On China’s Democracy: An Institutional Exploration of the Integration of Human Rights into Democracy
September 21,2022   By:CSHRS
On China’s Democracy: An Institutional Exploration of the Integration of Human Rights into Democracy
HE Zhipeng*
Abstract: China’s democracy is one of the distinctive features of contemporary Chinese political and social governance. Based on the practical explorations and theoretical conclusions of countries around the world, China has established a democratic system that conforms to its national conditions by combining its historical and cultural traditions with its political and social conditions. The distinctive features of the system include the extensive and in-depth participation of the people, especially the people basis of the CPC as the ruling party on an organizational level, and also include the expression of public opinion in practice, especially the supervision of public affairs by the people, demonstrating in-depth integration of democracy with human rights.This democratic concept and practice integrating human rights deeply enrich the ideological and theoretical system and institutional system of human rights and democracy in the world, and also contribute to the successful exploration of the relationship between democracy and human rights as well as the relationship between democracy and good governance to a great extent. International doubts of and even suppression of such explorations are not aimed at promoting democracy and human rights but more of a malicious boycott out of political realism. To truly achieve better world order and improve global governance, we should advocate and promote the diversity of democratic civilizations.
Keywords: democracy · China · human rights · whole-process people’s democracy · integration of human rights
I. How the Subject is Raised
China’s democracy has undergone a long period of ideological and institutional exploration1 and has now become an important part of China’s political construction and social development.2 It is also a key component of the global exploration of democracy.3 Countries around the world are thinking about how to improve human governance and make it more efficient, China’s “whole-process people’s democracy” is worthy of study as a reference by other countries.4 The Communist Party of China has been exploring democracy since its founding.5 From theoretical criticism and formation to practical creation and improvement, China’s democracy has always focused on the participation of the people.6 To the greatest extent, it respects the opinions of the people in public affairs and decision-making. Although there have been setbacks and difficulties in China’s exploring and practicing democracy,7 the direction of China’s democracy has never deviated and its guiding concept has never been abandoned. 
The theory and practice of China’s democracy have long been a focus of academic attention.8 The combination of the theoretical proposition of consultative democracy in the West with the specific practice of China9 has led to a lot of analysis and debate.10 The study of consultative democracy can be said to be one of the distinctive features of China’s democratic theory.11 Additionally, the overall design and specific construction methods of grass-roots democracy have also triggered a lot of discussion.12 Chinese academic circles have conducted a series of studies on inner-Party democracy.13 In the law science field, some scholars place China’s democracy in the process of sinicizing Marxist legal principles;14 some scholars discuss the relationship between democracy and the rule of law from the perspective of political or law science,15 especially the positive interaction between democracy and the rule of law in China and the relationship between such interaction and China’s national governance, economic growth, and social justice;16 some scholars analyze the relationship between the Constitution and democracy;17 some scholars reflect on the practice of China’s democracy from the perspective of legislation and justice,18 and examine how China incorporates democracy into the law;19 some scholars analyze how China’s consultative democracy is legalize,20 especially the methods of implementing consultative democracy in departmental laws and grass-roots governance.21 In classical Chinese culture, many ideas attach great importance to the people, such as: “the people are the foundation of the country, so the country will be stable only when the foundation is firm” 22 and “the monarch is like a ship and the people are like water, the water can make the ship sail safely, but also make the ship sink.”23 These ideas make China pay much attention to the public opinion of the people. Therefore, in the development process of democratization, public opinion guidance is also one of the focuses of Chinese academic studies.24
These studies are quite helpful for clarifying the development context of China’s democracy, recognizing its leading concept, and exploring its characteristic practice. However, when many Western countries claim that they are democratic but regard China as a dictatorship, everyone must identify what is true and what is false, what is good and what is bad, in order to avoid being misled by wrong views and being confused by the one-sided claims of the West. At present, it is of great significance to observe China’s democracy and analyze its pattern and trend, especially in the context of the development of new social politics and institutional culture.
To this end, it is necessary to discuss the theory of democratic ideology that is behind China’s democracy, analyze the achievements and problems in terms of democratic governance, understand the achievements and deficiencies in China’s democratic construction from a global macro perspective, and look forward to the principles that China should follow to achieve fuller democracy and the means to actively realize it.
II. The Conceptual Basis for the Development of China’s Democracy
The logical premise for exploring China’s democracy is to recognize the general concept of democracy, find the key elements of its democracy, and eliminate inaccurate labels attached to its concept of democracy by those biased against China, so as to have a clear concept of democracy that is widely supported by various countries around the world. China’s democracy is an ideological concept and institutional model introduced as a result of high approval and recognition of the Western institutional practice of democracy in the process of learning from the West. This means that when democracy was first introduced to China, Chinese intellectuals and politicians were enthusiastic about it. Even when there were many doubts in Western theoretical circles about the practice of democracy and its true value, meaning, and possibilities, Chinese theorists were still trying to explore and seek the goodness of democracy.
A. The core connotation of democracy: the participation of the people in public affairs
Democracy is a rich word. There are many contradictory political and state theories that all claim to be democratic. The differences in the understanding of democracy in different cultures are reflected in the explanations given by the most common dictionaries used by people from China and the West. In Chinese dictionaries, democracy “refers to the right of the people to participate in the management of state and social affairs or to express their opinions freely on state affairs.
China adopts socialist democratic centralism and the people here not only enjoy extensive democracy and freedom but also have to abide by the socialist legal system.25 Democracy also “refers to the right of the people to express their opinions and participate in the political life and management of the country.”26 Mainstream Western dictionaries on the other hand define the term democracy as being a system of government in which the people can vote to elect their representatives, government officials, or rulers.27
Thousands of words have been used in attempts to define democracy with various factors directly or indirectly related to democracy listed.28 But in my opinion, listing so many elements of democracy, such as incorporating the rule of law, human rights, justice, goodness, and equality into the concept of democracy, just dilutes its core meaning. Democracy is not able to include so much content.29 By removing those elements that are not part of democracy, we can see that the most central feature of democracy is the participation of people in public affairs.30
B. The core elements of democracy: participation, expression, and supervision
True democracy means people understand the direction and process of public affairs, express their opinions on public affairs, participate in public decision-making, and supervise the way in which power operates. Some scholars have said that democracy is a system of government in which a large proportion of the community directly participates or may participate in the making of decisions that affect all members of the community,31 while others point out that to fully understand the nature of democracy requires an understanding of the many dimensions of participation: the breadth, depth, and scope.32 From a theoretical point of view, the term “democracy” can be interpreted from the following three aspects.
First, the line between democracy and non-democracy is the participation or non-participation of people in the process of legislation, decision-making, and governance. Neither the theory nor the practice of the democracy has been analyzed or discussed in the cultural tradition of ancient China. Therefore, the concept of democracy is mainly derived from the West. Democracy was defined by Aristotle in his work Politics. Aristotle viewed democracy as the opposite of oligarchy and emphasized that the essence of democracy lies in the participation of citizens in the affairs of the citystate.33
Although democracy takes more forms and there has been much theoretical analysis on democracy in the process of social evolution, the most important measuring standard for democracy has never changed. This standard is the key to distinguishing democracy from autocracy or other forms of polities.
Second, the main feature of democracy is that the people have the opportunity to express their will in the decision-making process, to effectively understand the decision-making process, to actively and effectively participate in the necessary decision-making, and provide their observations on the operation of public affairs. In terms of expressing their views in the decision-making process, people can do it either through a meeting discussion or by leaving a message outside the meeting, or in other ways. Participation in decision-making means taking a vote, showing hands to vote, or voting in any other appropriate forms on policies that are determined democratically and provide factors to consider the final decision. Supervision in the process of implementing decisions means conducting regular supervision of the legitimacy and transparency of the operation of power. Supervision also means going to relevant places to observe, finding existing problems in the process of observation, and requiring correction, refinement and improvement.
Third, democracy also means that the people who have expressed their views and opinions on public affairs receive necessary feedback. When citizens put forward opinions and suggestions on overall processes such as legislation, law enforcement and justice, public affairs agencies must carefully review and give feedback. The ways such opinions and suggestions are put forward are also diverse. Some scholars believe that approaches similar to drawing lots are adopted after democracy shows a series of weaknesses due to its own problems.34 It must be made clear that drawing lots is not democracy, because it deviates from the basic concept of democracy, that is, public participation and expression. Without such participation and expression, there is no democracy. As long as divination and lotteries are not regarded as being a democracy, we cannot consider drawing lots as a democracy. Drawing lots is only an alternative approach that is taken when the democratic system is not functioning well and democracy reflects its own drawbacks and defects. It is by no means democracy. The correct understanding of this helps us not only understand the boundaries of democracy but also know about the difficulties a democratic system faces.
C. Spatial and temporal positioning of politics: gradually improve the governance system
Democracy is a political method, that is to say, a certain type of institutional arrangement for arriving at political — legislative and administrative — decisions.35 It is an institutional design and practice guided by the concept of public participation and expression. The institutional rationality of democracy itself means that in the specific implementation stage of democracy, there are always various defects and deficiencies. Democracy largely reflects individuals’ abilities and interest preferences.36
Some scholars argue that the results generated by a democratic system cannot be adjusted, and all forces need to repeatedly compete.37 Others argue that the results of the functioning of democracies are highly predictable, even in the case of rotation of power.38 This view is highly questionable. Researchers of Western political philosophy find that it is just a metaphor to regard people as the ruler. John Stuart Mill mentioned that it was now perceived that such phrases as “self-government,” and “the power of the people over themselves,” do not express the true state of the case. The “people” who exercise the power are not always the same people as those over whom it is exercised.39 Walter Lippmann pointed out in Public Opinion that a government cannot be run by the people, and a country cannot be governed by the masses.40 People have never managed themselves, and the highest level of human life is to choose their own ruler and, in some cases, exert direct influence over the ruler. The United States Declaration of Independence states that no government is legitimate unless it enjoys the consent of the governed, which means the ultimate source of sovereign power is the people, and all legitimate governments must rest on their consent.41 Government officials should represent the people and should be elected by the people, although the architects of the US Constitution didn’t think direct election was best way to select the people’s representatives and they preferred indirect election.42 The US Constitution is an aristocratic document dressed up as a democratic one by federalists.43 Whether democracy can reflect the genuine and effective representation of and accountability to electors is a question worth pondering.44
The goodness of democracy is merely a possibility, not an inevitability.45 There are always differences in people’s views and positions, it is impossible to allow a policy design or decision to meet the expectations and wishes of all people. What’s feasible is to meet the reasonable wishes of the public as much as possible. Reflected in the mechanisms of representation, democracy is a form of government. Reflected as a means to pursue liberty and individuality, democracy is a form of government. Democracy is reflected in people’s increasing political participation and the hostile action of parties with different political views. Democracy is a hostile politics in which individuals pursue their own interests rather than a common purpose.46 David Miller questioned majority rule in his book Market, State, and Community: Theoretical Foundations of Market Socialism. He pointed out that people with different interests and opinions can't make a unified decision, and it is not reasonable to put together conflicting interests to get a simple statistical result.47
This also means that democracy can be not only recognizable but also designed, shaped, improved, and developed. In John Dewey’s Ethics published in 1932, he argues that political power is more important than anything else; the development of democracy is an effective embodiment of a moral ideal of goodness; freedom of thought, exploration, and discussion is at the center of democratic politics; and democracy requires people to dispose of their rights voluntarily, not to have them constrained.48 Based on Robert Alan Dahl’s pluralist elite democracy theory and Harold Joseph Laski’s normative pluralist democracy theory, Chantal Mouffe adopted radical democratic thinking and proposed a radical pluralist democratic plan.49 Liberalism is concerned with the right to freedom, while Marxism is concerned with the demise of classes; neither is concerned much about democracy.50 Domination means an unequal power relationship, exploitation is a way of economic operation, and class means a form of exploitation based on property ownership.51 In the relationship between the rule of law and freedom, freedom depends on restrictive authority, which is a negative view of freedom; in the relationship between democracy and freedom, freedom depends on the exercise of rights, which is a positive view of freedom.52 Some scholars advocate procedural democracy, requiring separating procedure from essence and facts from value.
Furthermore, the practice of democracy requires public resources. As the consultation process costs people some time to listen and understand and demands their attention, the collecting of public opinion will certainly be limited by technical means. With the development of big data and artificial intelligence, democratic mechanisms for collecting public opinion may become better and better. For example, governments may use online platforms to promote active public participation and quickly get public opinion through efficient online voting. Democracy, therefore, does not come without a price. With the different amounts of resources available, different societies must have different options, so the forms of democracy are diverse.
Democracy doesn’t take precedence over peace, nor can it be used to wage aggression, provoke wars and undermine peace; democracy cannot replace development, nor can it be used to bypass economists and sociologists to find the right path of innovative development; democracy cannot hinder fairness, nor can it be used to create a social order that violates fairness; democracy cannot deviate from justice, nor can it be one-sidedly emphasized to abandon overall justice and individual justice; democracy cannot impede freedom, adopting a democratic approach doesn’t mean freedom is ensured.
Overall, among the many elements of governance, the rule of law takes precedence over democracy.53
Historically, there have been many conflicts between democracy and human rights. Since democracy is merely an arrangement for expression of people’s will, democratic participation in decision-making, and the presentation of people’s own positions and proposals, it may potentially conflict with human rights. In other words, decisions discussed in a democratic manner, norms, and actions agreed upon democratically are all likely to violate fundamental human rights. This situation is what is often called the tyranny of democracy, the tyranny of the majority. When the basic concepts of society have deviated, when the information at hand is incomplete, or when being incited by those who have ill intentions, people may collectively make wrong decisions. Something that seems to be highly democratic in form may be very wrong. That has repeatedly happened in history. Both the death of Socrates and the anti-Semitic legislation of Nazi Germany are procedurally democratic, but in essence, they have nothing to do with social fairness and justice. This means that a well-functioning society cannot be left to the uncontrolled operation of democracy. If the design of a democratic system and the implementation of its procedures fail to contribute to the people’s happiness at last, that is, if the real human rights of the people cannot be truly realized, then such a democratic system is not a real one, and it is likely to be a superficial form of democracy only.
III. The Practical Premise for China’s Exploration of Democracy
The development process of China’s democracy has inevitably imitated and learned from Western democracy has and its thousands of years of experience. The rise and fall of the Western democratic practice is the source of ideas and lessons, and a precious reference system for China’s exploration of democracy. If China tries to build a good state, government, and social governance, it is necessary to have a deep dive into the historical and modern Western democracy.
A. The exploration and reflection on democracy in the classical period of the West
Over the past thousands of years, the democratic practice and attempts of various countries around the world have left a wealth of assets for China’s democratic thought, and provided rich experience and lessons for the design of China’s democratic system. In his Zur Kritik der Hegel’schen Rechts-Philosophie: Einleitung, Karl Marx said: “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons, material force must be overthrown by material force, but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. The theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But, for man, the root is man himself.”54 Here, Marx is fully aware of the importance of theory to real life, especially political life. At the same time, he reminds theoretical researchers that only by thoroughly revealing the essence of things, can it be possible to put forward a penetrating theory. Such a penetrating theory can truly convince the people so that the fully convinced people are aligned with the direction guided by the theory and form a united force. 
For subjects like democracy, if we cannot interpret them thoroughly, if we cannot grasp the essence of democracy, explain the contributions and limitations of democracy itself, and point out the position and function of democracy in social governance, then cultural self-confidence and institutional self-confidence cannot be formed. Therefore, an in-depth analysis of the subject of democracy is essentially an important aspect for effectively maintaining a country’s political structure and legal order. For a fairly long historical period, democracy was not a good choice in many political structures. Simply regarding democracy as the natural and best choice for the political decision-making process of human society without grasping the historical context, can lead to misunderstandings of the true meaning of democracy.
Democracy is a political arrangement that has existed since at least the time of ancient Greece. The democracy of Athens is the world’s earliest documented attempt at democracy. In the course of democratic politics, the problems of democratic blindness and anarchy were highlighted. From the perspective of historical development, it can be concluded that this model was not always popular in ancient Greece. In ancient Greece, much of the literature did not support the idea of democracy as a good social arrangement, and many philosophers preferred to involve those with assets, knowledge, and experience in politics and political decision-making. In their eyes, civilians lack sufficient knowledge and training, so their involvement in politics is largely a tragedy. Of particular note are Recollections of Socrates by Xenophon, The Republic by Plato, and Politics by Aristotle. All of them talk of democracy, but they are very cautious in their conclusions about the influence of democracy and do not regard democracy as a good way of making decisions. Socrates himself died from the tyranny of the majority. In Plato’s mind, the ideal of “a philosopher king” is good governance. Even when the philosopher king could not be truly realized, he proposed to use the rule of law to avoid waywardness in Laws in his later years and didn’t leave good governance to democracy. In Laws Plato argues that monarchies and democracies can be seen as manifestations of obedience and freedom, while the best way to govern is to mix freedom and obedience to allow people to participate in public affairs and ensure the authority of the king at the same time.55 The point he sought to make in his Apology was that democratic legal processes were systematically unjust.56 By conducting a thorough analysis of the institutions of the various Athenian city-states in his Politics, Aristotle considered elite rule by the nobility to be a better way. Before the classical period, it was generally understood that the concept of democracy was developed in democratic regimes because of democratic laws. Aristotle argued in his Politics that monarchies, ruled by patricians, and republics were essentially superior to the ruling by plebeians, oligarchs, and tyranny.57 Many thinkers, including Plato and Aristotle, have tried to propose solutions to these drawbacks.
Ancient Greece, as an experiment in world democracy, reflects the core and essential problems of democracy, which helps us think about democracy in the contemporary world.58 Subsequently, in the practice of ancient Rome, there were both monarchy and democratic arrangements such as public meetings, but on the whole, the monarchy was dominant, while democracy only played a complementary and corrective role.59
From these arguments, a common conclusion can be drawn: democracy was not seen as a high-level institution. Even in the system of small city-states like Athens in ancient times, democracy was not positively evaluated as the best way to govern. After Athens, neither the Roman Empire nor the Middle Ages would highly recognize democracy. It can be seen that in Western society, for quite a long time, the evaluation of democracy was not high.
B. The rise of democracy in the modern political system
The impetus for the development of democracy was the modern bourgeois revolution. In the West, due to the continuous improvement of the status of the common people and the increased evaluation of the common people, democracy had gradually become a generally recognized political operation structure. Especially during the French Revolution, the recognition of the rights and freedom of the common people made democracy a popular model of decision-making. But even amid such a trend, the Federalists in the United States, some philosophers in France, and thinkers in Great Britain did not highly value democracy. They still feared that democracy would lead to the ignorant rule of the mob, causing social disorder under the control of gangsters. They believed that it was difficult for the mob who lacked sufficient professional knowledge and political training to have a clear strategic direction and to make the tactical choices required in national governance. This was an important reason for Western society to be wary of democracy for quite a long time.
In the view of the classic Marxist writers, democracy is a great term, “a state type, and a state form,” which “means to formally recognize the equality of all citizens, and that everyone has the equal right to determine the state institution and administer the country,”60 Marx and Engels spoke highly of democracy: “Democracy is the solved riddle of all constitutions.” Democracy shows the true face of the state institution, and is “the product of human freedom.”61 In a class society, democracy is reflected as different forms of class rule.62 Pure democracy, absolute democracy, or democracy for all does not exist. Democracy has a strong class character.63
Lenin, in his biography of Friedrich Engels, said that both Marx and Engels were transformed from democrats to socialists, so their hatred of political tyranny and democratic feelings was very strong. Because Marx and Engels had such direct political feelings and a profound theoretical understanding of the connection between political tyranny and economic oppression, and both of them had rich life experiences, so they were extremely sensitive to politics.64 This description by Lenin keenly identified the characteristics of the views of Marx and Engels about democracy. It is the characteristics of Marx and Engels in terms of identity and experience that make them pay much attention to and highly recognize democracy. These characteristics also make them have a more positive and tolerant attitude toward democracy. But their democratic propositions are mainly against autocracy and tyranny without deeply considering state governance, which is what we must bear in mind when understanding Marx and Engels’ democratic propositions. Some scholars have also pointed out that feudal society also had certain democratic rights, which were mainly reflected in the parliaments and regimes of republics.65
C. The rise and fall of democracy since the 20th century
Despite the “end of democracy” argument among researchers,66 the international community’s confidence in democracy wasn’t high until the early 1990s. In the 1990s, the wide recognition of the confidence in democracy was largely due to the West’s belief that it had won the Cold War and that the so-called democratic camp to which they belonged had triumphed. Based on such a perception, they promoted “demoratization” around the world in an attempt to allow more countries to make political changes to achieve the goal of economic growth. Furthermore, they also believed that the countries regarded as non-democratic ones by them were in trouble, which put their words and propositions in an irreplaceable advantageous position.67 However, since the beginning of the 21st century, there have been arguments such as “the twilight of democracy” and “how democracies die.”68 Bao Gangsheng believes that the collapse of democracy that has occurred in many countries is mainly because of social fragmentation and conflict, as the democratic political systems of the West and those modeled on them do not help resolve social conflicts.69
The sharp decline of people’s confidence in democracy in the 2020s indicates to some extent that there are some inherent problems in the arrangement and structure of democracy. The dream of democracy cannot be realized in the democratic reality, the goals of democracy cannot be achieved by the West’s democratic systems, and the abstract theory of democracy cannot be applied in the concrete democratic arrangements. US democracy is exhibiting many problems.70 Some scholars believe that about every 20 years or so, a cycle of national confidence index will be formed in the world. This is the cyclical development process from peak to valley and back to the peak.
The exploration of democracy is multi-dimensional and multi-directional; democracy also takes many forms and is by no means unique and exclusive. It is not difficult to see from the dictionary definitions mentioned previously that the word democracy in British and American dictionaries focuses on two main elements, namely voting and elections. This means that in the eyes of ordinary people in the United Kingdom and the United States, democracy and voting are closely linked, but a series of other elements are likely to be excluded from democracy. In China’s mainstream dictionaries, the definition of democracy pays more attention to public participation in the management of the state and public affairs. As a result, democracy takes many forms, and the participation in the management of state affairs in a way other than election is also regarded as part of democracy, which is the fundamental difference in the definition of democracy between China and the West.
In terms of the procedure for electing a government, democracy can be divided into direct democracy and indirect democracy. As two forms of democracy, it cannot be said that direct democracy is necessarily superior to indirect democracy. All democracies have their own limitations. Any kind of democracy faces three basic challenges: first, how to ensure the authenticity of the opinions expressed; second, how to measure the weight of the opinions expressed; third, how to treat those who don’t express their opinions or hold a minority view. If these challenges cannot be effectively solved, situations in which opinions expressed are misled, abducted, and are not scientifically reasonable may occur in any form of democratic government.
It is necessary to persist in objectively and accurately understanding the contributions and limitations of democracy, to understand the process of emergence, development, maturity, and perfection of democracy in the whole of human history, and to understand the constantly revising and boundary-setting changes of democracy. It is necessary to recognize the position of democracy in the whole system of the society, the objectives it should serve, and the theoretical basis for its establishment and perfection. Democracy cannot be understood only in an ideological sense, nor can it be merely regarded as a popular word in real life and be followed and advocated in a one-sided and blind manner. If we can understand the historical development and social positioning of democracy, we will not go astray and will not be easily misled by biased ideas.
D. The basic consensus on the development of democracy in the contemporary world
Based on thousands of years of practice, people have seen the benefits of democracy and recognized some of democracy’s shortcomings. The good governance results of democracy can only be ensured by clarifying its constraints and good operating procedures.
This is a summary of the practical experience and conclusions that China needs to learn from to promote its democratic system. From the perspective of the social structure in which democracy exists and develops, that is, in the governance environment of modern society, democracy can barely offer an optimal solution for decision-making and the implementation of decisions. Rather it is a suboptimal solution within a given spatial and temporal range. Therefore, it is necessary to be soberly aware of the environmental conditions that constrain democracy, which requires attention to the following six aspects at least.
First, the size of the population. Even in the ancient Greek and Roman periods, democracy with universal participation was not realized. Today, with the increasing number of people, it is impossible and not feasible to involve all members of society in the governance on a particular matter. In reality, the political system of any country cannot be decided by the entire community. This is not only because people have their own working fields and cannot pay attention to all aspects of government decision-making during their working hours, but also because government management has its own scientific ways of operation, good social norms and order can only be established and a stable life and people’s rights in all aspects can be ensured only by properly promoting the effective operation of relevant mechanisms. Involving the whole people in political decision-making will not only consume people’s time but also obviously reduce the efficiency of social production and political decision-making and operation. Therefore, democracy for all people is impossible in reality. Democracy is necessarily the participation of a limited number of people in decision-making on limited matters within a limited time. The main criteria for determining the boundaries are the knowledge, the benefits, and the interests of the people. Therefore, on the one hand, it is necessary to accept the fact that only some of the people are involved in the governance of democratic operations; on the other hand, it is necessary to understand that a high level of democracy must be based on the premise of high-quality participants. Without good, qualified citizens, democracy may only be a low-level replication and amplification. Therefore, it is crucial to train high-quality citizens and allow them to have a clear sense of the overall situation and enhance their knowledge of social development, political pattern, economic growth, and cultural construction because these are the keys to the implementation and wide recognition of the democratic model.
Second, the gap in competencies between managers elected by the people and those who are competent. Since the most important part of a modern democracy is the choosing of managers by the people, this process fully indicates the limitations of the field involved. People are not often involved in the discussion, decision-making, and implementation of governance matters, but in the comparison and choosing of the candidates being discussed. The candidates cannot be perfect. They will be good in some aspects while being not so good in other ones. People must make a tradeoff when choosing and electing them. This trade-off shows the inevitable flaw of the governance system. Clear-minded judgment requires complete information. Without open and transparent information, the public is likely to be guided by the wrong information, be deceived by some flowery rhetoric, and may make wrong decisions. Hence, to achieve the goal of balanced and rational democratic decision-making, social governance must be linked to information openness and transparency. It helps to form a clear conclusion to consider all factors. Democracy, therefore, is premised on adequate and transparent information.
Third, the balance between majority rule and minority rights. For thousands of years, the practice of democracy has fully proved that the people involved in democratic decision-making are not necessarily wise, or those who have a clear, accurate, and comprehensive concept of public affairs; they are often influenced by propaganda slogans, misinformation, and even rumors, thus are limited in their judgments. Such influence and limitation will make the decisions made by the majority not necessarily the most rational ones, and in many cases may affect the legitimate rights and interests of the minority. Therefore, in a sound society, it is necessary to define the binding relationship between democracy and fundamental human rights, that is, regarding basic human rights as the natural premise and necessary foundation of democracy. If such a foundation is undermined, this will likely lead to a reduction in the number of people involved in decision-making in a democratic manner, which fundamentally erodes and undermines democracy.
Fourth, the balance between public perception and scientific judgment, and technical feasibility. As a process of public participation, public decision-making, and public supervision, the democratic process to a large extent represents the public cognitive level and judgment ability of a society, which will certainly be far from the highest level of professional fields. To allow democracy to work effectively, scientific investigation and professional research are needed to be used as the pre-procedure. For example, in the field of social development and more professional fields such as public health, food security, and ecological security, it is difficult for the public to directly give a clear judgment on relevant issues. Only when professionals provide clear, objective, and neutral explanations, may the public make a solid judgment. Therefore, on a given issue, if it is completely left to the people to make a judgment according to their own knowledge, the judgment is likely to be biased and they may even take the completely wrong direction and take the wrong measures. To avoid losses caused by such mistakes in decision-making and planning and to avoid results that directly jeopardize the social process, it is necessary to arrange experts in science and technology and other professionals in related fields to do sufficient investigation and research before the democratic discussions and decision-making take place so that analytical conclusions can be drawn that are in line with the latest state of understanding of the science and technology of the times, objectively and rationally predict different consequences that may be caused by different decisions, clearly point out the means to be used to achieve the goal and the economic and social costs of related means, list the available options and their possible social implications for democratic decision-making, and then ask the people to choose, vote, and make decisions according to the social values they agree with. Only when the public obtains more comprehensive and balanced information from a professional point of view, may they avoid being misled and make fair, reliable, scientific, and reasonable decisions to the greatest extent.
Fifth, the balance between information transparency and the confidentiality of major state and social matters. Although we often think that being as open and transparent as possible to social public affairs is a progressive feature of modern society, in some major areas, key matters involving the overall security of the country and society often need to be kept confidential. Some matters, especially military and diplomatic issues involving national security, cannot be decided with a transparent approach. Because only decisions made in secrecy can deter the opponent or the enemy, or avoid public opinion chaos, panic, and social instability caused by the misrepresentation of the issues in public discussions.
This means that for some major decisions, we have to trust the knowledge and decisiveness of professionals and cannot admit all citizens to participate in the decision-making, which will only have a negative impact. Therefore, it is necessary to define the scope of democracy, that is, to advocate for the public to participate in the discussions on the social norms, the development direction of the country and the society, the development pace, and the focus of development. What’s more, advantage should be taken of various complaints channels and mass supervision to ensure governance problems are addressed. Such undesirable tendencies and unhealthy work styles that have emerged in social development, especially the lazy behavior of some governments, their sluggishness in precise management, and the one-size-fits-all approach they adopt for their own convenience rather than the basic needs of people’s lives can be addressed in this way.
Sixth, the balance between public expression and the efficiency of decision-making. People’s expression of their ideas and propositions in the management of social affairs and participation in social decision-making, to a large extent, can make them feel recognized, give them a sense of dignity and pride, and allow them to feel like the masters of the society; but at the same time, the process of people’s participation in social management will also reduce the operating efficiency of social management. For example, when discussing how to solve the emerged risks, difficulties, and problems, only those governing officers with rich experience in governance are likely to make useful suggestions, while other people may only propose unspecific, vague propositions or supplementary and amended suggestions. In such cases, it is necessary to attach great importance to the early-stage preparation and allow those with experience in governance to propose preliminary solutions, rather than to put the issue into a democratic discussion at a stage when there are no directions, objectives, and planning recommendations. Otherwise, a lot of public resources will be consumed and no effective solutions will be proposed.
From the above constraints, it can be seen that democracy should not exist in isolation in society, but be used in combination with other institutional designs. Limited matters, representative decision-making, scientific pre-procedure, and respecting human rights are important constraints for the effective implementation and functioning of modern democracy. To be fair, democracy is neither a panacea for all economic, political, and social problems, nor is it a bad system that inevitably leads to the improper election, inefficient governance, or even the tyranny of the majority. Democracy needs to be observed in a multidimensional and meticulous manner. It merits neither too much optimism nor too much pessimism about democracy. It should not be overpraised or overly diminished.71
IV. The Integration of Human Rights into China’s Whole-process Democracy
Democracy and human rights are important concepts explored in the development and progress of human society. In the basic sense, human rights are the rights of humans, that is, the most fundamental rights required for people’s survival and development in a society. Democracy is people’s right to express their opinions and participate in decision-making in political lives. Furthermore, in the area of national and international institutional construction, human rights are those arrangements for protecting and remedying people’s claim for fundamental rights; democracy is an institutional arrangement for people to participate in decision-making and express their opinions. After clarifying the core connotations of these two concepts, it can be found that there is a deep and complex connection between the two, and this connection is very obvious in China.
A. The history and reality of the development of China’s democracy
China was a semi-colony till the inception of the People’s Republic of China.72 Before the CPC established a government ruled by the people, China had conducted a series of explorations for a good political system,73 but none of them succeeded. The Self-Strengthening Movement in the late Qing Dynasty, the Wuxu Reform, and the Late Qing Reform all failed; the fruits of the victory of the Xinhai Revolution were also stolen; political chaos occurred during the Beiyang Government period; during the Nanjing Nationalist Government period, China was formally unified, but the government represented the interests of the large landlord class and the comprador bourgeoisie and adopted a system to oppress, enslave, and exploit the broad masses of the proletariat, peasant class, petty bourgeoisie, and other social progressives, so the problems of national liberation, national independence, and the people’s happiness could not be solved.74
Chinese Marxists not only enriched the Marxist concept of democracy but also began to practice Chinese-style democracy from an early age. For example, the workers’ and peasants’ representatives in the 1920s and the Congress of Workers, Peasants, and Soldiers in the Chinese Soviet Republic in the 1930s are the earlier manifestations of the CPC’s electoral democracy. During the Yan’an period, the CPC adopted the policy of the Three-Three System in the revolutionary base area of Shaanxi, Gansu, and Ningxia, and established a Senate-style government.75 In the 1940s, as the CPC increasingly gained power across the country, the People’s Congress became the dominant method of electoral democracy in China. Today, the electoral democracy of the People’s Congress system not only constitutes a national characteristic of contemporary China but also forms a relatively stable system. The electoral democracy at the grassroots level has developed vibrantly, and the inner-party electoral democracy has also shown its vitality, which is playing a positive role in promoting the full and strict governance over the CPC and upholding the leadership of the CPC.76
Over 40 years of reform and opening up, especially since the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC, the path of socialist political development with Chinese characteristics has become broader and broader, and the institutional guarantee of a government ruled by the people has become better and better, and the superiority of socialist democracy has been fully demonstrated.77 Developing socialist democratic politics requires adhering to the development path of socialist politics with Chinese characteristics, and using the institutional system to ensure a government ruled by the people at the same time. The measures taken include promoting the extensive and multi-layered institutional development of consultative democracy, comprehensively implementing the CPC’s ethnic and religious policies, and consolidating and developing the broadest patriotic united front.78 The goal of building a moderately prosperous society is all about all-round development, while such high-quality development requires solving the outstanding problems that the people are generally concerned about and enhancing the shared and coordinated benefits of development.79
Looking back at the history of China’s democracy, it is not difficult to find that the existing macro framework of democracy in contemporary China was not originally designed but gradually formed with the development of the times. In addition to national legislation at the central level, democracy at the local level has increasingly emerged in the framework structure of China’s governance, making important contributions to the improvement of China’s political system.80 From the democratic content and implementation methods of the People’s Congress to the relationship between the People’s Congress and the Political Consultative Conference, everything has matured through practical exploration. Examples also include the models of national legislative procedure, legal supervision, administrative supervision, and the democratic election methods at the local grassroots level. The advantage of gradual exploration is that practical needs are highlighted and such a method shows the wisdom that comes from exploration practice. Therefore, China’s democracy is a progressively developing and dynamic one. Yu Keping believes that China’s political reform should be incremental and gradual, and the primary goal is to develop democracy. Hence the incremental political reform is first reflected in incremental democracy. China should ensure Pareto-optimality in the democratic process, keep promoting its democratic process through a series of institutional innovations, and realize the political ideal of good governance at last.81 From the perspective of effect, China’s proposal of the term “whole-process people’s democracy” is, on the one hand, conducive to inheriting the ideological concepts and theoretical foundations of the previous People’s Democracy, and on the other hand, helpful for distinguishing China’s democracy from existing theories, especially Western democracy theories. This, in particular, helps to avoid Western politicians or scholars from using the Western experience as the standard to measure, judge, and criticize China’s democracy in terms of its factors and procedures, and put forward many unconstructive views. It can be said that the new term “whole-process people’s democracy” is a political concept with Chinese characteristics designed to avoid unnecessary controversy and accusation.
B. The foundation of China’s democracy in the ruling system
The relationship between China’s ruling system and the people is the key to understanding China’s democracy. The CPC comes from the people, relies on the people to develop and grow, has always had profound feelings for the people, and is willing to bring benefits to the people. The relationship between the Chinese Government or the CPC and the people can be described in the following four aspects.
First, members of the CPC and the Chinese Government are part of the people. The people’s nature is the most distinctive character of Marxism, and the people’s position is the fundamental political position of the Marxist political party.82 The CPC has no special interests of its own and always puts the interests of the country, the nation, and the people first. As the CPC doesn’t seek its own interests, it seeks fundamental and great benefits for the people due to its nature and fundamental purpose, puts people’s fundamental interests first, examines itself, doesn’t conceal its shortcomings, evades its problems, and covers up its mistakes. It overcomes its shortcomings, solves its problems, and admits and corrects its mistakes if there are any.83 As the CPC comes from the people and has the people as its foundation, it is born for the people, thrives because of the people, and is always with the people. Striving for the interests of the people is the fundamental starting point and foothold of the CPC in building, boosting, and strengthening itself.84 They are not opposed to the people, nor are they a small group that keeps a distance from the people; they come directly from the people and do not evolve into an isolated interest group.
Second, the institutions of the CPC and the Chinese Government have been established and improved under the condition of being elected and supervised by the people. That is to say, the important candidates and basic operating mechanisms of the CPC and the government all come from the support and wisdom of the people. Upholding and ensuring “a government ruled by the people” means insisting that all state power belongs to the people, upholding the people’s dominant position, and supporting and guaranteeing the people’s exercising of state power through a series of democratic systems such as the people’s congress system.
Third, the series of political principles, plans, and measures adopted by the CPC and the Chinese Government are for the benefit of the people. As soon as the CPC was born, it established its original aspiration and mission of seeking happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation. The CPC has united and led the Chinese people to write the Chinese nation’s most brilliant epic in the history of thousands of years.85 Since the CPC and the Chinese Government are not interest groups that are separated from the people, their standardized organizations and operational procedures should not and cannot seek the private interests of small groups, they are sure to express the concerns of the people, take the people’s good life as their goal, and achieve it by various innovative means.
Fourth, the strategies of the CPC and the Chinese Government take the benefit and satisfaction of the people as the yardstick. The goal of China’s ruling party, policies, and legal system is not simply for some statistical numbers or abstract indicators, but the real feelings of the people. Therefore, whether for poverty alleviation or pandemic control, China attaches great importance to the feelings and feedback of the people. In China, it is very common to see relevant leading officers being dismissed because they failed in pandemic control and the resulting negative impact on the people’s lives, but such things are very rare abroad. This shows that the Chinese Government attaches great importance to the voices, the feelings, and the experience of the people, while many Western countries are numb in this regard, and believe that they have unquestionable legitimacy, resulting in carelessness and blind conceit in governance. The cautious attitude of the rulers of China’s ruling party is the ideological basis for continuously improving China’s governance and keeping it on the correct track.
C. The constructive integration of democracy and human rights in the governance system
China’s democracy under the leadership of the CPC has embarked on a path of taking human rights as the theme, the foundation, the goal, the constraint, and the yardstick. The organic, systematic, and in-depth integration of democracy and human rights is an important aspect of human rights practice with Chinese characteristics, and also an important feature of China’s democratic system.
1. China’s democratic system takes human rights as the theme, which is mainly reflected in the fact that democracy is seen as a human right.
Democracy is an important right that is included in the human rights spectrum as a manifestation of human rights.86 As a political arrangement, the essence of democracy is to give people the opportunity to express their views and participate in decision-making. There are many ways to express views, whether it be in citizens’ and deputies’ meetings, discussions in the streets and alleys, or expression in newspapers, television, and network media, all can be regarded as the ways the citizens’ opinions are expressed. The channels of expression can be either official or private. Giving people the opportunity to express their views is an important channel for obtaining opinions, a model for satisfying people’s rights, and the main way to enhance the trust and communication level of the governance and reduce its internal and external pressures. Therefore, expression of views is an essential part of democracy and an important right that people have. What’s more, participation in political decision-making is also an important right. This form of political participation is also diverse; it can be either direct or indirect, at a meeting or during an election. As long as the decision-making process reflects the will of the people, such a participation process should be considered democratic.
As a right, democracy is not only reflected in the participants’ having a certain amount of control over the process and results of public affairs but also gives people a psychological sense of acquisition and satisfaction as a result of this participation process.
By participating in public affairs, people expand their knowledge and horizons, have a clearer understanding of the direction and pace of collective affairs, and get the opportunity to participate in decision-making. Moreover, the process of participating in public affairs improves people’s awareness of their own role and enhances their concept and consciousness of contributions to the community. In the sense of personal psychological needs, this participation process gives meaning to people’s life by realizing their value at a higher level than personal safety and survival. This psychological satisfaction is a very important aspect of individual rights. As society develops and people increasingly reach a consensus on a good political system, democracy has become an integral part of modern society although for quite a long time there were no rights attached to it. In a system that is relatively mature in political and social development, democracy would become a basic human right people advocate. However, democratic rights are just one part of the basic human rights spectrum. This does not mean that it is necessarily the most important human right, nor does it mean that it is the premise and condition of other human rights. In different societies, democratic rights have different degrees of importance in human rights. Democracy may not be the most critical and important right in countries and regions with underdeveloped economies. Trying to feed and clothe people and maintain their basic life safety is a prerequisite for further promoting social democracy; while for those countries and regions where their societies are already basically stable, democracy is necessary and important.
2. China’s democratic system takes human rights as the foundation, which is mainly reflected in the fact that the leading institutions and leaders are all from the people.
China’s government officials are neither a social stratum opposed to the people nor an interest group that is independent of the masses of people, but a group of representatives who have come out of the people and are selected by the people. In contemporary China, special emphasis is placed on upholding the leadership of the CPC, which is the institutional foundation and prerequisite for ensuring that the government is ruled by the Chinese people. Democratically, the CPC puts forward proposals on major matters concerning the development of China and recommends candidates to legislatures and organs of power including the People’s Congress. Some of them become officials of the government and exercise leadership over the state and the society through the organs of state power. They use the principle of democratic centralism to ensure the authority of the CPC and the government. Their interests are in line with those of the people and they are not interest groups that are separated from the people. They always stick together with the people. Furthermore, they become government staff and officials by taking tests and through elections, which means they are well qualified in terms of work ability and performance. Being under the leadership of the CPC is the foundation for developing China’s socialist democracy; ensuring a government ruled by the people is the essential requirement of a socialist democracy, and the rule of law is the basic strategy for ensuring a government ruled by the people. The organic unity of these three aspects shows the direction of socialist democracy, is conducive to giving full play to the superiority of the socialist system, and helps coordinate the relations and interests between all stakeholders.87 Consultative democracy is a unique form of Chinese socialist democratic politics. It is closely related to China’s excellent traditional culture, rooted in the actual process of China’s political development since modern times, and based on the long-term practice of the CPC in leading the people to carry out the revolution, the construction, and the reforms.
It embodies the practice of people from all political parties, groups, nationalities, and strata in terms of the political system since the founding of the PRC, and also shows the continuous innovation made in the mechanism of political systems after the launch of reform and opening up.88
3. China’s democratic system takes human rights as the goal, which means the goal of China’s whole-process democracy is to enhance the people’s sense of happiness.
As a political value of human society, democracy is not the ultimate goal that governments or individuals strive to achieve. Democratic development should focus on the well-being of the people. The ultimate goal of social development in the human institutional construction is the freedom, liberation, and happiness of human beings. Human rights are the institutional path to a free life, while democracy is the institutional framework for pursuing a happy life. These two aspects of institutional construction are both parts of good governance and are both conducive to the development of a country’s governance capacity and governance system. However, any kind of construction itself is not an end, but a means. It seems to be putting the cart before the horse if democratic construction is seen as an exclusive and the only goal. China’s democratic construction is committed to making the material and cultural lives of the masses of people better, striving to meet the aspirations and pursuits of the broad masses of people for a better life, bringing state governance to a new height and improving the situation in which the basic living needs of the masses of people are met sufficiently and in a balanced manner by economic and social development. All of these planning goals and working directions can come down to human rights in a broad and deep sense. This means, in addition to the fact that democracy itself is the expression of people’s rights, the goal of democracy is always to uphold human rights more fully, reasonably, and smoothly. As a common value of the human society, democracy is neither the only way to a happy life for the people nor the only correct answer to the governance of a state or society. Therefore, democracy is one form of good governance, but not the only one. As one of the common values of all mankind, democracy needs to take peaceful development as its starting point, have fairness and justice as its foothold, focus on the realization of the comprehensive freedom and liberation of the people, and fully achieve balance in this value system to achieve good governance.
Being centered on the people requires the government to always take the people’s yearning for a better life as its working goal in national construction, to rely on the people to create a great cause of history, and to continuously move toward the realization of common prosperity for all. The people-oriented strategy should always be adhered to and it should be regarded as the CPC’s lifeline and fundamental working strategy. This inevitably means that the CPC and the Chinese Government should focus on the people in their work, rely on the people to complete their work, serve the people’s actual needs, and bring together the power of the people. This also means that all of the CPC’s democratic work should ultimately achieve results that benefit the people, allow the people to participate, and satisfy the people.89
4. China’s democratic system takes human rights as the yardstick, which means that the national governance framework and national governance operation process built based on democracy are focused on being fully recognized by the people.
Some Western countries believe that democracy is limited to elections, which means the democratic rights are exercised only at the moment of voting, not any other time. In contrast, China has a broader democratic framework in practice. China’s democracy exists in the whole process and all links of the governance at central and grass-roots levels and various fields. This kind of democracy is fuller and more thorough, and can better reflect the psychological needs of the masses of people to participate in political life, the operation of the state, and the supervision of power. It is also more helpful for a good state of social operation. In addition to democratic supervision processes, the CPC, as the ruling party, has stricter procedures for patrol inspection and supervision, so China’s democratic structure and processes are tested by the satisfaction of the people at all times. The people are not limited to complaining in the media but have the opportunity to change China’s political planning and arrangements. This means that human rights have become the yardstick for democracy, and the masses of people have become the government’s examiners and scorers. The ruling party and the government must fully consider the will of the people, and actively respond to the people’s living needs and voices from political, economic, and cultural fields.
5. China’s democracy takes human rights as the constraint, which means that democracy must be authentic, effective, rational, and healthy under the constraints of basic human rights.
Democracy must be constructively constrained, or there will be difficulties in governance. Modern social experience shows that only a democracy premised on the recognition and protection of basic human rights can guarantee a healthier society without leading it into chaos. At the end of the 1970s, Deng Xiaoping keenly discovered that democracy without constraints imposed by the rule of law may go wrong, be different from what it was originally intended to be, and may not achieve its expected goal. Therefore, he actively promoted the construction of the socialist legal system,90 which was also the beginning and starting point for the later construction of the lawbased socialist country and the comprehensive rule of law in China. The reason why the rule of law can be used as a driving force and pave the way for democracy is that the rule of law can form the basic requirements of good social order and the basic form of social processes which will define the boundaries of democracy and can avoid democracy from deviating from human rights. Therefore, the rule of law is an important guarantee to ensure the healthy development of democracy in the same direction as human rights, and to safeguard the most basic human rights. Comprehensively promoting the rule of law requires the institutionalization and a legal framework for democracy so that the system and laws won’t be changed due to the changes of government officials. As the basic way of governing the country, the rule of law is conducive to promoting the spirit of the rule of law in democracy, ensuring the people’s right to equally participate in national and social development, and safeguarding social fairness and justice.91
The CPC has promised the people that “people’s yearning for a better life is the goal of our work,” and it will guard against bureaucracy, hedonism, separation from the masses of people, corruption, and exercise full and strict governance over itself and construct China with the attitude of “self-improvement.”92 The CPC promised that it will always pay attention to the improvement of its working practices and conduct, fight against corruption, and exercise full and strict governance over itself.93Such concepts and practices of self-restraint, self-reflection, self-criticism, and self-reformation are intrinsic conditions for ensuring that human rights are always respected and protected and that democracy is always promoted healthily.
D. Achieve the whole-process integration of democracy and human rights
China’s “whole-process people’s democracy” is the latest achievement in the development of socialist democratic politics with Chinese characteristics, and represents the active exploration and important contribution made by the CPC members to democratic theory and practice. It is not only a brilliant summary of the theory and practice of China’s democracy but also an expansion of the space for democratic governance.94 As an institutional arrangement for the interaction between public power and the people’s rights, the “whole-process people’s democracy” emphasizes the extensive, all-round, and multi-form orderly participation of the people. It inspires us to get a new understanding of the essential requirements of people’s democracy, that is, ensuring a government ruled by the people is reflected in the people’s participation in the whole process of public life. The combination of the theory of whole-process democracy with the basic principle of people’s democracy not only effectively describes contemporary Chinese politics, but also outlines the unique characteristics that distinguish Chinese democratic politics from Western-style democracy. It is of great significance in highlighting the nature and characteristics of contemporary Chinese politics.
As can be seen from the white paper China’s Democracy,95 China’s whole-process people’s democracy shows that the country under the leadership of the CPC is a sovereign and democratic country ruled by the people. When describing its political structure, China always closely connects the CPC’s leadership with the rule of law and people’s democracy. This not only reflects the fact that the Chinese government is ruled by the people but also indicates the profound connotations of human rights in China’s democracy. Being under the leadership of the CPC ensures that the people’s democracy is based on human rights. The positioning of the CPC is that “being from the people, born for the people, and prosperous because of the people, the CPC must always be of one mind with the people, share weal and woe with the people, and unite with the people.”96 In essence, being under the leadership of the CPC means being led by the representatives of the people and pursuing their interests. Being based on the people, the CPC comes from the people. The goal of always putting the people first97 is to center on the people and always taking people’s yearning for a better life it is the CPC’s working goal. The CPC’s people-oriented strategy respects the people’s dominant position and is designed to keep meeting people’s needs for a better life.
The white paper China’s Democracy provides an overview of the historical experience and contemporary practice of China’s democratic construction. In terms of institutional arrangements, there are six systems. Among them is the state system of the people’s democratic dictatorship, the political system of the people’s congress, the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, the broadest ever patriotic united front, the system of regional ethnic autonomy, and the system of autonomy for the masses at the grass-roots level. In terms of democratic operation, China highlights democratic elections, democratic consultation, democratic decision-making, democratic management, and democratic supervision. From the perspective of its effects, China’s democracy enables the people to enjoy a wide range of rights, continuously expands people’s participation scope and matters, allows state governance to run efficiently, achieves harmony and stability in the social order, and brings the exercise of public power under effective constraint and supervision. China’s whole-process people’s democracy has explored a new path for the cause of human democracy and embarked on a path of democratic development that conforms to China’s historical, social and cultural realities. What’s more, it has promoted the democratization of international relations and strengthened exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations.98 The white paper fully and in detail describes China’s human rights and democracy, and also provides the core and basic text for the world to understand China’s democracy.
China’s democracy attaches great importance to the public’s participation in all aspects and links, such as decision-making, the implementation of decisions, the election of officials, paying attention to the public’s right to put forward opinions and suggestions, and encouraging the masses to supervise policies. All of these form a governance chain of all-round expression, participation, and supervision. Although there are still shortcomings and deficiencies in the specific operation of this chain, the CPC and the Chinese Government have always faced problems in decision-making with an attitude of cautiousness. Especially under the framework of full and strict governance over the CPC, the procedure and substantive requirements of China’s democratic system are stricter than those of many Western countries, and the rights, obligations, and responsibilities are defined more clearly, which has greatly enhanced the confidence of the Chinese people in future policies. As the legislative organ, the National People’s Congress is the state organ that embodies democracy most fully and comprehensively. It shows the people’s sovereignty in every link from legislation to decision-making on major matters and democratic supervision. It also shows the increasing professionalism of the people’s congress deputies in the process of performing their duties. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence is used for the protection and improvement of people’s livelihoods to create a better life for the people. The people-centered development thought should be adhered to and the in-depth application of AI in people’s daily work and learning life should be promoted so as to meet their needs for a better life and ensure and improve people’s livelihoods.99
The essence of democracy is all about people’s complete emancipation. Like any other goal of state governance, democracy would be an empty form if it doesn’t benefit the people’s happiness and give them a satisfying experience in the end.100 Values are not fragmented but coherent: for happiness is united with virtue, virtue with justice, and justice with happiness.101
China’s whole-process people’s democracy has strengthened the country’s discourse power in terms of values, reached the consensus of the Chinese society on democracy, and interpreted the scope of exploration of the Chinese democratic politics for the Chinese political and legal disciplines.102
V. External Feedback on China’s Democratic Practice
When countries around the world are confused about democracy, China has always firmly believed in and adhered to this important decision-making principle; when the theoretical circles have put forward various criticisms and questions about democracy, China has gradually enriched the democratic thought with its own characteristics; when many countries are facing the fact that their public is increasingly indifferent to politics and their democratic systems are deadlocked, China is actively promoting the democratic process from the grassroots to the central government, and from the CPC to the whole society; When many politicians from Western countries regard themselves as models of democracy, but regard China as an authoritarian country, China uses a diverse democratic structure to show the true meaning of a government ruled by the people.
A. The general ideas of the functioning of democracy in public affairs
Based on the Western theories of democracy and China’s practical practice of democracy, it is not difficult to draw the following four most basic conclusions through analysis of the ideological basis, historical background, theoretical structure and practical experience of China’s democracy.
First, democracy is a way to show social responsibility, but not the only way to shape good political governance. From the perspective of public affairs, the goal of democracy is to avoid making inappropriate decisions that are not in line with the will of the people, to avoid the lack of assessment of the will of the people in the process of making public policies, and to avoid the degeneration of public power into self-interested cliques during the implementation. As far as the participants in the democratic system are concerned, the benefits they obtain in the democratic process are the opportunities for participation given by the political operation and the social order systems. People obtain spiritual satisfaction in the process of participating in public affairs, which gives them a greater sense of social responsibility, realizes their higher-level ideals, and meets their needs for self-realization. Let’s take it further, although allowing the majority of people to have the opportunity to participate in and supervise decision-making is likely to avoid a small number of people from abusing their power for personal interests or using their own will to lead people astray, whether the masses of people can represent the rightness is a question to be deeply thought about and discussed. Therefore, we have to be vigilant against the “democracy-only theory” that claims that democracy can solve all problems.
Second, democracy itself cannot independently shape good governance. It only plays its role as expected under the constraints of science, human rights, and the rule of law. As an important reference factor in the decision-making process and an important basis for making decisions, democracy only represents the mainstream ideas or views of the majority of the people. Whether these mainstream ideas and views of the majority are scientifically sound cannot be judged by democracy itself. Therefore, democracy cannot exclude science and curb the most basic human rights. In other words, in order to prevent the tyranny of the majority and the stupidity of the majority,it is particularly necessary to establish a pre-procedure of scientific argumentation and a binding human rights protection mechanism for democracy.
Third, democracy doesn’t exist in only one form. All countries around the world can build their own democracy and have their own experience in this regard.103 Yang Guangbin pointed out that the Western electoral democracy has fallen into the trap of competing political parties, thus constituting the failure of Western democracy. To go beyond this form of democracy a “governable democracy” approach should be adopted. China’s democracy is a form of governable democracy.104 At the time when Aristotle wrote his Politics, the only object of observation was the small Greek citystate. The democracy of ancient Greece is not necessarily suitable for a modern country. In the process of spreading democracy in the West, different forms of democracy have gradually formed.105 In Alexis de Tocqueville’s book Democracy in America, he made it clear that American democracy is not a model for of all democracies, but only a democratic way suitable for the national conditions of the United States.106 Today, the United States has undergone years of changes, and there have been many changes in its democratic practice and the questioning about its democratic system has never stopped.107 In the 100-year history of the CPC, it has adhered to the concept of promoting democracy and improving democracy to perfect the political structure and process from the grassroots to the central government. It has been constantly seeking ways to allow democracy to better play its positive role. The CPC has not only improved China’s governance procedures in practice, but also improved the genealogy, content, and realization methods for democracy worldwide in the process of building democracy for China. From the perspective of China’s own social development, the Chinese government has a sincere attitude toward promoting democracy, providing the public with channels to express their opinions, participate in national governance, supervising national administrative processes and the implementation of policies, and strives to actively turn such ideas and aspirations into real actions and social order. This has promoted the continuous improvement of China’s democracy under the realities of China’s political, economic, social, and cultural conditions. With in-depth attempts and repeated tests, the CPC’s pursuit of democracy is reflected in different dimensions from process to result, and from subjectivity and objectivity. In this sense, 
China’s democracy has embarked on a path of healthy, promising, and sustainable development. In doing so, it has made great contributions to building China into a more prosperous and powerful country.
Fourth, democracy should not be used as a means of suppressing dissidents. Using democracy as the criterion for judging the correctness of a state system is a way of using one democratic arrangement as a tool to suppress other democratic arrangements. This isn’t conducive to the exploration and improvement of democratic systems, but also violates the democracy of the international community and is the manifestation of power politics. Based on this understanding, it is reckless or even wrong to regard direct election and general election as the only way of democracy and to think that others are not democracies. The achievements of the Western countries in democracy are in no way more than their achievements in overcoming the difficulties and problems they’ve encountered. Such one-sided awareness and attitude and double standards are not conducive to the realization and promotion of global cooperation in good governance and are likely to affect the peace and security of the international order. Marx said in Hegel’s Philosophy Comment Preamble that the degree to which a theory is realized in a country depends on the degree to which the theory satisfies the needs of the country. It is not enough that thought should seek to realize itself; reality must also strive towards thought.108 Lenin pointed out that dictatorship cannot be understood as “abolishing all democratic freedoms and democratic guarantees” and cannot be regarded as “behaving unscrupulously” and “abuse of power for personal interests of the dictatorship.”109 Each one of the various forms of democracy should appreciate the others. The world today is undergoing major changes. Institutional competition is an important aspect of the competition in comprehensive national strength; the institutional advantage is an important advantage for a country to win the strategic initiative.110 This means that China has found and established its own institutional advantages in the institutional competition. Adhering to these institutional advantages is an important institutional foundation for China to keep its foothold in the international community and achieve steady development. China has never claimed to be the role model of the best democracy, nor has it ever used its own political system advantage to suppress other countries, let alone to discriminate against other countries because of different political governance structures. From the perspective of the development of the global political civilization and the structure of the international community order, China’s human rights thought and practice provide an effective example of the diversified world human rights civilization to prove that under non-Western ideology, there are also good practices of democracy, if not better democratic practices. Meanwhile, different democratic procedures and structures have shaped the political and social forms that are different in depth and breadth and degree of social governance procedures, which provides useful elements for the further improvement of democratic theory, governance theory and related practices. and a useful foundation for discussions and global dialogue on collaborative governance.
B. Distinguish the misinterpretation and misunderstanding of China’s democracy by the international community
American democracy was highly recognized and praised in Tocqueville’s works, while China’s democracy is widely denied and fiercely opposed in many works by the Westerners.
They do not believe that democracy with deeply integrated human rights can be established in a country with a communist party as the ruling party; they do not believe that in a country that takes the socialist road, democracy can promote the progress of human rights and become the keynote of governance; they do not believe that in a country that takes communism as its ideal, democratic governance can be organically combined with the happiness of the people and the prosperity of the country.111 In some works by the Westerners, China is a one-party, dictatorial country in which the ruling party has no democratic will and only pursues its own interests, the people have no opportunity to express their concerns about the state and politics, but to obey the government only. Such description may be the case if what it describes is the Qing government that existed more than a hundred years ago. But this is a very ridiculous description to depict today’s China, China’s government, and the Chinese people because this is not a fact. Although it is undeniable that there are some individual cases of arbitrariness in terms of governance, these are only a very small part of the whole picture of entire China within a certain period. Giving the people the opportunity to express their views, participate in political decision-making, and supervise the actions of the government and political parties is the mainstream arrangement for the contemporary society and is the foundation for China’s healthy, stable and continuous progress in economic and social development. Without such basic decision-making procedures and channels for the exchange of opinions, China’s development would not be possible.
But why do Western politicians and those uninformed people think of China is an undemocratic country? Why do some scholars believe that China still lacks democracy as it did a hundred years ago or is even contrary to democracy? The reasons for this are very simple. Firstly, they lack an understanding of China’s political structure and political process, so they tend to imagine that China’s government and government officials are dictatorial and oppress the people. Second, from the very beginning of communism and the Communist Party, the fear of communist ideology has existed widely in Western society, so they tend to misrepresent the Communist Party and communists. The fear of communism and the Communist Party has lasted for more than a century and a half. The reason for this is that the Western world fears communist ideas and lacks confidence in its own political system and form of society. Because of this fear and lack of self-confidence, they almost insanely suppress communism, persecute communists, and besiege and even subvert communist countries. When the eradication of communism becomes impossible, they tend to show contempt for the cause of the Communist Party. They are unwilling to believe that the communists are excellent figures who are well-informed, familiar with society, and full of concern and love for the prospects of human development; they prefer to think of communists as the selfish, the self-interested, and evildoers who always pursue the interests of small groups; they prefer to accept the hypothesis that communists do not have modern progressive ideas, but only stick to tradition, and even stick to evil thought. They are worried more about the growing influence of the CPC, communists, and communism around the world, so even if they’ve learned about the great achievements of the CPC and the Chinese Government in democracy and human rights, the great efforts made by the Chinese people, and especially the great sacrifices made by the officials of the CPC, they are not willing to admit this.
They will even deliberately conceal the democratic sincerity, efforts, and achievements of the CPC and the Chinese Government, and will not hesitate to act against their conscience and deliberately tell fabricated lies.
The realistic interpretation of democracy in international politics is likely to lead to division or even confrontation in the international community.112 The operation of democratic theory in the West is to a large extent the result of observing the operation of Western governments and responding to the Western political demand. In the initial stages of the development of Western democracies, it is clear that there were good intentions and efforts to form a sound process and structure. However, with the development of the times, democracy has presented a series of dilemmas and problems in the process of operation, the most important of which is higher cost and lower efficiency. Those Western countries that claim to be the beacon of democracy believe that the ideals of freedom have already been transformed into the ideas of ordinary citizens, and these ideas can guarantee freedom.113 But they have long seen the inefficiency of their democratic system and have ridiculed that “one of the main functions of parliament is to prevent things from getting done.”114 Sometimes, the enthusiasm and quality of public participation are something to be concerned about. In this case, what needs to be worried about is to what extent can democracy live up to its original expectations. Therefore, Western countries have lowered their requirements for democracy and gradually stripped away the rich connotations of democracy. As a result, only the election remains at last. In many cases, Western democracies have taken an approach similar to a one-time buyout, cutting off the opportunities for deep, long-term participation as if electing a leader by voting has exhausted all the costs of democracy. But in fact, democracy should be a “non-buyout” act, that is, after the election of representatives and leaders, the public should still have the opportunity to monitor the behavior of these leaders, discuss the basic direction of national policies, and analyze appropriate governance procedures and governance paradigms. Especially in the shallowest part of the theory that is mostly accepted by the masses of people, the Western democratic theory has largely become a typical manifestation of the Western ideology. The complex theoretical issue of democracy is reduced to voting for leaders and representatives. Although this simplified understanding helps people avoid complex debates about democracy to some extent, it makes the other complex meanings of democracy disappear and turns the concept of democracy into a simple yardstick. At the global level, for the healthy development of national governance and global governance, it is necessary to guard against the politicization of democracy in international relations.
C. Promote a political civilization — part of the diversified exploration of democracy
Democracy is a manifestation of civilization. Just as human rights have diversified concepts and practices, democracy, as a form of civilization, follows the basic laws of diversity, is based on multiple attempts, and shows the characteristics of diversity. It is not reasonable to ignore the diversity of democracy and to take the practical exploration and structural model of a certain democracy as the only standard that should be recognized and followed by all countries around the world, because this is not in line with the goals of democracy itself, nor is it in line with the values necessarily contained in the operation of democracy. The credibility of Western democracy is not perfect, so the confidence in it is not sufficient, and the faith in it is not firm. Some Western countries claim to be democracies and put the undemocratic hats on those countries with different systems. They criticize, accuse the latter, and even try to suppress those countries that they do not support or approve of in the name of democracy. From the perspective of the actual operation of the democratic system, this attitude lacks the minimum empirical support. However, under the domination of realist international relations theory, the democratic theory has been used as the banner and symbol of Western politics, becoming a big stick for Western countries to fight against and suppress dissidents, and an ideological tool for eliminating opponents. The proposal of the “theory of democratic peace proposition” in the field of international relations115 is more of a defense for the concept and behavioral pattern of eliminating dissidents than a summary of the reality by saying that there will be no war between democratic countries, which means, no wars and conflicts between the democratic countries they recognize, but this doesn’t prevent them from hitting and suppressing the “authoritarian countries” defined by them by many means, including armed interventions and waging wars.116 It is not necessary to use a system arrangement that is full of loopholes, harshly criticized, and lacks sufficient institutional persuasiveness as a weapon to attack other countries. The criterion of democratic judgment pays attention to both the preciseness of the process and the legitimacy of the result. To a large extent, whether a political structure has made correct policy decisions, whether it is conducive to promoting the national economy and the people’s livelihoods, and whether it is conducive to economic development are important criteria for judging an effective democracy. Indirect democracy in the West, mainly in form of elections, is essentially a distortion and contraction of democracy. Replacing the time-honored people’s sovereignty with the people’s right to vote reverses the order between people’s sovereignty and elections, and elevates elections into an understanding of the form of government. This socalled “pure democracy” is nothing but a lie used by liberals to fool the proletariat.117 Therefore, it is neither logically legitimate nor historically persuasive to take direct democracy and general elections as the right path and to regard indirect democracy and step-by-step elections as the wrong one.
Meanwhile, China advocates promoting democracy in international relations.118 On the one hand, it advocates safeguarding the diversity of world civilizations; on the other hand, it advocates that all members of the international community treat each other equally, ensure the equal right to development of all countries, respect the right of the people of all countries to independently choose their own social systems and development paths, communicate and hold dialogues with other countries, oppose all forms of hegemonism, and promotes the participation of people of all countries around the world in the management of global affairs and global development.119
The most important feature of democracy is nothing more than the right of the people to express their own views and to make their comments and state their positions on decision-making. But the ultimate manifestation of democracy is the majority decision. There may be different institutional arrangements in terms of the way this majority decision is finally manifested. It is irrational, unjust, or even reckless to regard one arrangement as the only correct one, see the others as wrong or even evil ones, and deny the legitimacy of others; Ideas of democracy and human rights that are intolerant and not open will possibly lead to hegemony. A one-sided emphasis on the legitimacy and unique correctness of a single democratic practice shows nothing but ideological and conceptual paranoia, cultural self-centeredness, civilizational intolerance, and political great power chauvinism. This view and attitude will inevitably cause international relations to go wrong and bring negative consequences to the international community. Practice shows that just as an undemocratic socio-political system violates human rights, a democracy that does not function well and is not properly supervised may also violate human rights, and will even create instability and incite riots in the name of democracy, which causes greater harm to human rights.
VI. Conclusion
China’s whole-process people’s democracy has created a new situation in the governance of public affairs by adopting the deep integration of human rights in its concept, institutional design, and political practice. Democracy is the institutional arrangement people use to shape and maintain social order and form and improve the social pattern. China’s democracy is a part of the theoretical construction and practical exploration of global democracy and is also a functioning model of democracy. China’s democracy constantly evolves, develops, and changes under China’s social and cultural context; strives to reflect the Chinese government’s distinctiveness of being ruled by the people; and shows the national spirit of China’s political history at the same time. Amid the doubts and criticisms of Western countries, China has forged ahead steadily with its democracy with a sincere attitude and a down-to-earth and cautious style.
There is no best democracy, only a better one. The modest and prudent attitude of the current Chinese government and China’s ruling party is an important condition for the healthy development of China’s democracy, and an important guarantee for avoiding it from collapsing. Being an endless task, democracy construction is always underway. Only by ceaselessly and tirelessly improving the process of state governance and the management of public affairs, can a democracy truly function well. By adhering to the concept of continuous and systematic improvement and adaptive changes, China constantly takes the construction of democracy to a new height. The goal of democracy is the people’s real participation in the governance of state affairs, while the goal of state affairs governance is to allow the people to truly benefit from good policies and laws and their operational advantages. Therefore, the people’s experiences and attitudes are the yardsticks for measuring the improvement of democracy and governance capabilities. Although China’s democratic situation and achievements are facing the negation and questioning from many Western countries, there is no reason for China to lack institutional self-confidence. China’s democracy will make institutional contributions to the construction of a rich, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious, beautiful, and great China in this new era.
(Translated by JIANG Yu)
* HE Zhipeng ( 何志鹏 ), Executive Director of Jilin University Human Rights Center, professor and Dean of Jilin University School of Law. Doctor of Laws.
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22. “The Song of the Five Children — The Document of (the) Xia (Dynasty),” The Book of Documents (Shangshu).
23. “The Duke of Ai,” Xunzi.
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25. Institute of Linguistics, CASS, Modern Chinese Dictionary (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 7th Edition, 2016), 909.
26. Han Zuolin, Xinhua Dictionary (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 4th Edition, 2013), 699.
27. Democracy: “A system of government in which the people of a country can vote to elect their representatives.” Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English (10th ed., Oxford University Press 2020), 411; “A system of government in which every citizen in the country can vote to elect its government officials.” Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English for Advanced Learners (6th ed., Pearson Education, 2019), 473. “Democracy is a system of government in which people choose their rulers by voting for them in elections.” Collins Cobuild Advanced Learners Dictionary 9th ed. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2018), 398.
28. Qi Wansheng, Democracy is a Conditionally Good Thing (Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press, 2017), 112-116.
29. Sun Jin believes that after thousands of years of practice and exploration, there have been many practical difficulties and problems in democracy that need to be calmly considered. We cannot simply agree with or accept the concept of democracy. Sun Jin, Beyond Democracy (Shanghai: East China Normal University Press, 2017), 3-17.
30. “Democracy is not a unique phenomenon of political life, but an intrinsic feature of public life.” Chen Yao, “From Participation to Consultation: An Outlook of Contemporary Participatory Democracy Theory,” Academic Monthly 8 (2006):14-21.
31. Carl Cohen. Democracy, trans. Nie Chongxin and Zhu Xiuxian (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 1988), 12.
32. Ibid., 12 and 21.
33. Aristotle mentioned in Politics that oligarchy is when men of property have the government in their hands; democracy, the opposite, when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers. Aristotle, Politics vol. 4, Part 6.
34. Wang Shaoguang, On Democracy in Four Aspects (Beijing: SDX Joint Publishing Company, 2014), 218.
35. Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (London: Routledge, 2006), 250-252.
36. Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Democracy & Capitalism, trans. Han Shuifa (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2013) 33.
37. Adam Przeworski, “Democracy as an accidental result of conflict,” Jon Elster and Rune Slagstad ed. Constitutionalism and Democracy, trans. Pan Qin and Xie Pengcheng (Beijing: SDX Joint Publishing Company, 1997), 69-94.
38. Ibid., 72.
39. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, trans. Meng Fanli (Guilin: Guangxi Normal University Press, 2011), 4.
40. Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (Piscataway: Transaction Publishers, 1991), 251-262.
41. Louis Henkin, Constitutionalism, Democracy, and Foreign Affairs, trans. Deng Zhenglai (Beijing: SDX Joint Publishing Company, 1997), 6-7.
42. Ibid., 14.
43. Ibid., 16.
44. Ibid., 19.
45. Zhao Tingyang, “A Possible Smart Democracy,” Social Sciences in China 4 (2021): 4-23.
46. Beth J. Singer, Pragmatism, Rights and Democracy, trans. Wang Shouchang et al. (Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 2001).
47. David Miller, Market, State, and Community: Theoretical Foundations of Market Socialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989) 254.
48. John Dewey, The Later Works of John Dewey, 1925-1953: Volume Seven (1932), trans. Wei Hongzhong and Cai Wenjing, (Shanghai: East China Normal University Press, 2015), 260 and 271.
49. Wu Hongyang, The Critique of Democracy and the Return of the Political: A Study of Chantal Mouffe’s Political Philosophy (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2014), 80-104.
50. Marcel H. Van Herpen, The End of Populism: Twenty Proposals to Defend Liberal Democracy (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2021).
51. Thomas Frank, One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism and the End of Economic Democracy (Birmingham: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., 2001); Zuo Haijiao, “On the Concepts of Freedom, Equality, Democracy, and Human Rights from the Perspective of Marxism,” Economic and Social Development 3 (2010), 80-82.
52. Francis Sejersted, “Democracy and the Rule of Law: Some Historical Experiences on the Contradictions in the Pursuit of Good Government,” Adam Przeworski, “Democracy as an accidental result of conflict,” 151.
53. Ibid., 153.
54. Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, Collected Works of Marx and Engels, vol. 1 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2008),12.
55. Plato. Laws, trans. Zhang Zhiren and He Qinhua (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2nd Edition, 2016), 96.
56. Josiah Ober, “Law and Political Theory,” Michael Gagarin, David Cohen ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Ancient Greek Law, trans. Zou Li, Ye Youzhen, et al. (Shanghai: East China Normal University Press, 2017), 466.
57. Ibid., 456.
58. Jacqueline de Romilly, Problèmes de la démocratie grecque, trans. Gao Yu (Jiangsu: Yilin Press, 2015), 18-123.
59. Giuseppe Grosso, Lezioni di storia del diritto romano, trans. Huang Feng (Beijing: China University of Political Science and Law Press, 2018), 42-51 and 146-157 and 165-166.
60. Lenin, Selected Works of Lenin, vol. 3 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1972), 257.
61. Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, Collected Works of Marx and Engels, vol. 1 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1956), 280-281.
62. Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, Selected Works of Marx and Engels, vol. 1 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1972), 219, 272.
63. Lenin, Selected Works of Lenin, vol. 3 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1972), 723.
64. Lenin, Collected Works of Lenin, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1984, 2nd edition), 1-12.
65. Wang Huning, The Logic of Politics: Principles of Marxist Political Science (Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 2004), 228-229.
66. Ralph Adams Cram, The End of Democracy (Francestown: Marshall Jones Company, 1937); Christophe Buffin de Gho-sal, The End of Democracy (Arcadia: Tumblar House, 2017); Douglas E. Schoen, The End of Democracy? (New York: Regan Arts, 2020).
67. At that time, Samuel Huntington’s The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late 20th Century and Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man both illustrate the triumphant expansion of Western-style liberal democracies around the world from different perspectives. Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Stillwater: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991); Francis Fukuyama, End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992).
68. Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (New York: Doubleday, 2020); Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future (New York: Crown, 2018); Douglas E. Schoen, The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise, America in Retreat (New York: Regan Arts, 2020); Joshua Kurlantzick, Democracy in Retreat: The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Worldwide Decline of Representative Government (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013); Gabor Scheiring, The Retreat of Liberal Democracy Authoritarian Capitalism and the Accumulative State in Hungary (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).
69. Bao Gangsheng, The Politics of the Collapse of Democracy (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2014), 44.
70. Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Ten Questions for American Democracy (Beijing: Renmin University of China), 2021.
71. Bao Gangsheng, The Logic of Democracy (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2018), 32-40.
72. G. Y. Astafyev, China: from a Semi-Colony to a People’s Democracy (Bombay: People’s Publishing House, 1950), 25-28 and 53-63.
73. Edmund S. K- Fung, In Search of China’s democracy: Civil Opposition in Nationalist China, 1929-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
74. The writing team of this book, A Government Ruled by the People: The Operation and Development of the People’s Congress System (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2020), 2-8.
75. Liu Huaisong, “A Preliminary Study on Human Rights and Legislation in the Revolutionary Base Areas during the Period of the New Democratic Revolution,” Journal of Hubei Normal University (Philosophy and Social Sciences) 5 (1998): 53-56; Song Sibei, “The Construction of Human Rights and Legal Systems in the Period of the New Democratic Revolution and Its Characteristics,” Journal of Zhengzhou University (Social Science Edition) 6 (2000): 23-27; Miao Cichao, “The CPC’s Theory and Practice of Human Rights in the Period of Democratic Revolution,” Probe 1 (2001): 127-129; Yuan Jinhui, “On the Construction of Human Rights in the Anti-Japanese Democratic Base Areas,” Henan Social Sciences 3 (2003): 19-21; Fan Hong, “A Preliminary Study on the Practice of Legal Protection of Human Rights by the CPC in the Period of the New Democratic Revolution,” Journal of Beijing Institute of Technology (Social Science Edition) 2 (2004): 87-90; Lin Ming, “A New Chapter in the Construction of the Legal System of the Democratic Government: An Introduction to the Legislation and Judicial System for the Protection of Human Rights in the Anti-Japanese Base Area of Shandong,” Dongyue Tribune 10 (2009): 166-170.
76. Guo Zhongjun, China’s Electoral Democracy (Shanghai: Academia Press, 2014), 54-72 and 73-200.
77. The Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, Xi Jinping’s Thought on the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era — Part 30, (Beijing: Xuexi Publishing House, 2018), 159-160.
78. The Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, The Studying Outline of Xi Jinping’s Thought on the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era (Beijing: Xuexi Publishing House, People’s Publishing House, 2019), 123-137.
79. Xi Jinping, “Adhere to the People-Centered Development Ideology When Promoting the Process of Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in an All-Round Way (December 21, 2016)”. Xi Jinping, On Grasping the New Development Stage, Implementing the New Development Concept, and Building the New Development Pattern (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2021), 148.
80. Chen Hanqiang, “A Preliminary Study on the Theory and Practice of People’s Congress Deputies’ Participation in Community Governance”; Liu Jianqi, “On the Application of Consultative Democracy in China’s Local Legislation,” in Democracy, the Rule of Law and Public Participation, Chen Shu ed., (Guangzhou: Guangzhou Publishing House, 2014), 17-24, 49-61.
81. Yu Keping, “Incremental Democracy: The Political Significance of the Three-Round, Two-Vote Mayor Election,” Marxism & Reality 3 (2000); Jia Jianfan,. “Chinese Politics in Transition: Toward Good Governance and Incremental Democracy — An Interview with Researcher Yu Keping,” Scientific Socialism 1 (2004).
82. The Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, FAQ on Xi Jinping’s Thought on the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era (Beijing: Xuexi Publishing House, People’s Publishing House, 2021), 93.
83. Xi Jinping. “The CPC Must Have the Courage for Self-Revolution (February 13, 2017),” in On Persisting in Comprehensively Deepening Reform (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2018), 326-327.
84. Xi Jinping, “Jiangshan is the people, the people are the Jiangshan (February 20, 2021),” in On Adhering to a Government Ruled by the People (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2021), 318.
85. Ibid., 321. Xi Jinping, “The Speech at the Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Communist Party of China (July 1, 2021)”. 
86. Dai Jitao, “The Theory and Practice of Consultative Democracy: Contribution to the Protection of Human Rights - From the Perspective of The Power Constraint Function of Consultative Democracy,” Present Day Law Science 2 (2008): 35-42; Gong Xianghe, “Human Rights Protection: The Soul of Democracy and Constitutional Theory,” Journal of Gansu Political Science and Law Institute 2 (2003): 14-17.
87. Xu Jiugang, Feng Jincheng and Liu Runmin, Research on China’s Democratic Politics (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2006), 1-40.
88. The Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, Xi Jinping’s Thought on the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era — Part 30, (Beijing: Xuexi Publishing House, 2018), 172-173.
89. The Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, The Studying Outline of Xi Jinping’s Thought on the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era (Beijing: Xuexi Publishing House, People’s Publishing House, 2019), 40-48.
90. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping said that “currently, it is particularly necessary to emphasize democracy, because for quite a long period of time in the past, democratic centralism has not been really practiced. We emphasized centralization without taking democracy into account, there was little democracy.” “It is necessary to earnestly guarantee the democratic rights of workers and peasants, which include democratic election, democratic management, and democratic supervision rights.” “In order to guarantee people’s democracy, it is necessary to strengthen the rule of law, to institutionalize and legalize democracy so that such systems and laws won’t be changed because of the changes of government officials and their views and attention.” Deng Xiaoping, 
“Free up the Mind, Seek Truth from Facts, Unite as One, and Look Forward,” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, vol. 2 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1994, 2nd Edition), 145-146.
91. Xi Jinping, On Upholding the Leadership of the CPC for All Work (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2019), 66-68.
92. Xi Jinping, “The People’s Yearning for a Better Life is the Goal of Our Work (November 15, 2012),” in Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, vol. 1 (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014), 4-5.
93. Xi Jinping, “The Speech at the Seventh Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (January 6, 2017),” in Excerpts from Xi Jinping’s Comment on Full and Strict Governance over the CPC (2021 Edition), Institute of Party History and Literature of the CPC Central Committee ed. (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2021), 17.
94. Sang Yucheng, et al., An Analysis on the Theory of Whole-process People’s Democracy (Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 2021), 11.
95. The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, China’s Democracy (December 2021) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2021).
96. Institute of Party History and Literature of the CPC Central Committee, Selected Important Literature Since the 19th National Congress (II) (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2021), 110.
97. Xi Jinping, On Sticking to the Government Ruled by the People (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2021), 305.
98. Ibid., 95.
99. Xi Jinping, “The Speech at the 9th Group Study Session of the 19th Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee (October 31, 2018),” in Excerpts from Xi Jinping’s Comment on Building a Cyber Power, Institute of Party History and Literature of the CPC Central Committee ed., (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2021), 26.
100. For the development of democratic thought and democratic systems in different historical periods, see Yu Yingshi, Democracy and Modern Civilization (Guilin: Guangxi Normal University Press, 2014), 12-138.
101. Robert A. Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics, trans. Cao Haijun and Tong Dezhi (Jilin: Jilin People’s Publishing House, 2006).
102. Cheng Zhuru, et al., Whole-process People’s Democracy: Research Based on the Practice of Performing Duties by the People's Congress (Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 2021), 2-6.
103. Robert L Rotberg, Ending Autocracy, Enabling Democracy: The Tribulations of Southern Africa, 1960-2000 (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press and World Peace Foundation, 2001).
104. Yang Guangbin, Democracy in Concept and in Practice: Democracy and State Governance from a Comparative Historical Perspective (Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 2015), 55-68.
105. Xiao Lishuo, “The Ins and Outs of the U.S. Strategies for Democracy, Freedom, and Human Rights,” Hong Qi Wen Gao 3 (2009): 12-15; Li Hongbo, “Human Rights, Good Governance, Democracy: Parliamentary Ombudsmen in the European Law and Social Development,” Journal of Comparative Law 1 (2014): 141-159.
106. Tocqueville argues that the form of governance found by the Americans is not the only form that democracy may offer. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Dong Guoliang (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2017), 19.
107. Bruce Ledewitz, American Religious Democracy: Coming to Terms with the End of Secular Politics (Praeger, 2007); Terry Bouton, Taming Democracy: “The People,” the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); Robert E. Denton, Jr. and Benjamin Voth, Social Fragmentation and the Decline of American Democracy: The End of the Social Contract (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017); John Michael Greer, Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 2014); David W. Noble, The End of American History: Democracy, Capitalism, and the Metaphor of Two Worlds in Anglo-American Historical Writing, 1880-1980 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985); Richard Davis, Supreme Democracy: The End of Elitism in Supreme Court Nominations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017); John Michael Greer, Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 2014).
108. Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, Collected Works of Marx and Engels, vol. 1 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2008), 12.
109. Lenin, Collected Works of Lenin, vol. 31 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1958), 309.
110. Xi Jinping, “Uphold and Improve the People’s Congress System and Continuously Develop Whole-process People’s Democracy (October 13, 2021),” Xi Jinping, “Jiangshan is the people, the people are the Jiangshan (February 20, 2021),” in On Adhering to a Government Ruled by the People (Beijing: Central Party Literature Press, 2021), 333.
111. Matthew Kroenig, The Return of Great Power Rivalry: Democracy versus Autocracy from the Ancient World to the U. S. and China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).
112. Many Westerners take the democracy in their own countries or in their own cultural systems for granted and do not question it. Hans Joas and Wolfgang Knöb, Social Theory: Twenty Introductory Lectures, trans. Zheng Zuohuo (Shanghai: Shanghai People′ s Publishing House, 2021), 85 and 379.
113. Ibid.
114. Halford John Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality: A Study in the Politics of Reconstruction, trans. Wang Dingjie (Shanghai: Shanghai People′ s Publishing House, 2016), 15-16.
115. Errol Henderson, Democracy and War — The End of an Illusion? (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002).
116. Richard Ned Lebow, A Cultural Theory of International Relations, trans. Chen Kai (Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press, 2015), 9.
117. Sang Yucheng, et al., An Analysis of the Theory of Whole-process People’s Democracy (Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 2021), 20.
118. Xiao Yongping pointed out that the international law is of great significance to promoting the democracy of international relations. In particular, the universal security and common development are helpful to establish and maintain the democracy in international relations. Xiao Yongping, “Provide Rules for Ensuring the Democracy in International Relations,” People’s Daily, January 14, 2022.
119. The writing team of Contemporary Chinese Diplomacy, Contemporary Chinese Diplomacy (Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2019), 209-210.
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