The People's Congress is the core of China's political system, and most people in the West are completely unaware of how it operates. When they criticize China as being undemocratic they claim it doesn't have any elections. And they don't actually know that the first layer of the people's congresses is directly elected through a process no different from the Western system that's being held up as a model.
You have multiple candidates, with no party affiliation required. You have universal suffrage, where everybody has the right to vote, and it's a secret ballot. Everybody in China has the right to vote to the first level of people's congresses. And then each subsequent level of the congress is elected as well by the subordinate level.
That's a very good system, because it means that the people who are voting for the higher level of the congress are the ones who can see the candidates on a day-to-day basis and who are best able to judge their abilities and qualities.
Then, at the level of the National Congress, there is a very wide range of components, including representatives from various localities, different ethnic minorities, all walks of life and social groups. There are representatives of women, youth and trade unions, and experts in various fields. So structurally, China's National People's Congress is very representative.
Another element of fundamental importance is in the legislature. The purpose of the legislature is to translate the strategic thinking of the Communist Party of China (CPC) into actual bills and laws.
One of the most important aspects of this process is that every citizen in China has a constitutional right to contribute to the discussion on proposed legislation. You can make suggestions, and you can also make comments. The legislature has a constitutional obligation to take into account these opinions and suggestions. In fact, there are some suggestions put forward by individual citizens that have already been adopted in the legislative process. Why wouldn't they be if they're good ideas?
Audiences take photos of a performance at the Changsha International Convention and Exhibition Center during the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province, July 1, 2023. /Xinhua
In my opinion, one of the key words of this year's National People's Congress is "continuity." Continuity is one of the great strengths of the Chinese system, which is manifested in stability, order, and long-term planning. I'm not expecting any bold experiments, because bold experiments require periods of peace and abundance when there's not a cloud on the horizon, or they are adopted as a last resort when there is no other choice.
China isn't in either of these situations at the moment although the international environment is complex and changeable, so I do not expect to see any bold experiments. What I would expect to see is continuity. Chinese President Xi Jinping has identified achieving the second centenary goal as the main task going forward, and many measures, initiatives, strategies and policies are already being implemented. I would expect to see these measures and strategies continue.
In terms of Whole Process People's Democracy, the structure of the People's Congress is a key factor, and democratic consultation is also a key element.
These strengths of China's political system will help the country achieve Chinese modernization. Key to this are the Five Development Concepts – shared, green innovative, coordinated and open development.
Rural Revitalization also plays a very significant role. Previously, China had an important strategy, which was targeted poverty alleviation. This meant raising the living standards of the last 100 million people who were still living in absolute poverty and raising them above the poverty line. And it is clear that China has completed this great project. But this is not an end in itself. You raise someone above the line, but that's just over the line. To ensure that they will never fall back below the line, we must constantly push them upward.
As one small example of how local governments work to realize Chinese modernization in rural China, the Chinese government has created a complete network of e-commerce sales outlets in villages. In the past, remote villages could not connect with a broad customer base. They could produce excellent products, but they couldn't access markets. Now through these e-commerce centers, they can really connect with the whole of China and even international customers. And then, product delivery can be achieved through the improvements in logistics and infrastructure.
Green development also plays a role. The State Grid, for example, is building small solar power plants in villages all over China, connecting them to the national grid and paying for their electricity. Solar power stations are also useful in the countryside because the area under the panels is actually very suitable for growing mushrooms or raising livestock.
These are examples of what is going on in the process of achieving rural revitalization. But in essence rural revitalization is the next step after poverty alleviation on the Chinese path to modernization, whose goal is to ensure that the country continues to develop and prosper.
(David Ferguson is a senior translation editor at Foreign Languages Press.)
Challenges abound, but can't dim 2024
Tough stance on corruption wins praise
Nation's job market remains steady in 2023
Investing in China an opportunity, says Premier in Davos