Robust forum reduced to a 'political flower vase'
The CPPCC's 10th term comes to a close today, wrapping up five decades of advice to the nation's leaders and bureaucrats. In that time, the public has widely seen it as a political flower vase, contributing little to the nation's development.
But that was not always the case. In earlier days, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference was a forum for robust debate and was once regarded as part of a real, functioning parliament.
The CPPCC was established on September 21, 1949, five years ahead of the National People's Congress and even predates the establishment of the People's Republic of China by several days.
As the chairman of its first term, Mao Zedong initially used the body to unify people from different factions and backgrounds. He invited participation from many well-known dignitaries from a cross-section of mainland and overseas society, including Soong Ching-ling, the wife of Sun Yat-sen, Peking Opera star Mei Lanfang and Zhang Bojun , China's No1 rightist.
According to its regulations, all CPPCC members have to be appointed and recommended by the government and the body's main functions are 'to conduct political consultations, exercise democratic supervision and participate in the discussion and the handling of state affairs'.
But since the 'old parliament' was downgraded in 1954 by the NPC's establishment, the CPPCC has become a talking shop or social club for retired senior cadres, grumbling intellectuals dissatisfied with the government, and entrepreneurs keen to build connections with important people.
The CPPCC's decline began in earnest with the anti-rightist movement in 1957, which resulted in many rightists and outspoken members being purged. After that, CPPCC delegates had to survive the Communist Party's heavy-handed and complicated approval process.
Qiu Guoyi , a 71-year-old member from the Chi Gong Party and a 20-year CPPCC veteran, said many senior members had retained their style of 'saying anything' even though they realised their advice would have no impact.
'There are three rules in the CPPCC that can be summed up in three sentences. They are: 'just talking when you get the opportunity, understand your proposals may just be empty talk, and keep talking [to express your view]',' Mr Qiu said.
Prominent playwright Sha Yexin said he felt distressed at the distortion of the organisation's role.
'Nobody in the CPPCC or the NPC can really represent our people because none of them were voted in by the 1.3 billion Chinese people,' Sha said.
Lin Shengzhong , a 65-year-old member of the All-China Federation of Taiwan who was appointed a CPPCC delegate 30 years ago, said his motivation to express personal opinions had been eroded year after year since the downfall of former party general-secretary Zhao Ziyang .
'In my early days at the CPPCC, I was eager to criticise the wrongdoing of the leaders because everyone was allowed to speak freely,' Mr Lin said.
'But nowadays, it's impossible to hear any criticisms in the congress even though we know corruption has sprawled everywhere, to all corners of our bureaucracy.'
Many of the more outspoken CPPCC members are eager to revive the institution's original role.
Lin Jialai , an economist from Fujian province , said he believed the CPPCC could play an important role in the battle against corruption.
'It's not easy to be appointed a CPPCC member,' Mr Lin said. 'There are more than 2,000 around the nation, and everybody has a strong network from which they can assess public opinion ... I still believe the CPPCC could form an effective force to curb corruption.'