, arguing that China needed “not only to promote economic reform, but must also promote political system reforms.” Wen said that “without the guarantee provided by political system reforms, the results of economic reform will be lost, and the goal of modernization cannot be achieved.”
Predictably, those who support substantive political reform in China — generally broad-brushed as the “right” end of China’s political spectrum — chased up Wen’s speech with their own calls for political reform.
Over the weekend, however, we got to hear from the “left” end of China’s political spectrum in an essay in Guangming Daily, a newspaper run by the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department. The essay, which dismisses the “bourgeois democracy” of the West as a “democracy of the few” and lauds the “socialist democracy” of China as a democracy of the masses, reminds us that you can talk about democracy in China and never leave the cozy armchair of dictatorship.
Venting on Twitter yesterday, Renmin University of China professor and CMP fellow Zhang Ming (张鸣) wrote: “Guangming Daily is a garbage daily, a newspaper for those who profit by gathering garbage paper. They come out and say this crap about some socialist democracy.”
Internet users at a number of forums were similarly clear-eyed, or unkind, depending on how one accepted the arguments in Guangming Daily.
“The Guangming Daily article is actually anti-democracy and anti-reform,” one user wrote. “Guangming Daily has already been reduced into a bridgehead against the people and democracy manipulated by certain forces,” said another.
“Guangming Daily is a monument to whoredom!”
“You have no shame, and you still call yourself ‘bright.'” (“Guangming” means “bright” in Chinese).
Guangming Daily talks about drawing a clear distinction between socialist democracy and capitalist democracy. The problem is that the former is totally invisible and untouchable, so how can anything be distinguished at all?”
“With democracy we can distinguish only between real democracy and fake democracy!”
“Guangming Daily was once a newspaper in the democratic camp, which belonged to the right. Clearly it is now changed beyond all recognition.”
The following is a translation of key portions of the Guangming Daily editorial, which was written by Xu Zhenhua (徐振华).
Two Democracies of Different Natures Must Not Be Confused (两种不同性质民主不可混)
September 4, 2010
On practical political questions, it is only proper to conduct some comparative research. But the precondition is that you be clear about the basic differences between the two types of democracy — otherwise, you run the risk of confusing one thing with the other and coming to improper conclusions.
First of all, in answering the question of “who governs,” socialist democracy and capitalist democracy are clearly delineated in their answers. Socialist democracy adheres to a people’s democratic dictatorship (人民民主专政), truly realizing the people as the masters [of their country] and carrying out among the people the most extensive democracy, and meanwhile to those enemies within carrying out the most effective dictatorship in accord with the law. Capitalist democracy, on the other hand, is only democracy among the very few, and it is limited within the bourgeois class, at its most basic seeking to protect private ownership of the means of production and thereby safeguard the interests of the bourgeois class. These differences in “state system” are of critical importance, showing us the class nature of democratic politics. Therefore, if someone does not recognize clearly the question of “who governs” before they argue specific political questions, they are like blind people groping the elephant, prone to all sorts of errors.
On the question of “how governing occurs,” socialist democracy and capitalist democracy are also poles apart. Socialist democracy adheres to the basic political system of the National People’s Congress, thoroughly ensuring the position of the people as the masters [of their country] and giving full scope to the sense of ownership and responsibility. While capitalist democracy also advertises itself as “rule by the people” and [holds that] “all people are equal,” under the system of private ownership the few still exercise control, regardless of what form the system takes. These basic differences in political systems are important background as we observe actual realities, and if we disregard these we will reach prejudiced or preposterous conclusions.
Aside from the differences in state systems and political systems, socialist democracy and capitalist democracy show clear differences in terms of political party systems, ethnic relations (民族关系), grassroots democracy (基层民主) and other such issues — and these too must not be overlooked. All of these differences must be the keystone of our decisions and reforms. Whether we are talking about regional experimentation or about comprehensive trials, all of these must be based upon a drawing of clear distinctions between these different forms of democracy.