March 12, 2009
On the final days of last week’s National People’s Congress (NPC) session, its president Mr. Wu Bangguo has assured his conservative audience that China is not about to embark on a Western-style democratisation process and that it will not indiscriminately emulate Western political theory and institutions :
“we will never put into practice a multi-party system of government, nor will we agree to the separation of the legislative, executive and judicial powers or to a bi-cameral parliament.” (source: Público, Spain)
What Mr Wu probably meant was that the Chinese communists will not emulate the American congressional political model, as advocated by the authors of Charta 08. His rejection of the multi-party system, however, does not expressly rule out a bi-partite political model, one in which the reformed communists could compete electorally against a center-right party, capable of representing the growing Chinese middle class and its entrepreneurs. After all, given its long imperial history, China could very well decide to adopt a Westminster-style parliamentary model. Wu’s remarks do not rule out the idea of a federal China either, another demand included in Charta 08. Indeed, choosing such an administrative formula might drastically diminish ethnic tensions in Tibet and pave the way for the peaceful reunification with Taiwan.
On the bright side, it seems that an increasing number of seasoned political leaders in China realise the urgency of democratising the country and its political system. During the congress, a group of elite senior politicians has circulated among the delegates a seven-page internal document referred to as Petition 09, designed to stimulate debate about how to monitor the spending of the 460 billion-euro economic recovery package. In order to counter corruption, the document calls for the liberalisation of the press, more room for civil society development and the creation of an environment allowing for freedom of opinion. Two of the authors, Mr Zhu Houze and Mr Du Daozheng, are the former minister for Propaganda and the ex-director of the government’s Information Office, respectively. (source: Courrier International)
These concerns are echoed by the current leadership. As premier Wen Jiabao has recently admitted, “the greater the difficulties, the more necessary democracy, transparency and control become”.
Du Guang, a former professor at the Communist Party’s Institute and co-author of the document, does not dismiss the Charta 08’s provisions, but believes that “not all of its demands could be realised in the short term”. Hence the Petition 09, which realistically identifies the most pressing issues the government has to deal with during the crisis.
With the debates about democracy in China and the Charta 08 going mainstream, one can safely assume that the reform of the country’s political system is well and truly underway.