Ever since the first day of its founding， the Communist Party of China （CPC） has set democracy for the goal of its efforts， and never has it sought to establish a totalitarian party. Since the first day of its founding， New China has put in place a peoples democracy with a broad democratic base， rather than a so-called “autocratic， centralist， authoritarian” system. Just as the form of every country in achieving democracy has its own characteristics， so also has the CPC in its practice of democracy forged its own characteristics. Chinese democracy is democratic centralism， a combination of democracy and centralism. It is a new-type modern democracy.
Theory of Democratic Centralism Integrating Principles， Institutions and Methods
The democratic centralism pursued by the CPC is learned from the Party building principles of Marxism-Leninism and developed in the process of practice， a democratic centralism with Chinese characteristics. In the theoretic system of the CPC， there are four formulas that are interconnected.
The first is “practice--knowledge--practice”. Based on the basic tenets of dialectical materialism， the CPC stresses on that knowledge comes from practice and in turn returns to practice， that is to guide practice and to be tested by practice， and to be enriched and developed in practice.
The second is “individual--general--individual”. According to epistemology of dialectical materialism， the CPC emphasizes in its methodology that it is necessary to realize that universality resides in particularity， and through investigation and research， to reveal general laws of universality from one case of typical experience after another in order to come up with correct decision making. At the same time， the CPC stresses on that the implementation of its decisions should not stop at general call but provide individual and concrete guidance to all localities and all units in implementation.
The third is “masses--leadership--masses”. According to the epistemology and methodology of dialectical materialism， the CPC stresses on that the leadership in its work should go deep down into the people to collect scattered and unsystematic opinions of the people， to centralize them into systematic opinions through research， and come back to the people to promote， explain and turn them into the opinions of the peoples own， urging the people to keep them up and put them into action while testing if the opinions are correct in the peoples action.
The fourth is “democracy--centralization--democracy”. As the CPC observes， democratic centralism is nothing but condensed embodiment of the epistemology of “practice- -knowledge--practice”， the methodology of “individual--general--individual”， and the line of work of “masses-leadership-masses”， that is to say that in institutions and methods， the CPC should necessarily go by democratic centralism of “democracy--centralization- -democracy”， namely the principles and institutions of “centralization based on democracy， and democracy guided by centralization”.
From the above four formulas one can see that the CPCs democratic centralism are not only organizational principles and organizational institutions but also a theory of democratic centralism sitting on the foundation of epistemology and methodology of dialectical materialism including principles， institutions and methods.
Organizational System of Democratic Centralism Interconnecting the Central， Local， and Primary Levels
The CPCs democratic centralism has forged in practice an organization system interlinking the central， local and primary levels， which takes electoral system， congress system， committee system， tenure system and reporting system for basic institutions while adopting within a leadership team an organizational system that combines collective leadership and division of responsibility.
In institutional design for inner-party democracy， the CPC stipulates that Party leading bodies at various levels except their dispatched representative offices and leading Party members groups in non-Party organizations should be generated by election， and that Party committees at various levels should report their work to Party congresses at the corresponding levels. For instance， the Central Committee generated by election of the National Party Congress should report its work to the National Party Congress， subject to approval through deliberation of the latter. Local Party committees should report their work to local Party Congresses at the corresponding levels that generated them through election， subject to approval through deliberation of the latter.
It would be worth special observation that this institutional design stipulates that all Party organizations should go by a system within themselves that combines collective leadership and division of responsibility. Once a Party committee is established， it should divide its work for every member to perform his or her duties and responsibilities according to collective decision and division of work. At the same time， the collective leadership system of the Party clearly stipulates that none of the individuals should supersede the Party committee as a collective， that all major issues should be collectively deliberated and decided on by the Party committee， abiding by the principles of collective leadership， democratic centralism， pre-meeting contemplation and meeting-based decision making.
A New-Type Democracy Closely Attached to the Mass Line
A most important element of democratic centralism is the application of the Partys mass line to Party activities， giving rise to a new-type democracy closely attached to the work method of mass line featuring “from the people， and to the people”.
The mass line is the CPCs work line， a figurative description of which is “from the people， and to the people”. “From the people” refers to that before making decisions， the Party should conduct investigation and research， timely recognizing what the people need and aspire， timely discovering and summarizing the fresh experience of the people， and centralizing scattered and unsystematic opinions of the people; “To the people” refers to that after the CPC making decisions， it goes to the people promoting and explaining its opinions， to make them the peoples own， and to let the people keep them up and put them into action. At the same time， it is also necessary to test if the Partys decisions are right through the practice of the people， readjusting them when necessary. As the fundamental work line of the CPC， the mass line is a work line that closely links the CPC with the people and gives full display of the CPCs spirit of democracy. Such a decision making process that is “from the people， and to the people” is none other than democratic centralism featuring “centralism based on democracy， and democracy guided by centralism”.
It is precisely because the CPC takes deep roots among the people that it can in times of peace unify the people and can at crucial moments rally their multitudes at its call in achieving the Partys target of endeavors. That is to say that the CPC ruling the country is not only governing the country with tens of millions of its members but also governing the country by mobilizing and organizing the broadest masses of the people.
Inner-Party Democratic Centralism and State Democratic Centralism
The CPCs mass lines includes two aspects. First， Party organizations at all levels， especially leading Party officials at all levels should frequently and adequately listen to the opinions of Party comrades. Second， Party organizations at all levels including those in government bodies， especially leading Party and government officials at all levels should frequently and adequately listen to the opinions of none-Party people. Therefore， in upholding and implementing the mass line， we have come up with two types of differentiated and interlinked democratic centralism， inner-party democratic centralism and state democratic centralism.
In regard to inner-party democratic centralism， in order to guarantee that Party organizations at various levels， especially leading Party officials at various levels frequently and adequately listen to the opinions of Party comrades， CPC Constitution stipulates that Party organizations at various levels shall help Party members to be better informed of internal Party affairs and enable them greater opportunities to participate. Not only shall Party committees at various levels report their work to Party congresses at the corresponding levels， Party organizations at higher levels shall also frequently listen to the opinions of lower-level Party organizations as well as Party members there， and respond quickly to problems they raise. Not only shall lower-level Party organizations handle independently and responsibly matters within their jurisdiction， they shall timely report on their work to and request instructions from higher level Party organizations. Higher- and lower-level Party organizations shall exchange information and support and oversee each other.
In regard to state democratic centralism， in order to guarantee that Party organizations at various levels including those within government bodies， especially leading Party and government officials at various levels frequently and adequately listen to the opinions of none-Party people， the CPC and PRC Constitutions stipulate that all major decisions and laws of Party and government organizations at various levels shall be made on democratic basis， and once made they shall be resolutely implemented. Through long exploration and continuous improvement， the CPC has upheld the mass line in the governance of China and forged a consultative democratic system that is different from electoral democracy but can be combined with electoral democracy. There are two forms in Chinese democracy， electoral democracy and consultative democracy. In the main， electoral democracy is achieved through Party congresses and the peoples congresses under electoral and representative system whereas consultative democracy is achieved through broad consultation within the people conducted under the CPC leadership on major issues involving reform， development and stability and on practical problems affecting peoples interests before policy making and during policy implementation， an important form of democracy in reaching consensus. Matters having not gone through consultation cannot put into policy making process， and nor can matters going through consultation without reaching consensus. This is a special form of Chinese socialist democratic politics and its unique advantage. To date， China has built seven channels of consultative democracy namely party consultation， peoples congress consultation， government consultation， Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference consultation， peoples organization consultation， primary-level consultation， and social organization consultation.
The above illustrates that Chinese democratic system is a democratic system that is both democratic and efficient. As General Secretary Xi Jinping remarks， democratic centralism is the basic organization system and leadership system of the Party， which correctly regulates inner-party political life， provides the basic norms for inner-Party relationship， reflects and embodies the interests and aspirations of comrades of the whole Party and the people of the whole country， and is a scientific， rational and efficient system that guarantees the correct formulation and implementation of the Partys line， principles and policies. As such， it is the greatest institutional advantage of the CPC.
Democratic Centralism Entailing Strict Discipline and Oversight
In pursuing democratic centralism， not only does the CPC set great store by the mass line and attach importance to institutional building and improving work method， it also makes much account of disciplinary building and institutional building for democratic oversight.
As the CPC Constitution stipulates， individual Party members defer to Party organizations， the minority defers to the majority， lower-level Party organizations defer to higher-level Party organizations， and all organizations and members of the Party defer to the National Congress and the Central Committee of the Party. The “four defers” embody the political discipline and organizational discipline of the Party while being an important integral part of democratic centralism and providing the latter with important guardrails.
To enhance the Partys disciplinary building， the CPC has set up Party organs for discipline inspection and put a special chapter into its constitution on Party discipline， which clearly stipulates that Party discipline mainly consists of political and organizational discipline and discipline regarding integrity， the public， work， and life. According to the constitution， the Party has promulgated inner-party rules such as the CPC disciplinary punishment regulations， and the state has correspondingly promulgated laws and rules such as the law of the PRC on administrative discipline for public officials. As such， there are disciplines and laws to follow. The CPC has also adopted important regulations such as the code of conduct for intraparty political life， clearly demanding that Party members and Party officials strengthen their consciousness of the need to maintain political integrity， think in big-picture terms， follow the leadership core， and keep in alignment; work harder to uphold the authority and centralized， unified leadership of the Central Committee， and closely follow the Central Committee in terms of our thinking， political orientation， and actions.
While enhancing its disciplinary work， the CPC upholds the Party Constitution as its fundamental rules and has promulgated the Regulations of the Communist Party of China on Internal Oversight and strengthened intraparty oversight. On the level of the state， China has promulgated the Supervision Law of the People's Republic of China based on its constitution. The promulgation of the above rules and law signifies the full coverage of oversight on leading Party officials and public officials. To enhance oversight， the CPC has put in place an authoritative and efficient intraparty oversight system with enhanced disciplinary supervision， supervisory supervision， dispatched supervision， and inspection supervision. Particularly， it has made strategic arrangements of routine and cruising inspections， giving full play to disciplinary inspections that cut like a blade through corruption and misconduct. At the same time， it has also enhanced departmental functional supervision， set store by daily primary-level supervision， and strengthened Party member democratic oversight， resulting in synergy of oversight that provide solid， comprehensive and multidimensional guarantee to ensuring Party self-governance in every respect.
A New-Type Democratic System Matching and Combining Obligations and Rights
For every Party member， the democratic centralism of the CPC is a new-type democratic system that matches and combines obligations with rights.
The CPC Constitution stipulates Party members obligations， demanding that Party officials deepen their commitment to the ideals and convictions， commit to seeking truth from facts， promote scientific development， maintain close ties with the people， strengthen their moral self-cultivation， strictly observe Party discipline， improve their knowledge and competence， and frequently check and make up for their own shortcomings. At the same time， the CPC Constitution also stipulates the rights enjoyed by Party members， putting forward that Party members shall enjoy such rights as the right to be informed of intraparty affairs， the right to benefit from Party education and training， the right to participate in intraparty discussion， the right to make intraparty suggestions and proposals， the right to exercise intraparty oversight， the right to participate in voting and stand for election， the right to call for dismissal and replacement of Party officials， the right to plead their case on disciplinary action taken against them， the right to make a statement of reservation on their disagreement， and the right to submit an intraparty request， appeal or accusation.
As any democratic system is and should be a system that equalizes right with obligations， the CPCs democratic centralism is no exception. Therefore， the CPC has formulated its regulations on protecting the rights of Party members， which clearly stipulates the rights of Party members， their protection measures， and accountability， pointing out that Party organizations shall respect the principal status of Party members， strengthen political responsibilities of Party management and self-governance， integrate protection of Party members rights into Party building in the new era， strictly protect all rights of Party members according to the Party Constitution and other intraparty rules， and improve institutional mechanisms for protecting Party members rights， and that all conducts in violation of Party members rights shall be taken to account.
Democratic centralism with Chinese characteristics has formed a theoretical system based on epistemology and methodology of dialectical materialism and including principles， institutions and methods of democratic centralism. Democratic centralism built and improved according to such a theory has not only put in place in practice basic systems of electoral system， congress system， committee system， tenure system and reporting system， and established within a leadership team a system that combines collective leadership and division of responsibility， but also given rise to an organizational system interlinking the central， local and primary levels. More important， this is a new-type democratic system that is closely connected with the work method of the mass line featuring “from the people， and to the people”， a democratic system that attaches great importance to disciplinary building and institutional building for democratic oversight， and a democratic system that equalizes and combines Party members obligations with their rights. Where do “characteristics” reside in democratic centralism with Chinese characteristics？ They reside in upholding Marxist principles of democratic centralism on the one hand and on the other working in the context of unique practice of China， resulting in a democratic centralism with the characteristics of the CPCs own.
Li Junru is the former Vice President of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee