The propaganda department is definitely going into overdrive this week. First, if you still didn’t know that China has political parties other than the CCP, the People’s Daily has an interesting backgrounder of the eight parties, with short descriptions of the history of the parties and their membership size and make-up. These parties are namely: the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang (RCCK), China Democratic League (CDL), China National Democratic Construction Association (CNDCA), China Association for Promoting Democracy (CAPD), Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party (CPWDP), China Zhi Gong Dang (CZGD), Jiu San Society, Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League (TSL). Also there is a group of mostly intellectuals under the “Personages Without Party Affiliation” which includes people like Guo Moruo, Ma Yinchu, Ba Jin, Miao Yuntai and Cheng Siyuan. Not all the parties, it seems were founded on the mainland. The Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, for instance, was founded in Hong Kong and the Zhi Gong Dang in San Francisco.
These parties, while limited in what they can do, have been invited to play a greater role in advising the government, without challenging its authoritarian rule, says the Associated Press:
While stressing the advisory and supervisory roles played by the small, powerless parties, the policy paper said plainly that the Communist Party “holds the leading and ruling position.”
The Communist Party’s leadership position “is the choice of history and the people,” the paper said.
The AP story goes on to give a bit more background on the eight parties and touches on the Communist Party’s willingness to co-opt non communists into their fold:
The eight minor parties are holdovers from the early days of the revolution. De-fanged and co-opted by the party over the decades, they have served mainly to rubber stamp decisions taken by the leadership. Many of the parties’ individual members remain influential in business and academic circles, providing a key conduit of communication for Chinese leaders.
Though the Communist Party has the final say, it has shown a willingness to go outside for expertise. Earlier this year, China appointed two non-communists to the Cabinet-level posts of minister of health and minister of science and technology.
Chen Zhu and Wang Gang, both of whom were educated in Europe, were the first nonparty members appointed to the Cabinet since the 1970s.
In fact, 31,000 non-communists are said to have taken leadership positions at or above the county level, says another People’s Daily report:
18 served as deputy leaders in the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and various ministries, commissions, offices and bureaus directly under the State Council; 24 served as deputy provincial governors, vice-chairpersons and deputy mayors in the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government; 356 served as deputy mayors or deputy governors of the people’s governments of 397 cities (prefectures, leagues, districts); 35 served as vice-presidents of provincial courts or deputy attorneys-general of provincial procuratorates; and 141 serve as vice-presidents of courts and deputy attorneys-general of procuratorates at the prefecture/city level.
This style of co-opting non party members into the fold and placing them in leadership positions even has a wonderfully democratic-sounding name: the “multi-party cooperation system”. Just what is this curious multi-party thing all about? It is, in essence, “democracy without the mess”. Most of Asia is governed by one-party states to varying degrees, including Japan, India, Singapore and Malaysia — and China has been said to be learning from the history of these countries to see what it glean from their experience. In addition, Singapore’s People’s Action Party (PAP) which has held a virtually complete hold on government since the tiny city-state gained independence, has been said to be the case study most of interest to the CCP. In words that look like it could be lifted straight out of a PAP paper, the white paper explains what this “multi-party cooperation system” is all about:
…”[It] replaces confrontation and contention with cooperation and consultation, effectively avoiding political instability and frequent changes of regime resulting from discord among political parties, thus reducing internal frictions of the society to the maximum, and safeguarding social and political stability and solidarity.”
Like it or not, China can be expected become more and more adept in playing the “multi-party cooperation system” game to keep up with the image of improving democratisation that it wants to project for a great many more years to come.
People’s Daily: Backgrounder: China’s democratic parties and personages without party affiliation
People’s Daily: White paper: 31,000 non-communists take official positions in China
People’s Daily: White paper: China’s multi-party cooperation system is major manifestation of socialist democracy
Associated Press: Minor parties advise China’s communists
Photo from KatieKellert