Consolidate Socialist Consultative Democracy*
September 20, 2019
The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is a great achievement of the CPC in combining the Marxist-Leninist theories of the united front, political parties, and democratic politics with the conditions in China. It is an innovative political system involving political parties, prominent individuals without any party affiliation, people's organizations, and people from all walks of life and all ethnic groups under the leadership of the CPC. For 70 years the CPPCC has been dedicated to the two major themes of unity and democracy. It has served as a support to the central tasks of the Party and the state, and played a significant role in founding the PRC and in each historical period of socialist revolution, development and reform.
The First Plenary Session of the CPPCC exercised the functions and powers of the later National People's Congress (NPC) and made comprehensive preparations for the founding of the PRC. The meeting adopted the Common Program of the CPPCC, which served as the provisional Constitution, the Organic Law of the CPPCC, and the Organic Law of the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China. The meeting also issued resolutions on the capital, the national flag and anthem, and the system of chronology of the PRC, and elected the CPPCC National Committee and the Central People's Government Council. This marked the formal establishment of the CPPCC system. After the founding of the PRC, the CPPCC made a great contribution to restoring and developing the national economy, consolidating the nascent people's political power, completing the socialist revolution, establishing the basic socialist system, and building socialism. After the NPC was inaugurated in 1954, the CPPCC continued to play an important role in the country's political and social affairs.
In 1978, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee was held, and the CPPCC entered a new stage in its development. The Central Committee further clarified the nature, tasks, themes, and functions of the CPPCC, had the nature and role of the CPPCC enshrined in the Constitution, and established multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC as China's basic political system. The CPPCC implemented the Party's theories, lines, principles and policies, and worked hard to mobilize all resources, unite all available forces, and make important contributions to reform, opening up and socialist modernization.
Socialism with Chinese characteristics has now entered a new era, and the CPC Central Committee has made a series of major plans for the CPPCC. The CPPCC implements the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, remains true to its nature and role, focuses on advancing the Five-sphere Integrated Plan and the Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy, and works wholeheartedly to achieve our Two Centenary Goals and realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. It has rallied strength for the development of the Party and the country, and broken new ground for its own undertakings.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, building on our experience, we have put forward a series of new requirements for the CPPCC, mainly as regards the following:
First, the Party's leadership over the CPPCC should be strengthened. The Party's leadership is supported by the Chinese people from all political parties, people's organizations, ethnic groups, social strata, and all walks of life. It is the founding principle of the CPPCC and the fundamental guarantee for its progress. The CPPCC should always follow the Party's leadership, and earnestly implement the requirements of the CPC Central Committee.
Second, the CPPCC should always be clear about its nature and role. As an organization for maintaining the united front, an institution for multiparty cooperation and political consultation, and a major form through which people's democracy is practiced, the CPPCC is an important channel and specialized body for socialist consultative democracy and an important part of the state governance system. It is an institution with Chinese characteristics. The CPPCC should remain true to its nature and role and unswervingly take the path of socialist political development with Chinese characteristics.
Third, the CPPCC should give full play to its role as a specialized consultative body. Consultative democracy is an important way for the Party to exercise its leadership. It is a unique form and a distinctive strength of China's socialist democracy. The CPPCC should uphold consultative democracy in performing its duties. It should integrate efforts to promote democracy and enhance unity while working to offer suggestions on state affairs and build consensus. It should also carry out democratic scrutiny over the implementation of important decisions and plans made by the Party and the state.
Fourth, the CPPCC should support and help improve China's political party system. The system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC is China's basic political system and a new model that has grown out of the soil of China. The CPPCC should create conditions for other political parties and prominent individuals without any party affiliation to play a better role in this regard.
Fifth, the CPPCC should gather extensive support and pool strength. It should perform its role as an organization for maintaining the united front, promote solidarity and unity, balance commonality and diversity, consolidate the common theoretical and political foundation, strengthen political guidance, and build consensus. It should strive to seek the greatest common ground, draw the widest possible inclusive circle, and create a powerful driving force for national rejuvenation.
Sixth, the CPPCC should focus on the central tasks of the Party and the state while fulfilling its responsibilities. It should direct its efforts towards achieving the first of the Two Centenary Goals before moving on towards the second, and give priority to addressing unbalanced and inadequate development. Mindful of the general picture, it should target key issues, weaknesses, and shortcomings, conduct in-depth consultations on state affairs, strengthen scrutiny, and promote implementation.
Seventh, the CPPCC should uphold the principle of serving the people. It should focus on fulfilling the people's desire for a better life and improving their living standards. It should listen to public appeals, reflect public aspirations, and tackle practical problems concerning people's daily lives, so as to assist the Party and the government in improving the wellbeing of the people.
Eighth, the CPPCC should improve its ability to perform its duties in the spirit of reform and innovation. It should become more capable of developing its political acumen, conducting research, maintaining contact with the people, and working collaboratively. The CPPCC should strengthen the ranks of its members and help them learn more about the organization, be more adept at conducting consultations and discussing state affairs, observe discipline, abide by the rules, and act with moral integrity.
Practice over the past 70 years has proved that the CPPCC system has many unique strengths. Marx and Engels said, "What is democracy? It must have a meaning, or it would not exist. It is all a matter, then, of finding the true meaning of democracy."1 There are diverse ways to realize democracy, so we must not be confined to just one particular rigid model. Experience has shown that China's model of democracy is workable and effective in the country. In this new era, we must adhere to the CPPCC system, champion the cause of the CPPCC, carry out the work related to the united front with a strong sense of responsibility, and unite more people around the Party.
Today's world is undergoing a scale of change unseen in a century, and we are now in a critical phase of realizing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The closer we get to the goal, the more complex the situation becomes, the more arduous the task is, and the more we should give play to the political strengths of the leadership of the CPC and the institutional strengths of socialism with Chinese characteristics. We must pool wisdom and strength to forge a strong synergy with which the Chinese people at home and abroad focus their thoughts and efforts towards the same goal.
In the current era, the overall requirements for strengthening and improving the work of the CPPCC are:
• enhance the Four Consciousnesses, bolster the Four-sphere Confidence, and remain committed to the Two Upholds under the guidance of the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era;
• make upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics the goal of consolidating the common theoretical and political foundation, make serving the Two Centenary Goals its main focus, and take strengthening theoretical and political guidance and building extensive consensus as the central task;
• champion the two major themes of unity and democracy and forge effective consensus by enhancing the CPPCC's capacity for political consultation, democratic scrutiny, and participation in the deliberation and administration of state affairs;
• shoulder the political responsibility of carrying out the CPC Central Committee's decisions as well as its requirements for the CPPCC, and bring together the wisdom and strength of the Chinese people at home and abroad; and
• contribute to the initiatives of securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and of making all-round efforts to build a great modern socialist country.
In particular, the CPPCC should do the following well, now and in the future:
First, the CPPCC should make the most of its role as a specialized consultative body. I have said that under China's socialist system, whenever a problem crops up, we should turn to deliberation first. Matters involving many people are discussed by all those involved; to reach the greatest common ground on the wishes and needs of the whole of society is the essence of people's democracy. Consultative democracy is an important mechanism through which the Party can lead the people in effectively governing the country and ensure that the people are the masters of the country. It complements electoral democracy. In its consultations, the CPPCC promotes extensive unity, advances multiparty cooperation, and practices people's democracy, which is in line with our historical traditions and reflects the features of our time. This fully embodies the characteristics and strengths of our socialist democracy in settling differences, solving problems and reaching consensus through consultation.
Being open to different opinions, better still, taking criticism with courage and making improvements accordingly are signs of confidence and strength. We should develop socialist consultative democracy, make good use of democratic centralism, carry forward the fine tradition of "unity – criticism – unity", draw on collective wisdom, and promote full expression and in-depth exchange of different ideas and viewpoints. We should respect each other, consult on an equal footing, follow the rules, hold orderly discussions, be inclusive and tolerant, and negotiate in good faith. In this way, we can cultivate a good environment for consultation in which everyone can express their own views freely, rationally and in accordance with the law and rules. We must let them voice their opinions and criticism, as long as the Party's underlying theories, basic guidelines and fundamental principles are upheld. Even if their comments are harsh and sharp, we should be glad to hear them, so that we can correct our mistakes if we have made any and guard against them if we have not.
To ensure that the CPPCC plays its role as a specialized consultative body, we need to improve the relevant systems and mechanisms. We should stick to the system in which the Party committee works with the government and the CPPCC to formulate annual consultation plans and improve the mechanism to ensure consultation before and during decision-making. Only after due deliberation by the CPPCC can the matters defined as requiring consultation in the annual plan be submitted for decision-making and then acted on. The scope of participants for consultation, the principles of discussion, the basic procedures, and the mode of communication should be clearly prescribed.
Second, the CPPCC should strengthen theoretical and political guidance and build extensive consensus. Mao Zedong said that politics meant making more people support us and fewer people oppose us. This is the key to the Party's success in leading revolution, economic development, and reform. In the new era, to move forward, we must enhance the unity of people of all ethnic groups and mobilize all resources.
This requires theoretical guidance and consensus. The CPPCC should, by working effectively, become an important platform for upholding and strengthening the Party's leadership, for uniting and guiding representatives from all sectors of society and ethnic groups with the Party's innovative theories, and for resolving differences and conflicts and building consensus on the basis of shared political ideals. We should guide the political parties, organizations, and prominent figures participating in the CPPCC to thoroughly study the Party's theories, current affairs and policies, and the history of the CPC, the PRC, the united front, and the CPPCC, so that they will develop an accurate understanding of history and a broad vision.
To strengthen theoretical and political guidance, we must correctly handle the relationship between commonality and diversity. The former means a shared theoretical and political foundation, whereas the latter is indicative of diverse interests and ideas. We should achieve commonality while respecting diversity and avoid an overemphasis on uniformity. We should stay attuned to the current thinking and political trends within the united front, strengthen theoretical and political guidance on sensitive issues, issues that pose risks, and issues of broad concern, and combine this with regular theoretical and political work, so as to seek common ground while shelving and narrowing differences. We should promote common progress in political awareness among all political parties, organizations, and representatives of various ethnic groups and sectors of society. The CPPCC should maintain extensive contacts with the public and mobilize them to assist the Party and the government in coordinating relations, developing positive sentiments in society and defusing conflicts. It should encourage its members to be more community-focused in their work, stay close to the people they represent, reflect the people's views and convey their suggestions and opinions to relevant authorities in a timely fashion, and better inform them of the policies of the Party and the state.
We must extensively gather positive energy for the nation to unite and work together in order to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. To this end, we should give full play to the role of the CPPCC as an important political and organizational platform in China's political party system, and make institutional arrangements for non-communist parties to express their views and put forward suggestions in the CPPCC. We should improve the communication and liaison mechanism with intellectuals who are not CPC members, prominent figures in the private sector of the economy, and those from the New Social Group2. We should fully implement the Party's ethnic and religious policies, promote exchanges, interaction and integration among all ethnic groups, and encourage religions to adapt to socialist society. We should comprehensively and accurately implement the principles of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong", "Macao people administering Macao", and a high degree of autonomy for both regions, guide CPPCC members from Hong Kong and Macao to support the governments and chief executives of the two special administrative regions (SARs) to perform their duties in accordance with the law, and strengthen the ranks of patriots who love both our country and the SARs. We must follow the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, expand exchanges with relevant political parties, organizations, and people from all walks of life in Taiwan, and promote integrated development across the Taiwan Straits. We resolutely oppose "Taiwan independence" activities in any form. We should extensively unite overseas Chinese and give their representatives access to CPPCC activities. We should carry out international exchanges to contribute to the building of a global community of shared future.
Third, the CPPCC should enhance the sense of responsibility among its members. As representatives of political parties, organizations, ethnic groups and different sectors of society selected through extensive consultations within their respective circles, CPPCC members participate in deliberation on state affairs and perform their duties on behalf of all the people. This membership is not only an honor, but also a responsibility. CPPCC members should perform their duties for the country and fulfill their responsibilities to the people. They should always bear the CPPCC's cause in mind and shoulder responsibilities in earnest.
CPPCC members come from various sectors, and their views and understanding of some issues are not necessarily the same, but their political stance cannot be nebulous nor their political principles weak. They must study and implement the Party's underlying theories, basic guidelines, and fundamental principles, and identify closely with the CPC and socialism with Chinese characteristics in thought and theory, in politics and in spirit. They should improve their knowledge of theory, their ability to reason, and their practical skills, acquire a wide range of knowledge, master ways and means of performing duties, conduct in-depth research and studies, be active in making suggestions, and enhance their performance in an all-round way. They should maintain close bonds with the people, provide help to those in need, and help resolve doubts, negative sentiments and conflicts. They should abide by the Constitution and the CPPCC Charter, practice the core socialist values, improve their moral conduct, remain clean, honest and self-disciplined, and demonstrate the qualities of CPPCC members in the new era through exemplary actions.
* Part of the speech at the Central Conference on the CPPCC's Work marking the 70th anniversary of the organization.
1 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: "Reviews from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-Ökonomische Revue No. 4, April 1850", Karl Marx & Frederick Engels: Collected Works, Vol. 10, Eng. ed., Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1979, p. 304.
2 This refers to groups of people that have emerged with the socialist market economy, mainly management and technical personnel in private and foreign-funded enterprises, those working in intermediary agencies and social organizations, freelancers, and new media professionals. – Tr.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)