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Towards "democracy of the twenty-first century"──discussion on China's road of political reform: optimization, innovation and beyond (II)
By Zhongjia Pang    Final revision and English translation by Sheng-Wei Wang
October 1, 2010


(3) New bicameral system to improve the efficiency and quality of decision-making

    

This shows that the dual parliament and bicameral systems, and the corresponding checks and balances, which are used by the modern democratic nations, have come to the point of requiring a serious review. As the composition of the non-group society becomes increasingly differentiated and complex, and the dawn of the crisis of decision-making has arrived, can there be a creative and transcendent way to change the redundant and inefficient procedures of discussing matters?

    

Let us assume keeping a legislative assembly and reform it into another one, and in response to characteristics of the times we can drastically streamline the same consultative proceedings of two hundred years. We can develop a kind of independent and impartial super-council with new concepts, which has an equal position with the government. This council is entrusted by the voters to specialize in providing evaluation and monitoring services for the government to have second opinions and necessary petitions for reconsideration until the council carries out rights and responsibilities of an endorsement or confirmation on major issues (a bit like the support systems of quality assurance, which are essential to the modern enterprises). Consequently, it will play a constructive and meaningful function of balancing power as a consultation model.

 

The super-council with new concepts will have a strong network of professional advisory functionality and provide professional consultancy services of high standard through outsourcing for the parliamentary procedures of decision-making organizations.

 

This new concept of bicameral system under the increasingly differentiated and complicated modern social environment is designed to considerably improve the efficiency and quality of decision-making while ensuring the safe execution of the democratic system.

 

This new topic will come back in part III: Discussion on China’s road of political reform with Chinese characteristics: optimization, innovation and beyond” for in-depth discussions.

 

2. Question the multi-party competition and the traditional system of direct general election of the West

 

The functions of political parties in modern democratic nations are also making corresponding changes.

 

Political parties originally had a clear stance based on their respective representation of special interests and requirements of a certain group or class. During the 1879 French Revolution, in the constituent assembly, the first and second grades of members (clergy and nobility) sat mostly in the right-side seats of the parliament, while the third-grade members (bourgeoisie, urban commoners, workers and farmers) occupied the left seats; left- or right-wing was in plain sight.

 

Later party competitions worldwide were always clearly split left/right. With modern society composed of non-groups, the characteristics of some of the more matured mainstream political parties have become fuzzy or reconciliatory. Today, under the democratic systems of developed countries, the responsible major parties that can achieve ruling status have increasing difficulty to follow the clear-cut political orientation of left/right division in the old fashion. They must more easily and rapidly adjust in response to changes in the situation or learn and use each other's opinions as their own. As a result, it is hard for voters to distinguish them. When they all propose good-quality, well-matched candidates, spend huge amounts of money and intensely fight each other, the voting results turn out to be often equally matched or neck and neck.

    

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton of the Democratic Party was sex-scandal-ridden, but people publicly acknowledge that both the domestic and foreign policies of his government had striking results. After studying his characteristics, we can see that he was eclectic in breaking the traditional party differences; he always included the Republican political banner such as “small government” and trade liberalization, and adopted them as his own opinions for prioritized implementation. People did not know how to name his party, so called it the New Democratic Party.

    

During the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Republican George Bush, the legitimately elected president and his rival Democratic candidate Al Gore received almost equal numbers of actual votes. In fact, Gore had 540,000 more votes. Bush's percentage of votes did not exceed one-fourth of the total number of eligible voters.

 

In New York City among the registered voters, the Democrats and the Republicans have a five to one ratio, but cross-party voting is increasingly common. The supposed “iron vote” concept has long been unrealistic. In fact, the Democratic Party, despite having an absolute superiority of number of voters, lost five times straight in mayoral elections.

    

The conspicuous mayoral election in New York after the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001 was won by Michael Bloomberg who was in charge of a financial company and had no experience of working in the government. Politically he was almost like a blank sheet. He was originally a Democrat, and switched to the Republican Party not long before the campaign. During the early period of this election in 2001, Democratic candidate Mark Green, a long-time political patron and sponsor of city public welfare, was far ahead in opinion polls. But Bloomberg stressed that his talent in operating business and revitalizing the economy was much needed for the reconstruction of the greater New York area after the terrorist attack. Gradually the voters attached importance to him. At last the two received very close votes of 47% and 50%. To this year, Bloomberg has been reelected for three terms as New York City Mayor. His supporters includes Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Governor George Pataki, but also former Democratic Mayor Edward I. Koch. We may recall that in the last governor election, Giuliani did not support George Pataki of the same party, but rather the Democrat Andrew Cuomo. The two, mayor and governor, although belonging to the same Republican Party often had distinct political views, even frictions and oppositions.

    

In April 2002, a New York statewide poll showed that most New York voters believed that George Pataki, the Republican governor running for re-election, was centrist. He did not stick to the traditional concept of the Republican Party, but supported gun control, abortion and gay rights. Two-thirds of the people thought New York was moving in the correct direction. The supporting rate he received was more than each of the two other major Democratic opponents by 100%. Judging from the ratio of the New York State registered voters of the two parties, the Democrats and Republicans numbered five to three. But Pataki, the Republican Party centrist, widely supported by Democrats, was reelected and sworn in early 2003 to his third term as governor of New York.

 

In particular, let us come straight to the point: the U.S. Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who was a Democrat) in the summer of 2003 launched a project to abolish political party labels in municipal elections. He proposed to include the motion of no party labels in elections on the November ballot and did not rule out the possibility to spend his own money to support the program. Is this not to propose a transformation from multi-party system to no-party system?

    

On September 22, 2002, sixty million voters in Germany took part in the fifteenth session of Federal Parliament for the ballot. According to the opinion polls before the vote, the incumbent Chancellor, Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder, was ahead of rival Edmund Stoiber who led the conservative coalition, but by only 0.5%. Regardless of who could win the election, the prime task of the elected was to quickly restore the vitality of the German economy and repair the badly damaged U.S.-German relations. On the 23rd, the election result was announced publicly. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) received 38.5% of the votes, and the opposition conservative coalition (Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union) also received 38.5% of the votes. But due to German electoral rules, the SDP received 251 seats, while the coalition received only 248 seats [Every German voter could get two ballots, one (Erststimme, literally “first voice”) for directly electing the candidates they support in their districts; the candidate who receives most ballots will take seat in the parliament. The other ballot (Zweitstimme, “second voice”) is for determining the party ratio, which the voters can cast to elect the party they support; the ratios of the ballots received by different parties determine the ratios of the party seats in the parliament. Since The Election Law does not require the party of the selected candidate on the first ballot to be the same as that on the second ballot, sometimes this situation can occur: the seats in the parliament received by a party through the  ballots of the directly elected candidates can exceed those through the party ratio. The extra seats received this way are called “overhang seats” (Überhangmandate) and the party can get additional seats to ensure the candidates who have won seats in the direct election can stay in the parliament]. With a total of 603 seats in the federal parliament, the SDP and its 251 seats maintained the status of the largest political party, while the Green Party had 55 seats. The SDP-Green alliance received a total of 306 seats, which was more than half, and was thus able to continue joint governance. The incumbent Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder won a second term.

 

This year in May, the British general election for the first time since 1974 produced a non-majority parliament. Any party in power is required to form a ruling coalition. In August, there also has been a dramatic Australian election scene: among the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, the ruling Labor Party received 72 seats, the opposition coalition received 73 seats, the Greens got one seat, and members without party affiliation had four seats. This means that the Labor Party and the opposition alliance did not receive the statutory 76 seats for forming the cabinet. It appears to be the first time since 1940 that a “hung parliament” results.

       

The higher the degree of social modernization, the more obvious this trend is. These examples mean that the traditional concept of political parties has in fact been greatly weakened. In the big environment of non-group society, it is the best policy that the leaders that the government and the people need should reflect the spirit of moderation and meet the standard for the best management talents, which is required for the optimized “no doctrine” decision. They should focus more on the requirements of management competence and integrity instead of strongly boosting for representation or sectarian/parochial opinions. At this time, the nomination of candidates by political parties for the executive officials and parliamentary representatives should attach importance to the quality and talent of the candidates themselves far exceeding the backgrounds of the groups or classes behind them. Is this not an echo of Hu Shi’s then famous dictum:  “Study more problems, talk less of -isms”?

   

In view of this, the important function of the governments in today's developed countries is to manage a modern society that is increasingly formed of non-groups and individualists. The important meaning of the so-called representation for the decision-making members of the government is being replaced by high quality management skills. What is needed in reality is not a president or a head with strong tendentiousness or a parliament composed of members that represent a large class, stratum or special interest group. The socially costly system of multi-party competition and universal suffrage formed on the basis of struggles of different representations and –isms have been a waste of manpower and resources. Are they not a mere formality and losing their original meaning? And the many talented people who are incapable of raising large campaign funds cannot participate at all in this so-called fair competition. Should the modern democratic countries not need innovation, breakthrough, seeking more effective alternatives for recommending and selecting managing talents than the traditional system?

    

Up to this point, we can easily think of the discussion of the principle that “virtuous and worthy people are elected” when society reaches utopia in Confucius’ “The Commonwealth of Great Harmony” of The Record of Rites and the related works of Greek philosopher Plato more than 2000 years ago.

 

3. “Virtuous and worthy people should be elected”---advocacy and ideals of Confucius and Plato

    

The superiority of the democratic system after all is that the government is chosen by the people and often in accordance with the interests of the people to optimize decision-making. This is the accurate meaning of “The world belongs to the public, virtuous and worthy people are elected”. This was also the purpose and theme made clear from the very beginning in Confucius’ ideal utopia society in the chapter of “The Commonwealth of Great Harmony” of The Record of Rites. “The world belongs to the public” means the “public world” relative to the “family world” possessed by the imperial family. Using today's political language, it means a democratic society in which “the world is the people's world”, or “sovereignty belongs to the people “, and “governing for the people”.

    

Why should the virtuous and worthy people be elected? In the state system it is impossible to rule directly by all the people. In fact, indirect democracy, also known as representative democracy is the only reasonable and viable option. That is, people rule through their representatives. Because people are not personally the masters, masters and advisers are separated. The British economist John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) said that people should be masters; but they must hire more competent servants than themselves to achieve “Respect the worthy and employ the capable, and put talented people in key positions” (Mencius: The Chapter of Gongsun Chou, Part One), and implement optimized decision-making in accordance with the interests of the people.

    

Confucius highly praised the politics of the noble and wise kings from Yao to Shun and Yu. He thought that they embodied “God’s will”, namely the popular choice. It was said that the viable options then were consultation, recommendation and abdication instead of the Paris Commune-type of direct general election.

    

Fifty-two years after Confucius’ death, the Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 BC) was born. Plato followed Socrates (470-399 BC) who advocated politics by people of virtue. He cared about morale first and believed that only those philosophers who fully grasped justice and had real knowledge were the most qualified rulers in the city-state. So in the eyes of Plato the ideal form was government by the aristocracy, namely, the political system in which the virtuous and worthy philosophers had the highest authority or power of the city-state. Plato had accepted from Pythagoras (about BC 580-500): (1) the belief that all things made mutual adjustments in proportion to their numbers in order to compensate each other to achieve harmony; and (2) the reasoning that social division of labor was based on mutual needs and internal differences in ability, thereby, forming system of complementary functions, which as a result was sufficient to ensure the rationality of social hierarchy and improve efficiency. He used a harmonious view on politics and thought that when the nation was highly coordinated and became most like a single person (like an injured finger felt throughout the body and the mind), all citizens are integrated into a tuned state, most similar to music that combines a variety of strong and weak notes throughout the entire scale resulting in a harmonious symphony; that was the best managed country.

 

Plato in his famous work The Republic (Politeia), detested (especially after his mentor, the great philosopher Socrates, was murdered) the then Greek democratic politics by the slave masters. They took turns for governance and had common people working for the government; he regarded this as a hoax. He considered the society as a coordinated and complementary system of organic functions. His priority was to discover and establish the most efficient access that would contribute the best interests to the society as a whole. He put forward the election method that does not depend on one person one vote, but rather an idea to form a government that would respect public opinion and composed of the most outstanding and best people (including sages, philosophers and sophists).

    

Plato described in his book in detail the process of cultivating talents. All the people of the nation should have access to education. Education was not only meant to educate the public, it was an important way of eliminating and selecting talents. They had to undergo strict physical, musical, then logic and debate training. Then, they were still sent to be among the common folk to accept harsh living and working trials. Only those who went through the training could become candidates for ruling the country. The Plato-planned government would have no party struggles, no referendums, and certainly was not hereditary or imperial. He envisioned a system in which equal opportunity was available to all people regardless of their gender, family background and wealth; and established a system that was based on a universal education to train and select the best management talents. What Plato stressed was social values of justice that were favorable for the nation as a whole rather than emphasizing a position that had particular aspects. Talents who were selected to rule the country should not only be capable, ethical, but must also be interested in public affairs. They were, just as Mencius said, the kind of “ministers who seek the tranquility of the State and find their pleasure in securing that tranquility” (Mencius: The Chapter of Jin Xin, Part I). They could only keep a small amount of personal wealth, but no land and private homes; they were not allowed to have their own families; they ate together, received a small amount of fixed salary and had no gold and silver treasures. This means that Plato advocated the implementation of “communism” among the ruling class to prevent party competition and selfish privileges in order to protect the overall harmony and interests. They could only accept spiritual, not material praise and encouragement from ordinary friends, and their satisfactions were met in serving the people.

    

In addition to such strict requirements for the ruling class, Plato did not exclude ordinary people from owning private property and having family lives.

 

Plato, like Confucius, in the top line approach, tried to persuade the Kings in an attempt to practice his political ideas in The Republic. After repeated failures, he founded a school in Athens to teach students. Plato lamented the difficulties of achieving the ideal, had no alternatives but to propose the next-level good idea of “rule of law” in his last book the Laws. But he always believed that only a government that was ruled by first-rate people with virtue and ability, and who had mastered the whole concept, could make an ideal and better society.

    

Plato's writings on the ideal society have been repeatedly read, recited and studied. But apart from the medieval Catholic Church that had a similar system, in the secular political sphere they have never really been implemented. The modern democratic countries for a long time have emphasized that “The world belongs to the public, virtuous and worthy people are elected” mainly on the representation of the government; everyone praised the election system based on one person one vote. Still, the principle of Plato's ideal of selecting virtuous and worthy leaders has always received attention. Many entries in the United States Constitution are similar to Plato's political ideal; they try to reach the most outstanding, the best people to take charge of the state based on individuals as well as respecting public opinions.

    

Now, it may be time to study and design a modern version of Confucian advocacy and Plato's ideal for China’s political reform of democratization.

 

III. Discussion on China’s road of political reform with Chinese characteristics: optimization, innovation and beyond

 

The unavoidable demand for improvement is to reflect “the importance to make adjustment and act as occasion requires”, and progress with the times. This requires implementing the Golden Mean of “not being excessive or inadequate”, and reach a more effective, perfect and more advanced new stage of democratic politics under the new situation of the new century through optimizing and restructuring the system. The traditional systems of the Western societies are heavy and complicated. They have twisted roots, broad and deep habits, and huge inertia that make them hard to initiate change. If the construction of democratic politics in the oriental world can have a new concept from the very start, and with better management, it is still likely to catch up.

 

The text below tries to use innovative thinking, which is in line with the needs of China's national conditions and distinctive characteristics of the times, to propose a system for its political reform and optimization scheme. The proposed formulation is different from the traditional systems of the West, which involve multi-party competitions, direct general election, a dual parliamentary system and separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, etc. It is a tentative new idea for the reform of the political system and looks forward to the widest range of acceptance (this idea is likely to be accepted by all, from the conservatives to the radical opposition forces within the party).

 

The new concept of reforming the political system is complementary and supportive to the construction of an advanced culture. The premise is to maintain political stability and economic progress. Combining the theories of Confucius and Plato on “election of virtuous and worthy people, the whole world as one community” as well as ancient and modern experiences and histories of China and foreign countries, this article attempts to answer three key questions according to China's current social and political reality:

 

1.    Without the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers and a dual parliamentary system, how can authentic power balance be realized?

 

2.    Without copying the direct general election, how can people’s choice and their will, rights and functions in supervising the government be truly reflected?

 

3.    Without multi-party competition, how can the future for the long-term legal governance of the ruling party be created?

 

To this end, this article proposes to study the following strategies in three areas, which do not follow the beaten track of the Western tradition. They supplement the current reform efforts that are already under way and include: (1) committing to sound inner-party democracy; (2) perfecting the scientific quality and fairness of the selection process of cadres; (3) improving the democratic nature of the government and the People's Congress; and (4) further strengthening the fight against corruption to build a clean government as well as a supervisory system. They investigate the feasibility of a unique style of reform and opening up of political democracy that has Chinese characteristics, which can make steady progress, stay innovative and transcendent, and achieve a breakthrough,

    

Perfecting the mechanism of checks and balances is the imperative priority for strengthening the republican system, improving fundamentally the quality of the regime and carrying out the construction of political democratization. It should be the best place to start the reform of political democratization.

    

Western Christian culture in the Medieval Era benefited from belief in a kind of “separation of holiness and secularism” and the “separation of politics and religion”. The unified City of God spontaneously provided the unexpected natural checks and balances on political ethics (especially the changes brought about by the birth of Protestantism after the Movement of Religion Reformation) in the scattered, independent secular countries. This can be said to be the determining juncture for the barbarian states of Western Europe to come up from behind and advance by leaps and bounds. By observing the histories of successful development of modern democracies in Western Europe and the United States, we can see clearly the matchless feats of checks and balances in ensuring the mega-trend of healthy social progress and development.

 

History has provided us with unparalleled precious revelation: Once there exists an effective mechanism of checks and balances, even the political condition of a monarchy cannot resist the historical mega-trend that makes society develop and progress and it is possible to usher the joint arrival of Mr. D (democracy) and Mr. S (science). Otherwise, having laws would not warrant the rule of law, democracy will turn into fascism, and all the good designs and results of the reform are likely to become empty words or even vanish overnight.

   

Based on this valuable historical experience, while oriental China is constructing an advanced culture, in order to achieve an innovative political reform of democratization, the highest priority is to establish the regime's most urgently needed and most lacking mechanism of checks and balances between power centers. Namely, let checks and balances take precedence.

    

Time has passed and circumstances have changed. The modern world can no longer reproduce the unexpected “separation of holiness and secularism” type of checks and balances of the Medieval Era. If the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers established consciously by the modern democratic nations of the West is not used, then, where should the starting point be for building checks and balances under the realistic condition in the mainland of China? How can the innovative concept of protecting the direction of the reform be reflected?

    

Checks and balances are to create a social force to say “no” when the decision-making or behavior of the government authority is wrong, and to stop it through enforcing power by a certain procedure. This conditional function of checking (in the sense of stopping) is designed to prevent government agencies from making mistakes, especially big mistakes, in order to protect the public's rights to liberty. The most important thing is to avoid the danger of the appearance of despotism or tyranny.

 

It is evident from the successful experiences of modern democratic societies of the United States and other Western countries that effective checks and balances cannot work without complying with the following four principles:

 

1. Powers should be separated or in parallel positions;

 

2. Voters have the last and the highest rights of checks and balances;

 

3. Checks and balances are driven by motives of self-interest, not the empty, illusive public spirit;

 

4. Tactics are more important than the aims.

    

China today can envisage, on the basis of the existing political system, to be led by the ruling party, to work on building the most urgently needed system of new generation of checks and balances in accordance with the general public opinion. But it will not follow the beaten track of the already old traditional systems of the West nor beat the big risk of getting injured in the tendons or bones as in a major surgery. It will not shake the centralized and unified leadership and decision-making power of the ruling party. But it will have the characteristics of the times of making steady progress, dealing new things with new methods and achieving top efficiency.

 

1. Constructing a new mechanism of checks and balances---Assessment and Supervisory Council (ASC) 

 

Envisage the name of this core agency of checks and balances for the time being as the Assessment and Supervisory Council, abbreviated as ASC. The two words “assessment” and “supervisory” imply an oversight function of checks and balances on the basis of appraisals.

 

(1) Basic nature and composition of the ASC

 

The ASC undoubtedly must be based on the four principles listed above, but these should not be achieved at one stroke. It is better to proceed from the realistic condition of the Chinese society. The process of its establishment has to start from a test point and expand gradually. It can be divided into two stages, from the primary to the advanced stage, and gradually raises standards towards perfection. At the primary stage, it emphasizes the assessment and supervisory functions of the council in serving the government on decision-making. This includes the function of providing high quality professional consulting services to the policy-making departments and proposing demands for reconsideration and referendum in the event of a major objection. This can facilitate the improvement of the effectiveness and the quality of decision-making under the increasingly differentiated and complex conditions of the environment of a modern society. At the advanced stage it will further complete the function of endorsing or vetoing the major policy decisions of the government to well-deservedly play its full power of checks and balances.

    

The ASC, as a supervisory agency of checks and balances, should have constitutionally guaranteed rights and an adequate budget, and the same parallel and independent status as the legislative branch of the state (the People's Congresses at all levels). Its relationship with the People’s Congress might as well be seen as an alternative bicameral system of a new concept.

 

The process of producing the ASC members in charge can be analogues to the production mode of current main leading cadres of the government. Under the auspices of the ruling party administration of the same level and through extensive consultations, the party can recommend candidates. After investigation and consent by the party administrations at higher levels, the names of the candidates are submitted to the People's Congress of the same level for ballot.

 

The most senior executives at each level of the Council, once appointed, unless they themselves ask to resign, are permitted to have life-long tenure under healthy physical conditions. The ruling party, the People's Congress, the administrative or any agency has no right to withdraw their posts (comparable to the tenure of the U.S. federal judges; they hold an impartial status and can disdain handout of “food”). But the most senior executives at each level of the Council must periodically (e.g. every six years) accept a referendum confirmation by the people to decide their continued competence. If they cannot get the confirmation, the People's Congress of the same level can remove their appointments through a determined referendum procedure.

 

The leading members of the ASC are similar to the government leaders; they should all be elites of high moral integrity. They should be knowledgeable, socio-politically conscious, public-spirited, and good at organization and coordination. It is better that the main members have certain reputation and high credibility. Depending on the need of the topic, the ASC will hire experts, not limited to one type, to create a strong consulting team. Its composition of course, will be mainly the Chinese people, but can also absorb, in an appropriate form, capable hands and talented people from the Greater China Region and from anywhere in the world or with different nationalities. This means that the ASC can consider the implementation of a “policy of aliens” to embody the worldly mind and the Grand Union spirit of a great and impressive country.

 

(2) Outline of the ASC operation and functionality

 

The senior executives, backed by public opinion through confirmation by the ballot, need not worry about retaliations from members of the government. Exactly to the contrary, their reputations and status depend on the performance of their impartial appraisals and supervisions. The more adept they are at exposing problems in the government work and the more positive suggestions they propose for improvement, the more glorious their future is. That is what the Fourth President of the United States James Madison said: “Use ambition to curb ambition”, which is the magical effect of the “big self-interest” that leads to the “big public spirit”. It prevents the government from making mistakes.

 

The ASC is different from the traditional council in the following sense. It is not a legislative institute and does not replace the role of the People's Congress. The ASC is also not a decision-making agency of power. It does not divide or contest the decision-making power of the government nor replaces the internal monitoring function of the ruling party or the government itself.

 

The ASC must have definite rights over the government decision-making process, including the right to know, speech immunity, and the right to openly express their opinions.

 

The ASC will be directly responsible to the voters, commissioned specially by the voters to publicly evaluate government work and submit regular or timely appraisal reports to the electorate.

 

After a law or a system is established, regardless of the public opinions or the majority, it cannot be changed, unless it is modified according to rules. Therefore, the regular and basic task of the ASC will be to inspect the work of the government according to established laws (similar to the quality assurance operations of a modern enterprise), assess whether the government acts according to laws or regulations and whether it meets the strict definition of rule of law.

     

Within the current framework of the Chinese system there does not exist an independent judicial system like that of the democratic political system of the West. The existing self-monitoring mechanism is clearly incapable of implementing the rule of law. Therefore the ASC will inevitably be the key player as a guarantor in monitoring the rule of law. Its responsibility and significance are not to be doubted.

 

The ASC will play a role of super consulting company to help the government (including the administrative institutions and the People’s Congress) in decision-making and its behavior to strive to be as good as it gets. The ASC at any time can propose a “second opinion” directly to the government to carry out outsourcing-type consulting operations. It has the right to ask the government for reconsideration and referendum on specific issues. The assessment and supervisory functions eventually will be developed to have the right of endorsement on major decisions of the government, that is, the right to veto, to achieve the complete checks and balances by saying “no” under certain conditions.   

     

Some have said that “A democratic culture is the culture of criticism”. More than 90% of the points of attack that America's enemies could find are provided by Americans on their own. Many misdeeds of killing and maiming civilians carried out by the U.S. forces in the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars were first revealed and made public by Americans themselves. The United States is the world's most criticized country, as well as the one most criticized by its own people. Severe criticisms ensure optimal decision-making and make the policy of the optimized middle road viable with no damage to its prosperity and power.

     

In the Chinese society, under the banner name of Confucianism, the anti-Confucianism of the pseudo-Confucianism advocated for a long time the principle of “praising the public spirit and suppressing the self-interest”. This has created a human vanity and delusion that appear prominently in the “national character” of the Chinese people. It is not surprising to see people trying to save their face by saying every fine word but doing every bad thing.

Mao Zedong at his young age wrote that “The ideology and morality of my country can be described in short by two phrases as false rather than sincere and virtual rather than real. After they have spread for five thousand years, and until today, the roots are deep and ingrained. Unless there is strong push, it is not easy to collapse and clear them” (“Letter to Mentor Li Jinxi”, 1917).

 

Make-believe has formed the Chinese historical tradition of emphasizing false reputation instead of realistic effectiveness. The Chinese prefer formalism and like an attractive facade that is in reality lacking substance. They are only concerned with the appearance and form of things, do not pay much attention to substance and content, cannot get serious or their seriousness cannot last long. Many things are done for others to see, such as maintaining credibility, taking care of one’s image, not talking about family troubles in public, “not being afraid of losing a battle but afraid of being down in the dumps”. They one-sidedly emphasize that “morale should be boosted, not dampened”,  which gives legitimacy to lies, great talk, lip service, and restrictions on press, publication and freedom of speech. Under these circumstances, this cultural leaning is difficult to reverse for the time being. But embarking on the establishment of an ASC based broadly on public opinion to reflect the objective appraisal of the democratic culture of the national politics is a safe approach that will sooner or later move steadily towards a fully opened press, publication and freedom of expression.

 

It will take a long time to achieve a cultural transformation from being “always bound and grieving” to becoming “free and bountiful”.

 

The establishment of the ASC is also an important strategic set-up that meets the growing demand of the public and the social groups participating in politics.

  

The development of non-groups in the modern pluralistic society has brought an unavoidable demand of social groups participating in politics. In Western societies, various interest groups express and fight for their own interests through parliamentary struggles and lobbying activities. Moreover, there are functional linkages between the administrative departments of the government and the occupational societies to reflect the demand of the social groups participating in politics. As noted above, the historical limitations of the traditional systems of the West, which were initially established at the beginning of the industrial era, have had difficulties in adapting to this unprecedented modern feature of demanding political participation. As a result, they have become major challenges to the sustainable development of contemporary relevance. So how will China solve this problem in its own political reform?

     

In China, there exists no channel for the multi-party system and the parliamentary struggle of the West, nor is there the broad, legal condition for the freedom of association of the Western societies. Therefore, the unavoidable demand for political participation from the social groups brought by the development of the non-groups in the modern pluralistic society, in fact, cannot be smoothly expressed and satisfied via the methods of open adjudication and institutionalization. There is not even a punching bag to vent their anger or a safety valve to protect their rights. This state, of course, is conducive to maintaining the absolute power of the ruling party and the superficial political stability, but in reality is self-denial of the governing legitimacy of the ruling party. It is the reverse mechanism for the development and progress of society, and source of corruption, decline and disaster.

 

If we intend to avoid the beaten track of the traditional multi-party and parliamentary system of the West, is it then possible to find a viable and innovative path that can meet the demand of political participation of the diverse social groups under the auspices of the ruling party? The ASC may be a very good answer.

     

The ASC serves all the Chinese people. It is not an instrument for a single class, stratum or group. One of the important tasks of the ASC is, while recognizing the voting principle of the minority submitting to the majority, also to safeguard the rights of minorities against the majority dictatorship so as to prevent any person from relying on some form of majority to become influential or from abusing power by other means. Therefore, the ASC deliberations must maximize its function of full consultation and become the backbone for the implementation of “seek common points while preserving differences” (harmonious and different) in national social life.

 

The ASC will provide alternative public and systematic channels for all diverse groups (legal, formed, not legally declared, or even not yet been formed) as well as each person to smoothly express and satisfy their participation in politics. It may play a positive role for interactive feedback to create an ordered and controlled rather than an indiscriminate and chaotic situation. This is more conducive for relaxing the freedom of expression and freedom of association. As for the ruling party, perhaps this is one of the most secure structures of checks and balances. It will not threaten the position of the ruling party and is very beneficial to maintain a political climate that is stable and continuously deepening the reform.

 

ASC’s exercise of the above functions does not follow the monotonous hearings, debates, votes and other procedures of the traditional parliaments of the West, but is rather a professional consultant-like practice. The ASC will establish a number of specialized and coordinating agencies. It will have a huge network of advisory experts to carry out in-depth investigations and studies on some aspects of the government work. Depending on the needs, it may be flexibly directed at organizing specialized working groups, as discussed above, which include a large number of “diplomats” of excellent high quality. They are not going to work in the offices of foreign affairs, instead, they will work as mediators among groups in a pluralistic society and be adept at utilizing modern high-tech achievements of the information age. They will get the involved minority groups and individuals to timely exchange ideas, explore problems, accept mediation and propose optimization programs for solving disputes regardless of their different trade, profession, occupation, sex, age, race, region, income, tendency, hobbies, religion and ideals. These will be the bases needed for the objective and high level appraisal reports provided for improving the government work.

 

After the council system gains mature experience through full practice, it will finally be given the veto power or the power of endorsement. By then the government legislation or major policy decisions can only take effect or continue after the confirmation by the ASC in order to reflect the complete function, in the original sense, of checks and balances. If the government is determined to counter the veto, it will require the passage of an absolute majority, a high percentage, of the People's Congress (high threshold), or a referendum decision.

 

Once the above form of checks and balances is established, the original political system with the absolute power and without checks and balances has undergone a qualitative change. This change does not shake or undermine the ruling position of the party in power. But the regime will operate under the supervision, beyond a reasonable doubt, of the public opinions and appraisals. From then on, there is hope to free the system from the fate of the iron law of absolute corruption doomed by absolute power and steadily walk on a progressive path of political democratization.

 

 

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Zhongjia Pang is the Chief Researcher of the Maxim Academy of International Economics and Sociology, USA.
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