White paper on democracy: under the rule of the Communist Party
by Bernardo Cervellera

Rome (AsiaNews) – A hearty salutation for "democracy" attained under the leadership of the Communist Party and a fleeting look at possible future improvement, given that enormous successes reaped in recent decades have not been fully implemented "in some areas" of the country. Thus could be summed up a 74-page document, divided into 10 chapters, an introduction and a conclusion, published yesterday by the Information Office of China's State Council, entitled "Building of Political Democracy in China".

While acknowledging that the word "democracy" is the fruit of cultural and historical endeavours across the world, the document specified that in China a unique democracy – a socialist genre –has taken root with "a choice made by history and by the people".

The first chapter of the document, "A choice suited to China's conditions", is an attempt to justify, through the use of slogans, the fact that democracy in China came from the Communist Party: "China's democracy is a people's democracy under the leadership of the Communist Party (CPC). Without the Communist Party there would be no New China. Nor would there be people's democracy."

Each piece of analysis returns to the following conclusion: "The leadership of the CPC is a fundamental guarantee for the Chinese people to be masters in managing the affairs of their own country."

The series of chapters III to VIII reveals how good the CPC is for democracy, through the National People's Assembly (the Chinese parliament which meets once a year): for minor parties (a few million adherents), always "consulted" by the CPC; for the autonomy of ethnic regions like Xinjiang  and Tiber, which are subject to de facto military occupation; for experiments of democracy in rural villages, where corrupt village leaders do not accept the outcome of elections and arrest their opponents with the help of police (which is what has just happened in the village of Taishi, for example).

All the chapters are fulsome in their praises of the CPC and the positive directives issued by the government, without however verifying whether these directives have been implemented or not.

The same strategy is adopted in chapter VII which tackles human rights. The chapter recalls that in March 2004 the Chinese Constitution was amended to include the phrase "the State respects and defends human rights". This assertion is followed by a grand eulogy to the CPC which guarantees the rights to economic livelihood, pensions, and health care of something over 150 million people out of 1.3 billion. The statistics put forward by the document here do not coincide with those offered by international organisations. The Chinese government claims the rural poor amount to 26.1 million; the Asian Development Bank puts the figure at more than 170 million.

Other assertions do not match reality: there is talk of respect for freedom of worship (without mention made of believers who are imprisoned or restricted in their expressions of worship; of property rights (no talk of expropriation and destruction here); of women rights as well as the rights of the elderly, of children and of people with disabilities.

Towards the end, the document becomes more "humble" as it draws conclusions: despite the "enormous results attained", it says, "the CPC and the Chinese people are well aware there are many problems to be overcome".

The intended tracks to follow to improve popular Chinese democracy run along the lines of typical tradition:

1)      "Upholding the unity of the leadership of the CPC, the people being the masters of the country and ruling the country by law";

2)      "Giving play to the characteristics and advantages of the socialist system";

3)      Maintaining "social stability", "economic development", and "improvement in the life of the people";

4)     "Facilitating the safeguarding of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and state dignity".

A fact worthy of note is that the historical analysis of the birth of a New China makes no mention of the names of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping or Jiang Zemin. This is likely the first time that an official document fails to exalt the contribution of the "helmsman", the "architect" and the "engineer" of reforms, as if the authors wanted to uphold the idea – the CPC generated democracy in China – without raising specific controversial cases, like the bloody dictatorship of Mao, the military rule of Deng and the arrogant regime of Jiang.

The question many analysts are asking themselves is: of what use is a document which persists in affirming the great theoretical successes reached without analysing failures and learning from them? Perhaps the answer is that the document on democracy is for internal use, to reassert the important role played by the CPC precisely at a time when everybody, including its members, are worried about injustice and about the social gap between rich and poor. A few weeks ago, the premier, Wen Jiabao admitted that current social tensions cast doubt on the "the very survival of the CPC".

Facing such prospects there is only one way ahead: reaffirming the role of absolute leader of the Party, absolving it of any historical failures.

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