Western democracy rejected by leftists

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 September, 2010, 12:00am

A top Communist Party publication, Seeking Truth, has joined the political reform debate stirred by a speech by Premier Wen Jiabao last month and squarely rejected Western-style democracy.

In a signed article, Seeking Truth, a weekly magazine that is affiliated with the party's central committee but which has seen its influence within the party wane, called yesterday for the drawing of a line between Chinese democracy and Western-style 'dollar democracy', saying only 'Chinese-style democracy' should be allowed in China.

The article, under the headline 'To draw a line between democracy with Chinese characteristics and Western democracy', came days after an article written by scholar Hou Shaowen published by another major party publication, the Study Times, an organ of the Central Party School, openly supported Wen's bold call for the country's political system to be liberalised and more rights granted to its people.

Wen said during a tour of Shenzhen last month that without political reform, the fruits of economic reform would be lost.

The remark has sparked speculation that there could be a rift within the party about whether now is the time to carry out reforms.

The Seeking Truth article is the latest in a number of party publications giving contradictory messages about political reform, with analysts saying they are signs that the division between the liberal and conservative factions in the party has deepened.

It criticised Western democracy as 'dollar democracy' and defines Chinese democracy as 'multiparty' rule under the leadership of the Communist Party.

It also flatly rejected the concepts of separation of powers and direct elections.

To justify its argument, it cited a conclusion of last year's fourth plenum of the 17th Central Committee saying the party should step up ideological education so that party cadres have better awareness of the differences between Western and Chinese-style democracy.

It says such awareness will help defend against the 'Western conspiracy to sow division' in China.

The war of words followed an earlier clash between Nanfang Daily, a liberal publication in Guangzhou and the Guangming Daily, a traditional bastion of party conservatives.

Nanfang Daily called upon Shenzhen, which has been at the forefront of economic reform and opening up in the past 30 years, to take the lead in political reform.

However, in a commentary dated September 4, the Guangming Daily, a newspaper run by the Propaganda Department, published an article warning readers not to be confused about the concept of political reform and saying that Chinese democracy meant the socialist system, which meant leadership by the Communist Party.

The heating up of debate over political reform comes amid growing disenchantment over a political system that is lagging behind the country's economic gains.

China affairs analyst Johnny Lau said that the 30th anniversary of the Shenzhen experiment had given rise to calls for political reforms from mainland intellectuals emboldened by Wen's surprising call last month for liberalisation of the country's political system and the granting of more rights to the people.

'They have to responded to such calls whether they are from the liberal or conservative camps,' Lau said.

He said the party had yet to formulate a consensus on whether or how to move towards political reform and was reluctant to push the issue too hard.

Lau said the current debate was unlikely to usher in any substantial political changes.