I began to observe China’s democratic progress on 5 April 1989. Now, 23 years has past. China is still at the starting point. We know in modern democracy, people can decide their own lifestyle and enjoy their own freedom. How about democracy and people’s freedom in China today?
I personally think today the country has some form of “Chinese-style” democracy. We Chinese must grasp that democracy takes time to understand and apply in a different cultural setting. Actually in China today, Chinese people enjoy more basic freedoms. Elections have started in local villages and in most cities.
New challenges ahead
What are the new challenges ahead? How can China’s democratic transformation be a success?
Firstly, I think China should promote citizenship education to every Chinese person. Today, every Chinese person must learn to respect the rule of law and the People’s Republic of China’s constitution.
Secondly, we must understand the differing adaptation of democracy in our particular culture. I strongly suggest China should develop her own “Chinese-style social liberal democracy” in line with her culture to care for the real needs of 1.35 billion Chinese. Democracy doesn’t mean you must stand up to fight your government on every minute matter. Chinese people should learn positive democracy in a liberal sense to accept wider individual difference and cooperation.
Thirdly, the Chinese government should respect individual differences, individual freedoms and human rights by birth. China should promote liberal open-minded education to young people, which can play a key role in creating a harmonious liberal society.
Fourthly, the Chinese government could open up the political party system to allow two or three political parties. In fact, we see in modern politics the government party can do better if there is another political party to watch it. This political transformation can help China, in line with the rest of the modern world.
The Road Ahead
China’s political reform goes ahead very slowly. Let’s remember a Chinese political reformer, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. In a democratic modern society, it is right that the Chinese government should release him.
On 14th September 2011, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in the World Economic Forum in Dalian:
China must change its system of absolute power and introduce more Chinese democracy.
Wen’s reform points to move China forward are:
1. Adherence to the rule of law.
2. Promoting social justice.
3. Safeguarding justice.
4. Safeguarding the Chinese people’s democratic rights under the constitution.
5. Combatting corruption.
I agree with Premier Wen’s five vision points for pushing China in the right direction towards a fair and democratic, open, modern society.
In modern politics, we know that a single party system does not function satisfactorily. My vision is that the success of China’s road to democracy requires two new strategic elements:
1. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) must promote further liberal political reform towards social democracy under the rule of law.
2. In the near future some Chinese liberal intellectuals should set up a new liberal political party promoting social democracy, safeguarding social justice and human rights for the Chinese people, such as a Chinese Social Democratic Party or a Chinese People’s Democratic Party. I think this would be correct and big step forward, helping our motherland China go towards social democracy in line with the modern world. In fact, the Chinese constitution encourages and allows a multi-party democratic system in China.
To my mind, the right time has come for China to take some big steps ahead towards a modern democratically developed nation. I believe this beautiful peaceful dawn of people’s democracy will come to China in around 2020.
With courage and love inside our hearts let us go forward to our peaceful beautiful future. Let us be brave and continue ahead towards the joyful destiny of our Chinese people’s freedom in unity!
Best wishes to our motherland China and to all the 1.35 billion Chinese people a happy prosperous New Year!
* Andy Yau is a political observer and researcher on China's peaceful rise since 1990. Andy is a life member of the Chinese Liberal Democrats.