Democracy may be studied and considered from two dimensions: The first is about democracy in general, which is extracted from multiple democratic practices and reflections; The second is to examine specific democracy, or specific practice of democracy in different countries. The two dimensions are interlinked and based on each other. Currently, some doubt may arise in people who are influenced by the "classical" democratic model of the West: Is China's people's democracy really a form of modern democracy? What would the "classical" democratic model of the West be if the answer is positive? Why has China achieved fast development in economic, political, cultural and social aspects and brought its people into an independent, equal and well-off life if the answer is negative? To answer these questions is extremely important for us adhering to and developing the people's democracy.
For those who are acclimatized to the "classical" democracy of the West and consequently gain a stereotype impression about it, such doubt may constitute a big headache: But for the Chinese endeavoring to build modern democracy of their own accord, it is really not an problem. The reason is that the Chinese people, especially the Chinese Communists, have always kept to the approaches of practising and developing democracy in China in the true sense of the term, rather than mechanically copied the democratic model of the West to China, a country with a history of more than five thousand years. In keeping to democracy in general, China has opted, based on its own explorations and reflections, for the democratic theory, a model extracted by Marx and Engels from the developmental laws of human civilization, in an effort to start with more thorough and complete democratic principles to build a democratic model that accords with the requirements of national liberation, independence and modernization. It follows that the people's democracy with Chinese characteristics (China's democracy) is, fundamentally speaking, a result of human civilization and an internal requirement and basic orientation of human society development.
China's democracy is based on the "people-centered" democratic theory. A variety of doubts about China's democracy that occur to some people mainly stem from inability to make sense of theoretical basis and value behind the practice of China's democracy. China's democracy is well grounded on the Marxist democratic theory that puts the people foremost, while the Western democracy is "individual-based". Marxism believes that the appearance of "individual-based" liberalistic democracy in the West is of historical inevitability. The development of the West in the historical course is conditioned by individual independence, which has given birth to the "individual-based" liberalistic democracy in addition to market economy, and subsequently ushered in the modern democratization of human society. But that does not mean that the democratic development of human society allows only of the model of the West. Otherwise, the development of human civilization would have to meet its end.
The "individual-based" liberalistic democracy of the West is one-sided. Marx pointed out that such "individual" is formed by the separation of human from materials, and based on wage labor and further on the control of living labor. "Individual", which is politically and legally independent, remain chained to labor and economy. Only when people have a complete control of production means and stay emancipated economically, can such "individual" become really self-dependent. For this reason, Marx held that the true independence and autonomy of an individual entails an important political precondition that all production means of society are owned by all the united people so that labor is economically emancipated and the people acquire the economic and political basis on which they can be masters of themselves. This political logic elucidated by Marxism has determined that the endeavor made by such "individual" to achieve self-dependence in the process of modernization and democratization should go with the effort to strive for independence of "the people" and be conditioned by the latter. Therefore, the development of democracy in all countries today are faced with a fundamental question: How could the people be made into a real dominant force to push ahead with all-around development of man and society, and further into masters of the country and society to ensure every one is his own master?
China's democracy starts with and stays destined for the people as masters of the country. Determined by its social, historical and cultural bases, modern democracy of China cannot be built on "the individual-based" views but on the "people-centered" basis to ensure that the people serve as masters of the country as the starting point and the destination. After long-term exploration and practice, the people's democracy of China has formed a value system, an organizational system and an institutional system of its own, which are all integrated with economic, political, cultural and social modernization of the country. Especially as the socialist market economic system was established and improved, the "people-centered" democracy affords individual independence economic basis, social conditions and legal protection while adhering to the principal status of the people, and China's democracy moves towards a developmental path that is people-centered, regarding the people as the principal part and commissioned to achieve all-round development of man. Electoral democracy and consultative democracy are thus created and applied as the realization of the people's democracy.
As one can see, the people's democracy is a result from the combination of Marxist democratic theory with the practice in China. It is supported not only by theoretical logic that can be traced to the same origin, but also by the solid practice in China. It accords in theory with the developmental law of human civilization, and agrees in practice with the trend in modernization and democratization of human society. The people's democracy of China is well grounded in theory, well based in practice and effective in operation. We must stay firmly confident of it.
(Author: Honorary research fellow at Shanghai Research Center for Theoretical System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics)