The annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (PCC) can hardly stir one’s imagination about the political cycle in Beijing. This year’s sessions will continue to function as façades and rubber-stamps, raising some hands to pass resolutions that were decided in advance by the party and state leaders. Most notably, however, the gathering could become a self-executing ritual for what remains of China’s representative system.
This year’s sessions coincide with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and have already been assigned special meanings. If 100 years ago the CCP partially inherited the slogans of the May Fourth Movement, embracing democracy and science, and accepting socialist/communist ideologies from the West, then the CCP was at least attempting to Westernize. Today, however, the main theme of the CCP is to be anti-West.
The CCP often says that “the system of people’s congresses is the fundamental political system of China.” It was derived from the Soviet system, and the Soviets were inspired by the Commune of Paris. The Paris Commune 150 years ago had a significant influence on the ideas of Karl Marx and his utopian fantasy of proletarian autonomy/direct democracy. Another political economist, John Stuart Mill, who basically lived in the same era as Marx, published “Considerations on Representative Government” a decade earlier, which systematically explained the principles of modern representative government. In the 28 years since the CCP seized power, it has opportunistically used the two systems of “scientific socialism” and “vulgar bourgeoisie” to create a Soviet regime in the hills and fields. It promised a future China a republic of the people, by the people, and for the people, and a new Western-style democracy with the “four freedoms” (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want).
However, once in power, in the spring of 1951, Liu Shaoqi, then Vice Chairman of the Central People’s Government, explicitly rejected the viability of the “old slogan” of “universal and equal suffrage, direct voting by secret ballot” and stated that the purpose of this propaganda slogan was to “oppose the dictatorial regime of Chiang Kai-shek.” “The majority of the people in the new China, mainly the laborers, were illiterate who had no past experience in elections and whose interest and enthusiasm in elections were not quite adequate.” Therefore, elections can only be held after the laborers have been trained and can read and write at a basic level.
It is now crystal clear that the CCP leaders had fabricated a lie about the past and the future. Before 1949, the Republic of China (ROC) had already instituted elections (National Assembly and Presidential), while the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is one of the three countries (along with Saudi Arabia and the State of Eritrea) that have not held national elections (NPC or Chairman of the country) since the Second World War. And as the CCP celebrates its 72 years in power, it continues to “train the working class” even though they have gone beyond the level of “basic literacy,” playing with cell phones and learning foreign languages.
In the 100 years since its founding and 72 years since it came to power, the CCP has not only failed to “keep pace with the times and the world,” but has instead entered a time tunnel, traveling back in time at a speed faster-than-light. After hurling the world into the coronavirus pandemic, the CCP assumed that the global crisis and catastrophe offered itself a once-in-a-lifetime historical opportunity to use the party-state system to build a community with a shared future for mankind and provide a Chinese solution for a world in despair.
The CCP’s greatest misjudgment of the world and of history is that it believes it can stand proudly in the East while resisting and even defeating the West. With propaganda machines up and down the country discrediting the West and Western democracy, the nation seems to be in a state of euphoria, celebrating the fall of the West and the end of Western-style democracy. An important move here is, of course, to use the NPC’s function as window-dressing to announce the collapse of the parliamentary representative system, which is the core of Western democracy, and the superiority of the “core leadership system” of the CCP. Three years ago, after the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force (PAP) marched into the Great Hall of the People, the NPC abolished the presidential term limits stipulated in the 1982 Constitution with a whopping 99.7% vote. It gave Xi not only the title of “President of Everything” with unlimited power, but also the privilege of “Emperor of the System” with unlimited time in office. A year ago, this same NPC deprived Hong Kong people of their autonomy through a so-called legal process. Today, what we will see is that the two governing bodies will completely strip Hong Kong people of their democratic elections and thoroughly deny the value of representative democracy in theory and practice, bowing under the core system of autocratic and totalitarian leadership.
Will such anti-Western attempts and mechanisms succeed? Three countries in history explicitly challenged the “West,” but all ended in failure. “The Downfall of the Occident” and “the Rise of the Third Reich” were aspired by Germany under Otto von Bismarck and Adolf Hitler. The militaristic dreams of the “Empire of the Sun” and the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” in Japan after the Meiji era, especially under Hideki Tojo. After Joseph Stalin, Soviet Union’s Nikita Khrushchev threatened Nixon with “we will bury you.” In the 20th century, these three “millennium empires” have all gone up in smoke.
Do you still believe the wild claims of the CCP? Do you think they believe in their own grandiose words? Under the control of party leader Xi Jinping, the CCP has hijacked the Chinese people and is racing forward on a high-speed rail dragon. If history is any indication, the Kasundruv Bridge is up ahead.
(Dr. Xia Ming is a professor of Political Science at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center.)
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