Observing China's whole-process people's democracy at two sessions

The opening meeting of the first session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) is held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2023. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan).

The opening meeting of the first session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) is held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2023. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan).

Published Mar 17, 2023


On a sunny spring day in February, villagers and officials in Chitang Village, Taojiang County of central China's Hunan province, gathered again in a tidy courtyard. Their topic of discussion this time was how to further expand the market of the village's main products - tea-seed oil and bamboo shoots.

Gao Ya, secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) branch in Chitang Village, listened and took down villagers' ideas. Earlier this month, she took their opinions to Beijing, about 1300 km away, for the annual “two sessions”.

The ongoing first sessions of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) and the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), often called the "two sessions," offer a window into China's whole-process people's democracy, which involves a population of over 1.4 billion from 56 ethnic groups.

At the annual gatherings, over 5,000 national legislators and political advisors - ranging from farmers to state leaders - sit together at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing to deliberate on bills or discuss the affairs of the state, pool their wisdom, and bring Chinese people together to forge ahead.

"Whole-process people's democracy is the defining feature of socialist democracy; it is democracy in its broadest, most genuine, and most effective form," said President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Members of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) walk towards the Great Hall of the People for the opening meeting of the first session of the 14th CPPCC National Committee in Beijing, capital of China, March 4, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Xin).

Grassroots voices heard

Gao, 33, was elected as an NPC deputy in January at the annual session of the Hunan provincial People's Congress. Making her debut at the national legislature, she has submitted suggestions on innovating the bamboo industry and improving the construction of forest roads.

"We will focus on developing our special industries to make villagers more prosperous," she said.

Shen Changjian, another NPC deputy from Linli County of Hunan, cares more about agricultural modernisation. "We need to develop smart agriculture and deepen innovation in the seed industry," the 55-year-old vegetable grower told Xinhua.

An amendment to the Legislation Law is under review at the NPC session. The draft amendment has twice been deliberated by the NPC Standing Committee, opinions on it have been extensively solicited, and it has been revised many times.

Sheng Hong, an NPC deputy and party chief of a residential community in the Hongqiao Sub District in Shanghai, noticed that some suggestions put forward by her community's residents had been included in the draft.

Last November, at the legislative outreach office set up in Hongqiao by the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, a total of 45 suggestions regarding the draft amendment to the Legislation Law were collected through seminars and online opinion solicitation, and then were directly delivered to the commission, according to Hong.

"The outreach office acts as a direct link between ordinary people and China's top legislature," noted Hong.

Sheng Hong (4th R), a deputy to the National People's Congress and Party chief of a residential community in the Hongqiao Subdistrict, listens to comments and suggestions of a draft revision to the Charity Law at a civic center in east China's Shanghai, Feb. 7, 2023. (Xinhua/Liu Ying)

In China, the growing participation of ordinary people in national and local democratic decision-making is taking place in various forms.

The people's congress system - China's fundamental political system - guarantees that the people are the masters of the country, which is the essence of socialist democracy.

Of the new-term 2.77 million deputies to people's congresses at all levels, 2.62 million at the county and township levels were directly elected by the country's more than 1 billion voters.

Members of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) attend the second plenary meeting of the first session of the 14th CPPCC National Committee at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 7, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Ye

Seeking broad consensus

The deputies to the 14th NPC make up a broad cross-section of people, with every region, ethnic group and sector of society having an appropriate number of representatives. Among the 2,977 deputies, 497 are workers and farmers and the share of deputies from the primary level in total is considerable.

The "two sessions" reveal much about China's democratic model that, compared to the West, weighs the representativeness of the Chinese people, according to an article published on the website of Mexico's Canal 6 Tv.

In China, electoral democracy and consultative democracy are advanced in a coordinated manner. The extensive, multi-level, and institutionalised development of consultative democracy boasts many channels, which can achieve the greatest possible convergence of interests.

The 14th CPPCC National Committee has set up a new sector for members from environmental and resource-related circles. The move will give full play to the CPPCC's role as a specialised consultative body, and is conducive to strengthening democratic oversight and advancing ecological conservation.

Setting up the new sector is "a robust measure to advance the modernisation of harmony between humanity and nature, which is one of the five features of Chinese modernisation," said Pan Biling, a national political advisor and president of Xiangtan University in Hunan province.

The handling of suggestions and proposals made by national lawmakers and political advisors embodies the effectiveness of China's democracy.

Last year, offices and departments under the State Council handled 8,721 suggestions from NPC deputies and 5,865 proposals submitted by CPPCC National Committee members, accounting for 94.8 percent and 95 percent of the total number of suggestions and proposals, respectively.

Meanwhile, dynamic and pragmatic consultations in various forms at the grassroots level contribute to good governance.

At a consultation meeting in a community in Hengshui City of north China's Hebei province early this year, residents raised such problems as roof leakage in the storage room and lack of fitness facilities.

"Such things may seem trivial, but they are related to people's sense of happiness," said a retired worker Wang Lansuo. "Here everyone speaks openly to resolve the issues through discussion."

For people’s better lives

Fan Yun, a national legislator and chairperson of Shanghai Fushen Appraisal and Consulting Group, shared two stories on performing her duties which brought her a sense of accomplishment over the past five years. The first is a suggestion concerning platform economy, which contributed to the release of the national anti-monopoly guidelines in the platform economy.

The second is that her speech during an annual NPC session captured the attention of the government. It was about a remote mountain village in east China's Anhui province, which she had visited many times to do research. Finally, a concrete road was built to connect the village with the outside world, fulfilling the desire of generations of villagers, who became better off by developing homestay and tea industries.

This aerial photo taken on May 19, 2022 shows a view of the Wushan section of the Yangtze River in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. (Xinhua/Wang Quanchao).

Whether democracy is good or not depends on whether it ensures people a better life. The whole-process people's democracy ensures that development is for the people and by the people and that its fruits are shared by the people.

In the past five years, various departments under the State Council have adopted more than 18,000 suggestions and proposals from national lawmakers and political advisors, and subsequently introduced more than 7,800 policy measures, which boosted solutions to a large number of problems related to reform and development, as well as people's urgent needs.

"China's democracy is definitely not a sham, nor an ornament, but a truly effective democratic political system with Chinese characteristics," said Fan, who has served as an NPC deputy for 15 years.

Democratic supervision is an important part of the whole-process people's democracy.

For example, since 2018, the NPC Standing Committee has focused on prominent problems in the field of ecological and environmental protection, carrying out law enforcement inspections for five consecutive years. Last year, enforcement inspections of the Yangtze River Protection Law were conducted, promoting better protection of China's longest waterway in accordance with the law.

Yang Huifang, a national legislator and a teacher at the preschool special education centre in Quzhou County, Hebei province, is concerned about the mental health of the left-behind seniors and children in rural areas, hoping that institutionalised support for these groups could be provided from the grassroots level. She believes that China's modernisation is an improvement of the overall level, and attention should be paid to the improvement of the quality of life of vulnerable groups.

Jean Christophe Iseux von Pfetten, chairman of the Institute for East-West Strategic Studies in Britain, once took part in a municipal-level CPPCC session as a specially invited member in Jilin province.

Based on his personal experience, he said that China's democratic practice is devoted to solving practical problems.