On April 9, Yu Keping (俞可平), who is a leading Chinese Communist Party (CCP) theorist and a prominent adviser to Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), visited Taiwan and gave a speech about “Chinese democracy” at a semi-official forum. Yu suddenly became very famous in China in 2006 because of his bold “theoretical innovation” that “democracy is a good thing,” but Taiwanese have for decades recognized this as basic common sense and have proved it to be true in practice. So what is the meaning of a CCP theorist talking about “Chinese democracy” in Taiwan?
Another recent event that embarrassed Chinese netizens was the Chinese government sending delegates to watch the Burmese by-elections. Undoubtedly, the CCP is trying to use these opportunities to expand its soft power, but these propaganda schemes will backfire when the party’s suppression of democracy inside China is exposed.
In the Chinese local legislative elections held last year and this year, the CCP used every possible illegal measure to manipulate the electoral process and to prevent grassroots candidates from entering the local people’s congresses.
In late March, the party shut down the comment function on Chinese social media and arrested thousands of netizens who condemned the party’s authoritarian rule. Earlier this month, the party closed 16 of the most important Web sites of both the Maoists and democracy activists. This comes on top of the everyday practice of jailing, torturing and placing under house arrest of human rights activists and political dissidents.
Ironically, such an authoritarian party, which brazenly manipulates elections and suppresses democracy in its own country, shamelessly sends out delegates or theorists to other countries to monitor elections and promote “Chinese democracy.”
It could be argued that the CCP’s suppression of democracy in China does not mean it is wrong for the party to promote democracy overseas, because there are both Oriental and Western philosophical rules, and we should avoid the ad hominem fallacy and not despise people’s words or behavior based just on the people themselves. However, caution must still be exercised over the party’s “democratic” propagandizing and activities, because its real intentions are dubious.
In fact, the CCP has an in-depth understanding of democracy, but it has always been reluctant to put it into practice. Instead, the party uses democracy as a tool when necessary. During the early and middle 1940s, when the CCP was politically and militarily disadvantaged in the struggle against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the party published hundreds of editorial articles in the Xinhua Daily, the organ of the central party committee at the time, loudly praising Western democracy and calling for immediate constitutional reform. The party gradually won support from Chinese from various social classes and lured them into a CCP-led “united political front” against the KMT government. However, during the 63 years since the CCP seized power, the party has completely forgotten its “democratic promise” and “democratic mission.”
Only in recent years, when social conflicts deepened and the pressure for political reform intensified in China, did some party leaders and theorists begin a careful discussion of the value of democracy. Even then, such a simplistic “theoretical innovation” as “democracy is a good thing” must have as a condition that the good thing can be only “socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics,” not Western democracy. On specific questions such as why “socialist democracy” is democratic and how it can be realized, party theorists never give a clear explanation. Perhaps they are both unwilling and unable to explain the questions clearly.