For years, Premier Wen has talked about political reform and democracy, but seems to have little effect. However, he quoted the poem of Lin Zexu, a well-known patriot and talented official of the Qing Dynasty, to express his resolution to continue to strive for democracy till he dies.
I should point out here that China’s definition is quite different from the Western one. China has a history of 4,000 years of autocracy but no democracy of universal suffrage at all. However, as I point out in my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements”, its great sage Mencius advocated Mencius democracy of “putting the people first” more than 2,000 years ago.
This democracy is similar to Lincoln’s democracy of “government of the people, by the people, for the people” in its last point, government for the people. That is why Wen stresses the establishment of a decision-making mechanism that can deeply understand the conditions of the people, fully reflect popular will, widely pool people’s wisdom and earnestly cherish people’s energy and financial resources.
In this respect, China has indeed made much progress, as point out by Harvard University’s research results. “Contrary to previous understandings, posts with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of the state, its leaders and its policies are not more likely to be censored.” Now criticism of the state, its leaders and policies are not censored. However, in the Mao era, Peng Dehuai, a high official, was denounced and persecuted for writing a private letter to mildly point out Mao’s serious errors.
There is a great improvement, but Wen and others of similar mind do not stop there. They want greater progress. It seems other leaders do not oppose their opinion very seriously. That is why China’s Central Television published quite a long excerpt of his speech in its prime time news.
I provide here a translation of the excerpts: China Central Television reports in its prime-time news that Premier Wen Jiabao spoke yesterday to new State Council counsellors and members of the Central Research Institute of Culture and History about the importance of making decision-making democratic and scientific. He says that the State counsellors and members of the Institute have been doing their work increasingly more vigorously, and played an important role in promoting more democratic and scientific government decision-making. He expressed his appreciation on behalf of the State Council.
Wen Jiabao says that making decision-making democratic and scientific is not a new requirement just put forth now. As an important aspect of China’s political structural reform, it is a process that keeps on growing richer in content and develops along with the progress of China’s historical course of reform and opening up.
Over the past decade, under the leadership of the Party’s central authority, the governments at various levels have made unremitting efforts in establishing a decision-making mechanism that can deeply understand the conditions of the people, fully reflect popular will, widely pool people’s wisdom and earnestly cherish people’s energy and financial resources. However, the gap is still quite big in meeting people’s expectations and the objective demand of the development of China’s modernisation. There is still a long way to go to achieve the goal.
Regarding further boosting democratic and scientific decision-making, Wen stressed that people should be encouraged to proceed from reality, and be brave to conduct exploration and blaze new trails. He stresses that in making decision-making democratic and scientific, the first thing to do is to emancipate thoughts, seek truth from practice and be brave to conduct exploration. He says, “we should say sincere things, listen to sincere words and be good at absorbing wisdom from varying kinds of views. Opinions of criticism may make our minds soberer, causing us to attach importance to issues that may easily be ignored and facilitate prevention of errors in decision-making.
We should give effective play to experts’ and think tanks’ roles. Experts and think tanks would enhance their sense of social responsibility, think independently and uphold truth so as to make their research achievements able to pass the tests of practice and history. We should enhance the supervision and the accountability of our decision-making. We should perfect legal and administrative supervision, as well as attach importance to the supervision by the masses of the people and public opinion in society.”
Wen Jiaboa says, “promoting more democratic and scientific decision-making is not only an issue of leadership methods and work style, but also involves the issues of political structural reform and the intensification of the development of democratic politics. We should not only deepen our economic structural reform and perfect our socialist market economy, but also conscientiously, steadily and properly carry forward our political structural reform, and vigorously develop socialist democratic politics. They are both very important, and embody the internal requirements of the essential characteristics of socialism.
The reasons why our Party wants to develop democracy, and perfect the rule of law, are because we want to institutionalise intra-party democracy, turn the democracy in the state’s political and social life into law, enable the constitution and law to have the force that any people must strictly comply with and no one can contravene, establish effective power of restraint and create conditions for the people to supervise the system.
If democracy and the rule of law have not been perfected, then power has no effective restraint. Some people may exploit the power in their hand to contravene and even trample on law. We should be seriously on alert against that. The ‘Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China’ sums up very profoundly the lessons in this respect. We should remember well those lessons.”
Wen Jiabao finally says, the coming decade will be a critical decade in China’s course of modernisation. He hopes that all the counsellors, Institute staff and special research fellows will keep on probing deeply into the reality to make investigation and study, strive to raise the standards of their advice on national affairs and create a larger number of competitive cultural products.
- China considers delay of key party congress amid internal debate (chinadailymail.com)
- Political reform crucial to China’s economic future: scholar (wantchinatimes.com)
- Wen Jiabao: Alone At The Top? (ibtimes.com)