Ten years ago, I went to a district in Zhejiang to lecture. Accompanying me was a professor from Beijing University who was in the same field of expertise. On the same night after finishing an academic discussion in Ningbo City, we hurried over to Hangzhou in order to attend an academic conference the following day. Since he came from the political centre that is the capital, whilst chatting on our journey I suggested that our country sending many officials to Harvard and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore perhaps reflects the mentality of the authorities: On the basis of maintaining the existing political system, China may be better governed using the management experience gained from studying advanced countries. He shot me a supercilious look, and said simply: “You think too highly of them!”
The majority of Chinese scholars have a slightly Confucian way of thinking. In the phrase, “The officials in the palace worry about the people; the officials outside the palace worry about their king,” the word “king” is understood to mean “country” for a typical scholar who has an awareness of modern democracy. I have been aware of this mutual worrying throughout my life. Therefore, in the past 30 years or so in which the country has made progress, I can clearly feel that many failings exist.
For an ordinary person like myself, to worry or not worry at best has a negligible effect on one’s material and spiritual gains. However, each and every move of those wielding power from the ‘palace’ is closely related to the well-being and even life and death of countless people.
Let’s leave aside the overthrowing of numerous provincial level officials since the 18th Communist Party of China’s National Congress, as even if this was done in a similar fashion to a casual perusal of online newspapers, the actions of those in the ‘palace’ is still chilling.
Recently, there was uproar when the Xinhua News Agency exposed Hailun City of Heilongjiang as reporting that it required national level poverty alleviation for its province at the same time it was constructing luxury government buildings costing over a hundred million Yuan. Meanwhile, another piece of news that hit the nerve of the population in a similar fashion was state-level poverty stricken Taiqian county in Henan building luxury offices as well as providing its head with a ‘villa’ as living quarters. This was in stark contrast to the filthy ‘refugee camp’ that was the overcrowded school of the county’s 600 students, which had split wooden planks over it’s windows to cover the holes.
According to statistics from the “Legal Evening News”, in 2013 alone, there were at least five media reports of poverty stricken counties building luxury office buildings. On the whole, over 100 million Yuan was spent on each. This is completely contradictory to the impoverished status of these counties, and has led to heated debates.
Hailun in Heilongjiang, Fengqiu County in Xinxiang of Henan, Lixin county in Anhui and other places have all encountered similar situations.
Another issue is that the existence of agencies with similar functions being overstaffed with officials has virtually already become a common phenomenon. This problem of excess cadres is indeed a ‘hard nut to crack’. No matter how industrious the people are, they can’t afford this many officials. The most notable harm caused by an excessive population of officials is that since funds are wasted, there is impact on administrative efficiency, and in addition the opportunity for corruption is increased. If this is to be rectified, the root causes of such a phenomenon must be investigated.
On the surface, this is because at present there are no clear and specific regulations regarding leadership positions. In 2007, the PRC State Council issued “regulations for the set up and establishment of all levels of local government agencies”, which mentioned, “Leadership positions of all levels of local government agencies are to be in accordance with the general assembly of the people’s local representatives and related official regulations of local government constitutional laws”. Unfortunately however, there simply aren’t any ‘related regulations’ in the correlating local laws.
Last year, Beijing News conducted a survey in which they counted the number of deputy mayors throughout the nation’s 250 prefecture-level cities. It was found that despite some of these cities being in almost identical situations, some felt that having five deputy mayors was “enough”, whereas others had appointed ten deputy mayors. The arbitrary appointment of deputies is one small item in a big scheme. Since there are no hard and fast rules, it could be anticipated that under the ‘official position’, the number of cadres would increase. Additionally, there is no legislation against this. Therefore, although the media often exposes this, and delegates at the National People’s Congress often make appeals, the problem is never solved.
Besides an increase in the selfish desire for power, some think that the reason for the expansion in the number of cadres must also include the excessive expansion of the role of government. If government authority and control is too much, then naturally this will increase the need for cadres. Since the terms doesn’t clarify the role of government, it’s very difficult to simply reign in the number of cadres. Also, by doing this, it may ‘mess up’ genuine work, and thus a pretext to fundamentally reject any remediation is provided. By using the law to restrict government behaviour and handing over the things they shouldn’t control to the market and society, the power of cadres will be diminished and consequently those wanting such positions will also reduce. However, the government is the wrong place to direct such ideas to. When all is said and done, any problems that arise in China, all in all, are due to the excessive power of the Party.
Of course, the Party hasn’t said or will say that it wants to expand its own selfish desires. What it has said is the opposite. The report from the 18th Communist Party of China’s National Congress mentioned the desire to “strictly control the establishment of agencies, decrease the number of leadership positions, and reduce administrative costs.” However, if this power is not given to the National People’s Congress or local people’s congresses, then without relevant laws and regulations, the problem will just get so serious that legislation will be rushed in to remedy it, and before long the problem will once more rise from the ashes. Judicial reforms have seen amendment after amendment, but behind them all is the never changing desire of the Party to wield all power. Local political committees of the Party’s organisations have the final say over all Judiciaries. Recently, Professor Xie Baisan of Shanghai ridiculed three lawsuits. The first was in 2001, when the then finance minister Xiang Huaicheng was taken to court following the announcement of the country’s national debt which was in violation of protocol. The second was the suing of Deloitte’s accountancy office for working for the ‘Taiwan independence movement’. The third was the suing of the China Securities Regulatory Commission in 2014 for violating the ‘Companies Act’. What’s surprising is that although these are cases that were handled in a court of law, they had to have the consent of the higher authorities before they could be accepted as cases. Why do political reforms falter? This is the power of a one-party system that is hard to shake.
China’s one party system has certainly attracted the attention of the whole world as well as raising a few doubts. Perhaps this is because out of the 200 or so political entities that are out there, the number of those that are still implementing this kind of system is just a single digit. Our great, glorious and proper party seems to see this out-of-line wave of heresy, and then, going back to the beginning of the article, send people to America and Singapore to study management with the intention of maintaining the existing political system by bringing back the advanced management experience of other countries.
Perhaps with this in mind, in the spirit of the 18th Third Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP decided to dispatch multiple delegations to the Pacific Rim, Africa, Latin America, Europe and Central Asia The screenings of “How Leaders are Cultivated”, “The CCP With You on the Road” show the dreams of ordinary citizens like farmers, labourers, bartenders and dancers. During the recent Spring Festival marking the Year of the Horse, many remote rural areas were visited by various people from Xi Jinping to Li Keqiang. During their inspections they stressed that they would do their utmost to deal with the concerns of the masses, and strive to make each and every one have a good life. The communication between the Party and the people, and the process of producing leaders shows that those that reside in the “palace” are not the successors of a feudal dynasty, but rather have a broad social base.
This is necessary, but not sufficient. I think it’s more important to explain further how the theory will be put into practice, and why there can be a one-party system in China’s current situation. I said ‘can’, and not ‘must’ since I feel that a one party system is a choice worth considering.
One had better discuss the ‘Communist Manifesto’.
The manifesto had the profound revelation that: “After gaining control of a place, the bourgeoisie destroy all relationships between the land and feudal and patriarchal clan systems. They mercilessly break all kinds of feudal ties that bind a person with their natural superiors. Apart from the bare interests and callous ‘cash payments’, they remove all other connections between people. They drown the piety of religion, the ardour of chivalry and the emotions of the people in the ice-cold water of intended egoism. They place a value on people’s dignity, and without any form of conscience trade freedom for the freedom of countless concessions and earning by one’s own strength. In short, they use open, shameless, direct and barefaced exploitation to replace exploitation disguised by religious and political fantasy.
“The bourgeoisie erase everything has always been revered as well as the sacred aura of professions that make people revere. They turn doctors, lawyers, clergymen, poets and scholars into hired and paid workers.”
The manifesto also declares: “If it is said the proletariat in the struggle against the bourgeoisie certainly want to integrate into one class, if it is said that by revolution they become the ruling class and then use this authority to violently eradicate old socio-economic relations, then at the same time the conditions for class struggles to exist are eradicated, thus eliminating classes themselves and thereby its own supremacy as a class.”
Well said! The might of the proletariat, apart from surpassing that of the bourgeoisie by some considerable degree, lies in its purpose of declaring war on the bourgeoisie and seizing political power. It certainly doesn’t want to replace the bourgeoisie with another class that uses “open, shameless, direct and barefaced exploitation to replace exploitation disguised by religious and political fantasy.” Although it claims it will “by revolution become the ruling class,” and will “use this authority to violently eradicate old socio-economic relations,” its fundamental purpose is to “eradicate the conditions for class struggles to exist,” thus “eliminating classes themselves and thereby its own supremacy as a class.”
Therefore, the Chinese Communist Party should have the courage of their convictions and openly tell all citizens of the world that the purpose of communist parties grasping political power is to establish reasonable socio-economic relations, to sufficiently liberate productive forces and finally achieve the aims of eradicating classes and political parties that go hand in hand with them.
The meaning of the existence of political parties or institutions is simply to liberate productive forces even further, as well as to establish the most healthy socio-economic relationships possible, which can in turn promote the development of said productive forces. The purpose of this is to increase the quality of life of the citizens more efficiently. If the CCP can work sufficiently hard to liberate productive forces, or guide these productive forces towards improving society and pushing it in a direction that it needs, then by means of this organisation the increase in the effectiveness of socio-economic relations will certainly be in accordance with historical developments and the task at hand, thus receiving the support of the people. Therefore, a country with either a one or multi-party system, ignoring historical and environmental factors, should still take the missions and objectives its political parties have set themselves as a basis for evaluating them.
Under current circumstances, suddenly implementing a multi-party system in China would most likely result in the tragedy of society plunging into a dreadful chaos. Only if a party is up to the task of liberating its productive forces and strives to increase the quality of life for its citizens, regardless of what social system it arose from, whether it’s the only party or one from many that was democratically voted for by its citizens, will it be embraced by the people.
The purpose of implementing a multi-party system is to control the authority of the party in power, to observe whether the elected party can display a positive effect in liberating its productive force and monitor whether it can establish socio-economic relations that are fitting to production. If the motivation or purpose do not lie in these aims, but rather to engage in political battles for certain interest groups or for selfish means, the result is that no one acts as a positive force that promotes productivity, and instead hinders it’s development. We can learn a lesson from all the chaos that has arose in countries such as Egypt, Libya or even Ukraine, which moved from having a one party system to a democracy. Not wanting such a system is understandable.
Therefore, with regards to the current state of affairs in China, I consider that the issue is not whether a single or multi-party system is in place, but rather that under the current one party system socio-economic relations are not healthy. For example, there is issue with China’s nationalised corporations. These combine Chinese businesses that have profitable monopolies. Their vast wealth comes from the accumulation of several decades of blood and sweat from the people. In 2012, nationalised corporations made a loss of 40 billion Yuan. Unhealthy socio-economic relations have caused a decline in productivity.
Another example is China’s stock market. For over ten years, China’s GDP growth has stood as the highest in the world, averaging around 10%. However, over the previous decade, China’s stock market hasn’t budged an inch. Where has all the wealth gone? The stock market has created thousands of billionaires, plundering the hard-earned wealth of tens of millions of small investors.
A further example is that those who wield power are basically of the same blood. Their parents generation shed sweat and tears to establish the People’s Republic of China. With this in mind, it’s the state’s duty to give them proper treatment and return. However, their children do not have such authority. If they were given such a privilege, China wouldn’t be a republic, but rather a feudal empire. From the standpoint of socio-economic relations, feudalism is not as good as capitalism.
How can productivity increase under such socio-economic relations? On the surface, although created wealth has increased, wealth inequality is becoming increasingly evident. A few can indulge in a life of luxury, but the majority are not lawfully or adequately compensated for their labour. Subsequently there is a distortion in the collective subconscious, and not only does society not develop, but it also regresses.
In the first 30 years after 1949, China was wallowing in the dregs of a class struggle. Whilst almost all Chinese were living in fear and trepidation, along came Mao Zedong. Under his own initiation and leadership of the Cultural Revolution, the prestige of his PRC was destroyed. In the following 30 years, under the clear cut theory of pragmatism, the entire nation became a huge classroom in which money was worshipped. There were no honest convictions and no lofty ideals. The vast majority of the Chinese population fell from grace, becoming low-lifes that only had a desire for material things and sensual pleasures, and lacked any spiritual pursuit. What’s done is done, and time moves on. In the future, there should be an emphasis on developing values and culture to establish a civilised society whose culture is relatively well balanced between the material and spiritual. As for the Communist Party of China, as long as it handles its affairs well, makes all Chinese personally feel their nation is fair and just, fully respects human rights and civil liberties, allows the people to live as one big family enjoying traditional Chinese civilisation, finds the cultural common ground and promotes equality will it be able to win over the favour and support of the people. If the CPC can bring order out of chaos, walk the broad and open road leading to the happiness of the Chinese people, then the majority of people would accept such a one-party system.