What Do the People Want?

After reading the article, I found a documentary titled “Please Vote for Me” directed by Weijun Chen, a Chinese filmmaker, on the “Why Democracy” website. There is also an interview of Chen which reveals the director’s thoughts on the Chinese people’s distorted interpretation of democracy and the background issues. One cannot help wondering if democracy in its true and original sense will ever have a chance in China, despite what Hu said in her article.

This is my translation of Hu’s article:-

“Without a doubt, all eyes overseas and within China are on the Seventeenth Party Congress. One of the focuses is the political staffing arrangement, which means the new election result of the Communist Party Central Committee, the Politburo and the Politburo Central Committee, as it will impact on China’s future direction in political power mapping. However, there is another expectation that the general public and those overseas Chinese who honestly wish China well have passionately expressed, and that is the expectation for the Congress to come up with a new goal in terms of reformative measures, particularly a breakthrough in the reform of the political structure. The official media outlet Xinhuanet is conducting an opinion survey which shows that the first four agenda items the public is most concerned with are, in consecutive order, strengthening the monitoring and restraining of the exercise of political power, deepening anti-corruption efforts, expanding employment and perfecting the social welfare system, and establishing a fair and just income distribution system. The first two are the core contents of political reform, while the latter two are directly related thereto. What the people want is as clear as day.

That the relative lag in the political system reform is closely related to the convoluted and sensitive nature of politics is a foregone conclusion. However, one should not overlook the fact that some vested interest groups have deliberately obstructed the process. Besides, there exist some unnecessary misunderstanding and anxieties which form other reasons why political reform has not proceeded smoothly.

For example, some analysts always fear erroneously that political reform will lead to social instability, when in actual fact, stagnation in such reform may exactly be the cause for brewing social discontent. Others are in the habit of taking “democracy” and “constitution” as features that are exclusive to capitalism, when in reality these are the common fruits of human civilization, and it is also China’s duty to fulfill these human right aspirations under the United Nations Charter. Then there are some analysts who think that the way to go is to “do it” and not “speak it”. But this closed style of doing things is subconsciously “making decisions for the people”, which runs in direct opposition to the ideals of democracy.

There are hundreds of loose ends to tie up in the process of political reform, but the core concept is still promoting democracy. Just as economic reform cannot deviate from the market, political reform cannot deviate from democracy. Hu Jintao recently has given a lot of interpretations of the term “democracy”. He clearly points out that “without democracy, there will be no modernization”. He emphasizes the need to “ensure people’s right of democratic election according to law, democratic decision, democratic administration and democratic monitoring”. He also proposes to develop a socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics. In his June 25th speech, he again stated “the development of a socialist democracy as a goal to strive for”. In fact, the reason why the concepts of “scientific development”, “people as the base” and “harmonious society” that the new generation of Communist leaders tabled as their political objectives are finding public support is exactly because these encompass the spirit of democracy.

Of course, political reform is surely something easier said than done. One cannot separate the promotion of democracy in China from the special Chinese characteristic in terms of “cultural rationalization”, which is an added stumbling block. Although the current economic well-being has provided a more relaxed external environment for the process, the unprecedented complications in the humongous political reform project still require an extremely high level of intelligence on the part of politicians as well as meticulous care in the design and experimenting through numerous trials and errors. From the people’s viewpoint, they cherish stability but at the same time desire change; they have hopes but can also face up to reality. However, the passion for change is becoming more and more heated. This will be a challenge, a test and an opportunity for the leaders.”