Speech at the Central People’s Congress Work Conference
October 13, 2021
This year marks the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Upon its founding a hundred years ago, our Party made the pursuit of happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation its founding aspiration and mission, and it has since explored every means to ensure that it is the people who run the country. During the New Democratic Revolution, our Party established people’s governments in base areas and provided practical experience for building a new political system.
Through practice and theoretical reflection, Chinese Communists, with Mao Zedong as their chief representative, put forward the original idea to implement a system of people’s congresses. As early as April 1945, Mao Zedong said, “The organizational principle of the new democratic state should be democratic centralism, with the people’s congresses at all levels determining the major policies and electing the governments. It is both democratic and centralized, that is, centralized on the basis of democracy and democratic under centralized guidance. This is the only system that can give full expression to democracy with full powers vested in the people’s congresses at various levels and, at the same time, ensure centralized administration with the governments at each level exercising centralized management of all the affairs entrusted to them by the people’s congresses at the corresponding level and safeguarding whatever is essential to the democratic activities of the people.”
Through years of fierce battles and arduous struggles, our Party led the people in founding the People’s Republic of China and accomplishing the historic mission of national independence and liberation, thus enabling hundreds of millions of people to become the masters of their country and society. The First Session of the First National People’s Congress (NPC) was convened in September 1954, and adopted the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, marking the official establishment of China’s foundational political system – the system of people’s congresses.
Since the launch of reform and opening up in 1978, our Party has remained committed to advancing socialist democracy and rule of law, kept to the path of socialist political development with Chinese characteristics, and constantly improved China’s electoral systems, systems of state institutions, systems for community-level democracy, and organizational systems and rules of procedure for the people’s congresses. These efforts have infused the people’s congress system with fresh vitality.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, our Party has stood at a new historic juncture, gained a deep understanding of the new changes to the principal challenge in Chinese society, and actively responded to the people’s new demands and aspirations for democracy and rule of law. It has worked hard to modernize China’s system and capacity for governance, improved the system of institutions through which the people run the country, strengthened governments at the primary level, and improved work related to people’s congress deputies. As a result, historic achievements have been made in people’s congress work, and the people’s congress system has become more mature and well-defined.
Over the 60-plus years since its inception, and particularly over the 40-plus years of reform and opening up, the people’s congress system has provided an important institutional guarantee that has allowed our Party to lead the people in creating miracles of rapid economic development and long-term social stability.
Practice has shown that the people’s congress system is a sound system that accords with China’s national conditions and realities, embodies our country’s nature as a socialist nation, ensures that the people run the country, and provides safeguards for national rejuvenation. Created by the people under the Party’s leadership, it is a great invention in the history of political institutions, and it is an entirely new political system of major importance in the history of China’s political development and even in that of the world.
Under the Party’s leadership, the people’s congress system adheres to the basic tenets of Marxist theory of the state, adapts to the state system of a people’s democratic dictatorship, and effectively ensures that China advances along the path of socialism. Under this system, all power of the state belongs to the people, the people’s position as masters of the country is protected to the greatest extent, and the unity between leadership by the Party, the running of the country by the people, and law-based governance is upheld, thus ensuring that China escapes the historical cycle of rise and fall of political orders. Under this system, major political relationships that influence the nation’s future are properly managed, social programs operate under the effective unified organization of the state, national unity and ethnic solidarity are maintained, and vigor, stability, and order prevail in the country’s political life.
Since our Party’s 18th National Congress, the Central Committee has implemented a national rejuvenation strategy against a backdrop of global change the likes of which has not been seen in a century. Taking into account the strategic requisites of upholding and improving the Party’s leadership and consolidating the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, it has continued to advance theoretical and practical innovations in the people’s congress system and put forward new concepts, ideas, and requirements, which are focused on the following aspects.
First, we must uphold the CPC’s leadership.
We must uphold the core role of the Party in exercising overall leadership and coordinating the efforts of all sides, uphold the Party Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership, and ensure that the Party’s theories, guidelines, principles, policies, decisions, and plans are fully and effectively implemented in the work of the state. We should provide the support and safeguards that bodies of state power need to carry out their work in accordance with the Constitution and the law and in an active, independent, and coordinated manner. We must strengthen and improve the leadership of our Party so that we become better at using statutory procedures to turn the Party’s propositions into the will of the state and to ensure that candidates recommended by Party organizations assume leadership positions in bodies of state power, and so that we become better at using bodies of state power to exercise the Party’s leadership over the country and society. This will allow us to safeguard the authority of the Party and country and uphold the unity of the entire Party and country.
Second, we must use a system of institutions to ensure the people run the country.
We must remain committed to a people-centered approach, uphold the principle that all power of the state belongs to the people, and support and ensure the people’s exercise of state power through people’s congresses. We should improve democratic institutions, create more forms of democracy, and expand channels for democracy, and we should protect the people’s rights to equal participation and development, so as to promote a whole-process people’s democracy that is broader, fuller, and more robust.
Third, we must advance law-based governance on all fronts.
We must follow a path and develop a system of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics and build a socialist nation under the rule of law. We should carry forward the spirit of socialist rule of law, advance all undertakings and initiatives of the country in accordance with the Constitution and the law, safeguard social fairness and justice, respect and protect human rights, and make sure that all of the country’s initiatives are on a legal footing.
Fourth, we must uphold democratic centralism.
We must ensure that the people exercise state power in a unified manner through people’s congresses and that people’s congresses at all levels are formed through democratic elections, are responsible to the people, and are subject to their oversight; that administrative, supervisory, adjudicatory, and procuratorial bodies at all levels are created by people’s congresses, are responsible to them, and are subject to their oversight; that there is an appropriate division of work and mutual coordination between decision making, executive, and oversight powers and that state bodies exercise their powers and perform their duties in accordance with their statutory scope of authority and procedures; and that local governments fully exert their initiative and enthusiasm under the unified leadership of the Party Central Committee, so as to ensure that all undertakings are advanced under the unified and effective organization of the state.
Fifth, we must keep to the path of socialist political development with Chinese characteristics.
The core of maintaining the unity between leadership by the Party, the running of the country by the people, and law-based governance is upholding leadership by the Party. The people’s congress system is a foundational political system for upholding this unity; it ensures that the Party leads the people in effectively governing the country in accordance with the law. We can learn from other countries’ political achievements, but we will never blindly copy Western political systems and models.
Sixth, we must continue to modernize China’s system and capacity for governance.
The people’s congress system is an important component of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and of China’s system of governance. We must uphold and improve the system of institutions through which the people run the country, continue to improve the institutions, standards, and procedures of socialist democracy, and do better at translating our institutional strengths into effective governance.
With the world undergoing changes of a magnitude not seen in a century, institutional competition has become an important part of competition in composite national strength, and institutional advantages are essential for winning the strategic initiative. Both the facts of history and the realities of today tell us that strong and stable institutions make a strong and stable nation. At our Party’s 18th and 19th national congresses, important plans were made to strengthen the people’s congress system and improve people’s congress work. On our new journey to build China into a modern socialist country, we must firmly uphold the people’s congress system while improving it in pace with the times, so as to strengthen and enhance people’s congress work in the new era. To this end, we should do the following.
First, we should ensure the full implementation of the Constitution and safeguard its authority and sanctity.
Ancient Chinese believed that “law is the state’s scale and society’s yardstick.” As China’s fundamental law, the Constitution is the concentrated embodiment of the will of the Party and the people, and it enjoys supreme legal status, authority, and force. I have emphasized on several occasions that to uphold the authority of the Constitution is to uphold the authority of the common will of the Party and the people; to safeguard the inviolability of the Constitution is to safeguard the inviolability of the common will of the Party and the people; and to guarantee the implementation of the Constitution is to guarantee the realization of the fundamental interests of the people. All people of China and all state bodies, armed forces, political parties, social organizations, enterprises, and public institutions must treat the Constitution as their fundamental code of conduct and assume the duty of upholding the sanctity of the Constitution and ensuring its implementation. No organization or individual is above the Constitution or the law, and all constitutional and legal violations must be investigated and dealt with.
To ensure law-based governance of the country, we must first ensure governance based on the Constitution; to ensure law-based exercise of state power, we must first ensure exercise of state power based on the Constitution. To ensure Constitution-based national governance and exercise of state power, we must remain committed to upholding the leadership position of the Communist Party of China, upholding the people’s democratic dictatorship as our state system, and upholding the people’s congress system as our system of state power, all of which are enshrined in China’s Constitution.
Full implementation of the Constitution is the primary task and groundwork for building a socialist nation under the rule of law, and it is also a natural requirement for upholding and improving the system of people’s congresses. We must take the Constitution as our fundamental code of conduct and use a well-designed, effective, and complete system of institutions to ensure the implementation of the Constitution. We must enhance constitutional oversight, promote and enrich the spirit of the Constitution, and safeguard the authority and sanctity of the Constitution.
To lead the people in formulating and implementing the Constitution and the law, our Party itself must act within the scope of the Constitution and the law. People’s congresses, governments, supervision commissions, courts, and procuratorates at all levels need to work in accordance with the Constitution and the law and in an active, independent, and coordinated manner.
The NPC and its Standing Committee should improve the legal system pertaining to the Constitution and ensure that the systems, principles, and rules established by the Constitution are fully implemented. They should strengthen oversight and inspection of the implementation of the Constitution and the law, improve constitutionality reviews and recording and review of normative documents, and resolutely correct constitutional and legal violations. They should implement procedures and mechanisms for constitutional interpretation and actively attend to concerns about constitutional issues.
The NPC and its Standing Committee should improve the legal system under which the central government exercises overall jurisdiction over the special administrative regions in accordance with the Constitution and the regions’ basic laws, refine the regions’ systems and mechanisms related to the implementation of the Constitution and their basic laws, and maintain constitutional order and the rule of law in the regions as established in the Constitution and their basic laws.
Local people’s congresses at all levels and their standing committees must exercise their functions and powers in accordance with the law, ensure that the Constitution and the law are observed and implemented within their respective administrative regions, and consciously preserve the unity of law in China.
Second, we should move faster to improve the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics, using sound laws to develop and ensure good governance.
“If good laws are established under heaven, then peace will prevail in the world; if good laws are established in a state, then peace will prevail in that state.” Since the launch of reform and opening up, under the leadership of our Party and through the hard work of all parties, our country has spent more than 30 years developing a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics. This is a remarkable achievement in the history of the rule of law. At the same time, we must also see that the times are changing and practice has evolved, which raises new demands for the development of the legal system. The legal system must be improved in step with the times.
We must strengthen the Party’s centralized leadership over legislative work and improve the legislative framework featuring guidance from Party committees, the leading role played by people’s congresses, support from the government, and participation by all parties. We should better align decision making for reform and development with legislative decision making, both improving the rule of law through further reform and ensuring reform and innovation in all fields through better rule of law, so as to provide a legal basis for national development and major reforms. We need to advance the rule of law in domestic and foreign affairs in a coordinated manner, balance development and security imperatives, and develop a system of laws for extraterritorial application. We need to use legal means to meet challenges, forestall risks, and safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests. Applying systems thinking, we should enact, revise, repeal, interpret, and codify laws in a coordinated way and take comprehensive steps to improve the system of laws, administrative regulations, supervisory regulations, and local regulations.
As the national legislature, the NPC and its Standing Committee should speed up the pace of legislative work while ensuring quality, and they should make legislation more systematic, integrated, and coordinated and the legal system better-designed and more complete, unified, and authoritative. They should step up legislation in key and emerging sectors and concerning China’s international related activities. With a focus on imbuing legislation with core socialist values, they should work to perfect the legal systems that are urgently needed for national governance and are necessary for meeting the people’s growing needs for a better life. Codification work should be continued in mature areas of legislation.
Good laws are a prerequisite for good governance. “The law does not fall from the sky or grow from the earth; it manifests from among the people in line with their will.” Focusing on improving the quality of legislation, people’s congresses and their standing committees should fully play their leading role in legislative work and stay committed to respecting and reflecting the objective rules that govern reality, serving and relying on the people, and remaining strictly in line with their statutory scope of authority and statutory procedures as they work hard to advance more effective, democratic, and law-based legislation. They should enrich their approach to legislative work and ensure legislation becomes more targeted, applicable, and practicable. In order to guarantee the quality of regulations and rules, they must make sure that administrative regulations, supervisory regulations, and departmental rules are formulated in strict accordance with their statutory scope of authority and statutory procedures. Local people’s congresses with legislative powers must strictly remain within their scope of legislative power and do a good job in local legislation by prioritizing the implementation of the Party Central Committee’s major policies, decisions, and plans and focusing on solving practical problems.
Third, people’s congresses should make good use of the oversight powers conferred upon them by the Constitution and exercise appropriate, effective, and lawful oversight.
An important principle of the people’s congress system and a basic requirement of its institutional design is that the power of all state organs and their staff are subject to oversight and checks. We should give better play to the important role of the people’s congresses in the oversight system of the Party and the country to ensure that power is exercised under public oversight, in broad daylight, within an institutional cage, and under the reins of the rule of law.
People’s congresses at all levels and their standing committees should make use of the oversight powers conferred on them by the Constitution and the law and exercise appropriate, effective, and lawful oversight. They should maintain the unity, sanctity, and authority of law and make sure that laws and regulations are effectively implemented and that administrative, supervisory, adjudicatory, and procuratorial powers are properly exercised in accordance with the law.
In our country’s political system, people’s congresses play the role of overseeing governments, supervision commissions, courts, and procuratorates at the same level, and they coordinate the work of all state bodies to create synergies. People’s congresses should stay focused on pursuing the central task of economic development, serving the overall national interest, giving priority to key areas, following the decisions and plans of the Party Central Committee, and delivering on the people’s aspirations and expectations, and they should work hard to facilitate the resolution of prominent issues and problems that hinder economic and social development. They should make full use of multiple statutory oversight arrangements, strengthen oversight of the implementation of laws and regulations, and ensure that all state bodies perform their duties and carry out their work within the scope stipulated by the Constitution and the law. We should improve the system of oversight by people’s congresses and develop sound mechanisms and methods for their oversight of law enforcement and judicial work. Governments, supervision commissions, courts, and procuratorates at all levels must strictly implement the laws, regulations, and resolutions made by people’s congresses and their standing committees, report on their work in accordance with the law, and readily accept oversight from people’s congresses.
Fourth, people’s congresses should give full play to the role of their deputies, and see to it that they respond to the calls of the people.
“Serving the will of the people is the key to governance.” The key to the great vitality and strengths of the people’s congress system is that it is deeply rooted in the people. All state organs and their employees must foster a strong sense of service to the people, put the people above all else, maintain close ties with them, listen to their opinions and suggestions, accept their oversight, and work hard to serve them. People’s congresses should ensure that their deputies reach out to the public on a greater variety of issues and in more diversified ways, broaden their channels of contact, actively respond to public concerns, better engage with the people, observe public sentiment, gather the people’s ideas, and work to benefit their lives. Standing committees of people’s congresses at all levels should enhance their ability to carry out deputy-related work and provide support and safeguards for deputies to better perform their duties in accordance with the law, so as to make sure that the idea of the people as masters of the country is reflected in how deputies play their roles.
Deputies to people’s congresses shoulder the honorable duties entrusted to them by the people so that they faithfully represent the interests and will of the people and participate in the exercise of state power in accordance with the law. Deputies should stand firm politically, fulfill their political responsibilities, improve their thinking and conduct, set a good example by abiding by the Constitution and the law, and act with political acumen. Deputies should give full play to their characteristics and strengths of being of the people and rooted in the people, keep close ties with the people, serve as the bridge that links the Party and the country with the people, mobilize positive factors and mitigate negative ones to the greatest extent possible, and conduct themselves in ways that befit people’s congress deputies in the new era.
Fifth, people’s congresses should be more aware of their identity as political institutions and intensify self-improvement efforts.
People’s congresses at all levels and their standing committees must be deeply conscious of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment with the central Party leadership. They must stay confident in the path, the theory, the system, and the culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics. They must uphold the core position of the General Secretary on the CPC Central Committee and in the Party as a whole and uphold the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership. They must continuously improve their political judgment, understanding, and execution, improve themselves in all respects, and build themselves into political institutions that consciously uphold the Party’s leadership, institutions of state power that ensure the running of the country by the people, working institutions that fully assume functions conferred by the Constitution and the law, and representative institutions that always maintain close ties with the people.
People’s congresses should optimize the composition of their standing committees and special committees and train personnel that maintain political resolve, serve the people, respect the rule of law, promote democracy, and are diligent and responsible. In order to improve the effectiveness of their work, they should improve conduct and strengthen discipline, not only strictly performing statutory duties and abiding by statutory procedures, but also resolutely guarding against favoring form over substance and excessive bureaucracy.
Sixth, we should strengthen our Party’s overall leadership over the work of people’s congresses.
The people’s congress system is an important institutional vehicle for the Party to exercise leadership over bodies of state power, and it is also an important form through which the Party fully promotes democracy and implements its mass line in the exercise of state power. Party committees at all levels should give priority to people’s congress work, improve the systems of Party leadership over the work of people’s congresses, hear work reports from Party leadership groups of people’s congress standing committees on a regular basis, and resolve major issues in people’s congress work.
We should support people’s congresses and their standing committees in performing their duties and carrying out their work in accordance with the law and guide and urge governments, supervision commissions, courts, and procuratorates to readily accept the oversight of people’s congresses. We should strengthen the leadership teams of people’s congress standing committees and the personnel of people’s congresses and promote job rotation between people’s congresses, Party and government institutions, and judicial bodies. The Party’s organization, communication, and other departments at all levels should enhance their coordination and cooperation with relevant departments of people’s congresses to create powerful synergies for carrying out people’s congress work in the new era. Party leadership groups of people’s congress standing committees at all levels should earnestly implement the systems of Party leadership and ensure that they fulfill their principal responsibilities for full and strict Party self-governance.
Democracy is a value shared by all humanity and an ideal that the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people have always upheld. As we work to translate democratic values and ideals into sound and effective institutions and concrete and real democratic practice, we need to find the right systems, mechanisms, and approaches based on the integration of history and reality, theory and practice, and form and substance.
As I have said, the best way to evaluate whether a country’s political system is democratic and effective is to observe whether the succession of its leaders is orderly and law-based, whether the people can manage state and social affairs and economic and cultural undertakings in accordance with the law, whether the public can express their needs through open channels, whether all sectors of society can effectively participate in the country’s political affairs, whether the country’s decision making can be conducted in a rational and democratic manner, whether people of all fields can join the state leadership and administrative systems by way of fair competition, whether the governing party can lead state affairs in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and whether the exercise of power is subject to effective checks and oversight.
Democracy is not an ornament to be put on display, but an instrument for addressing the issues that concern the people. Whether a country is democratic or not depends on whether its people are truly the masters of the country. It depends on whether the people have the right to vote, and more importantly, the right to participate; what promises they are given during elections, and more importantly, how many of these promises are delivered after elections; what kind of political procedures and rules are set through state systems and laws, and more importantly, whether these systems and laws are truly enforced; and whether the rules and procedures for the exercise of power are democratic, and more importantly, whether the exercise of power is genuinely subject to public oversight and checks. If the people are only engaged with to solicit votes and then are left in the dark, if they must listen to grandiose election slogans but have no voice when the elections are over, or if they are only treated well by candidates during elections and are ignored after, this is not true democracy.
In a word, democracy is the right of the people of all countries, not the prerogative of a few nations. Whether a country is democratic should be judged by its people, not by a handful of nosy outsiders. In the international community, whether a country is democratic should be judged by community consensus, not by a few self-appointed judges. There is no uniform or single model of democracy; it comes in many forms. Assessing the world’s myriad political systems against a single yardstick and examining diverse political advancement in monochrome is, itself, inherently undemocratic.
The Communist Party of China has always upheld people’s democracy and has always adhered to the following basic ideas. First, people’s democracy is the life of socialism; without democracy, there would be no socialism, socialist modernization, or national rejuvenation. Second, the running of the country by the people is the essence and heart of socialist democracy. The very purpose of developing socialist democracy is to give full expression to the will of the people, protect their rights and interests, spark their creativity, and provide a system of institutions to ensure that it is they who are running the country. Third, the Chinese socialist path of political development is the right path, as it conforms to China’s national conditions and guarantees the position of the people as the masters of the country. It is the logical outcome of history, theory, and practice based on the strenuous efforts of the Chinese people in modern times. It is a requisite for maintaining the very nature of our Party and fulfilling its fundamental purpose. Fourth, China’s socialist democracy takes two important forms: one in which the people exercise rights by means of elections and voting, and another in which people from all walks of life are consulted extensively in order to reach the widest possible consensus on matters of common concern before major decisions are made. Together these make up the institutional features and strengths of China’s socialist democracy. Fifth, the key to developing China’s socialist democracy is to fully leverage its features and strengths. As we continue to advance socialist democracy with well-defined institutions, standards, and procedures, we can provide better institutional safeguards for our Party and country’s prosperity and long-term stability.
Deng Xiaoping once said, “The democracy in capitalist societies is bourgeois democracy – in fact, it is the democracy of monopoly capitalists. It is no more than a system of multi-party elections, separation of judicial, executive, and legislative powers, and a bicameral legislature. Ours is the system of people’s congresses and people’s democracy under the leadership of the Communist Party; we cannot adopt the practice of the West. The greatest advantage of the socialist system is that when the central leadership makes a decision, it is promptly implemented without interference from any other quarters.”
Since its 18th CPC National Congress, our Party has advanced whole-process people’s democracy as a key concept on the basis of a deeper understanding of the rules governing the development of democracy. Whole-process people’s democracy in China not only has a complete set of institutions and procedures, but also has full-fledged civil participation. China’s state system is a people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and farmers; its system of state power is the system of people’s congresses; and its basic political systems are the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, the system of regional ethnic autonomy, and the system of primary-level self-governance. Through these, China has consolidated and developed the broadest possible patriotic united front, it has formed a comprehensive, extensive, and well-coordinated system of institutions that guarantee the people run the country, and it has put into place diverse, open, and orderly channels for democracy. This allows the entire people to engage in law-based democratic elections, consultations, decision making, management, and oversight and to manage state and economic, cultural, and social affairs in various ways and forms and in accordance with the law.
Whole-process people’s democracy in China integrates process-oriented democracy with results-oriented democracy, procedural democracy with substantive democracy, direct democracy with indirect democracy, and people’s democracy with the will of the state. It is a democracy that covers all aspects of the democratic process and all sectors of society. It is a socialist democracy to the broadest extent, of the truest nature, and to the greatest effect possible. We should continue to advance whole-process people’s democracy to see that, in concrete and tangible ways, the idea of the people as masters of the country is reflected in our Party’s governance policies and measures, in all aspects and levels of the work of Party and state institutions, and in our efforts to realize the people’s aspirations for a better life.
The people’s congress system is an important institutional vehicle for realizing whole-process people’s democracy in China. Under CPC’s leadership, we should continue to expand orderly political participation by the people, strengthen legal protection for human rights, and ensure that the people enjoy extensive rights and freedoms as prescribed by law. We should ensure that the people can exercise their lawful right to vote for people’s congress deputies through democratic elections, that the people’s rights to information, participation, expression, and oversight are implemented in every area and at every stage of people’s congress work, and that the people’s voice can be heard in all aspects of the decision making, execution, and oversight by the Party and the country. We should improve the democratic platforms and vehicles of people’s congresses through which the general public can express opinions, we should refine working mechanisms for soliciting public comments and collecting ideas from the people, and we should advance consultation led by people’s congresses and consultation on legislative issues, in an effort to protect the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people by taking into account all aspects of social conditions and public sentiment. We should enhance our study of and public communications on Chinese socialist democracy and the people’s congress system, elucidate the features and strengths of China’s political system, and share our story of democracy.
Upholding and improving the people’s congress system is the common responsibility of the whole of the Party and society. The entire Party and Chinese nation should stay confident in the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, continue to uphold and improve the people’s congress system, continue to consolidate and enhance political vitality, stability, and unity, and contribute China’s wisdom to the political advancement of humankind.