Hu Jintao: One party is plenty for China

Joseph Kahn analyzes the China story du jour, namely the power struggle between the “reformers” Hu and Wen and the more traditionalist Jiang Zemin. Not much new, but I was intrigue by the article’s opening, which describes Hu’s willingness to embrace democracy and free elections.

The Chinese Communist Party chief, Hu Jintao, said Wednesday that Western-style multiparty democracy was a “blind alley” for China and that the one-party state would fight “power abuse and corruption” by policing itself better.

In a nationally televised address ahead of a high-level party meeting that opens on Thursday, Mr. Hu laid the groundwork for what some analysts say may be modest experiments with checks and balances and elections inside the party. But the speech also showed Mr. Hu’s reluctance to embrace broad changes to address official graft and the misuse of authority, which have fueled widespread popular discontent that some officials say is weakening their hold on power.

“History indicates that indiscriminately copying Western political systems is a blind alley for China,” Mr. Hu, who is also China’s president, said at a ceremony observing the 50th anniversary of the party-controlled legislature.

While Hu tossed some populist rhetoric into his speech, he stressed the necessity of obedience to the Party leadership. He may be truly sincere when he speaks of taking the opinion of the people into account when promoting Party officials. Let’s see if it happens.

Hu pointed to the failure of “China’s bourgeois republic system” under Sun Yat Sen’s some 60 years ago as proof that China is not suited to democracy. I don’t know about you, but it sure sounds to me like an excuse to maintain the authoritarian status quo.

Oh, and as proof of how things have improved, some 36,000 pro-democracy types have been arrested by the CCP prior to the big rubber-stamp Congress. I know, Hu has shown signs of being a reformer, and Wen even more so. But to date, there’s not much to point to. Maybe with Jiang defanged sometime soon they’ll be able to make real progress. I honestly hope so and will give them the benefit of the doubt.

The Discussion: 15 Comments

Sounds like the GOP.

Damn, I crack myself up.

September 16, 2004 @ 10:29 am | Comment

Hi Richard
I disagree with your opinion that Hu’s point in talking about the republican revolution was to demonstrate that democracy was inapplicable to China. It was intended, instead, to support this vague notion that Western political systems were inapplicable to China and that, somehow, the people’s congress and the CCP are the necessary factors to reconcile Western systems with the “unique” situation of China.

Nominally, he seems to say that democracy is welcome to take root in China, so long as it doesn’t undermine the socialist democratic system of the people’s congress (and, of course, so long as the CCP remains the only party). Even the ability to choose between members of the same party would be very significant; in fact, I think that a multi party system could evolve even with a CCP stranglehold, simply because like-minded politicians tend to group together and like-minded voters tend to vote along those lines. Factions will develop within the CCP and this may create a surprisingly democratic system.

I know I’m probably being too optimistic, but I think that many intellectuals and some politicians in China do seriously believe in at least this restricted form of democracy, and that there still is a good chance that it will take hold.

September 16, 2004 @ 10:55 am | Comment

The fact that Hu brought up his remarks about Sun’s republic and his insistence on one-party leadership still makes me think he was saying democracy, Western-style or otherwise, isn’t for China. I’m willing to buy everything you say, except the part about there seeming to be a good chance that some form of democracy will take hold. Sure, it may. I just have no reason to believe it for now.

September 16, 2004 @ 12:35 pm | Comment

Hu wants democracy of a specifically Communist Chinese flavour. The criticism of Sun Yat-sen is something new and actually I find it quite surprising. The criticism of Western-style democracy isn’t, since that would mean the end of one-party rule and all of the privileges that brings to “the princelings”.

September 16, 2004 @ 6:23 pm | Comment

I agree with Hu but only to a certain level.

American democracy is not right for China, the country is too big and too disparate to have full representation, as it is, America takes so long to do anything worth while because it has to be pushed through so many layers of democracy and so many constitutional barriers.

The British system to would not be suitable either because China has so many ethnic groups and so many regional needs that a system with more than three or four parties would cripple the desision making proccess and bring the country to a stand still, minority and coelition governments are a joke.

Proportional representation in a democracy is also a joke, not only for China but for the rest of the world

What China needs is a single national government with a shadow oposition with limited power to stall bad legislation, like the Japanese upper and lower houses but with less power in the lower house, and multi party democracy at the local level. But not more than three or four parties otherwise there would be too many voices all saying different things.

China is not used to democracy or to the idea of thinking differently from everybody else, if we were to introduce multi party democracy to China this week, everybody would just vote for the existing leaders, plus or minius a few charasmatic or dull leaders.

September 16, 2004 @ 7:44 pm | Comment

Hard to say, ACB. I totally agree that Western-style democracy wouldn’t work there, at least not today. But if what you say were so obviously the truth, why doesn’t the CCP just call everyone’s bluff and hold free elections today, since they’d certainly be elected over anytone else? Somehow, I think you misunderestimate the anger and frustration many Chinese feel toward their government. (Not that I’m not aware of their gratitude for the economic miracle — but that miracle was more a result of the government lifting some of its age-old repressions, not some great enlightened strategy or act of benevolence.)

September 16, 2004 @ 8:03 pm | Comment

Again: Why is it that the ruling fascist party of China thinks its people too stupid to vote but allows any idiot to drive?

September 16, 2004 @ 8:55 pm | Comment

Keir, I’ve been asking that for years. The answer is, I suspect, that they do NOT think the people are too stupid. And that’s the whole reason why the idea of elections scares them shitless.

September 16, 2004 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

When people drive, if they screw up, they only hurt themselves (and possibly whoever is run over). When people vote, they screw up EVERYBODY. Besides, I don’t see any problem in having a one party government as long as decision making is dispersed within the party. Better one party rule effectively with a plurality of internal positions than two or more parties who can never get anything done or have nearly identical platforms.

September 16, 2004 @ 10:02 pm | Comment

When people vote they screw up everybody.

I always thought you were weird, Jing, but this is really pushing it. Do you think this world would be a better place with no elections, only dictatorships run by the worst bullies?

September 16, 2004 @ 10:08 pm | Comment

Sometimes, Richard, elections give you an elected dictatorship.

Not that I agree much with Jing, but I can see he’s got a point, in a very limited kind of a way.

September 16, 2004 @ 10:44 pm | Comment

True enough, Chris — but do you therefore see all elections as a bad thing??

September 16, 2004 @ 10:46 pm | Comment

Hmm. I guess ole Hu isn’t the reformer someone thought he was.

September 16, 2004 @ 11:01 pm | Comment

the democracy will not come untill the clasp of the ccp

July 31, 2005 @ 9:17 pm | Comment

the democracy will not come untill the clasp of the ccp

July 31, 2005 @ 9:18 pm | Comment

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