China’s Other Parties: Pluralism, Without the Mess

At The New York Times, Andrew Jacobs probes the role of China’s eight “democratic parties”, for which the annual Two Sessions offer an unusually prominent stage.

“They are fake parties, just a mirage created for the benefit of ordinary people, although most people are not fooled,” said Jin Zhong, editor in chief of Open Magazine, a Hong Kong political journal. “People who join them have a fantasy that they can influence the Communist Party.”

Such sentiments are vehemently rejected by the organizations’ leaders, who say the system works just fine, providing the government with detailed proposals and measured advice from those outside the Communist Party. Asked whether he hoped China might one day embrace multiparty elections, Wan Exiang, chairman of the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang, said such questions betrayed a Western fixation with electoral democracy.

[…] Zhou Zhongxiao, 30, an executive at an online dating site in Beijing, said his participation in the China Democratic League had provided an outlet for promoting his pet project: the preservation of traditional wedding rituals. “We provide a useful service by helping the ruling party govern the country,” he said, adding with impatience, “Why does a party always have to be seeking political power?”

Reuters’ new Connected China site provides a brief primer on the parties and their place in China’s political system:

China has eight so-called “democratic parties” but they don’t interfere with the dominance of the Communist Party. According to the government’s official website, “the CPC is the sole party exercising political leadership in this system of multi-party cooperation,” which has been “generally accepted by various parties and people across the country after decades of practice.”

The parties’ influence is limited and is “window dressing” that allows the government to say they listen to outside views, China observer Willy Lam told the BBC. Their membership rolls are comparatively minuscule, and they are barred from challenging the Communist Party’s leadership.

Heads of the parties hold vice-chairman positions on the National People’s Congress or the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference (CPPCC), according to pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po. There has only been one non-Communist Party minister since China’s opening up – China Zhi Gong Dang (Party for Public Interests) chairman Wan Gang (万钢), who was appointed Minister of Science and Technology in 2007.

See more at Connected China via its glossary entry on the eight parties.

More influential than these eight formal parties are the unofficial factions and alliances within the CCP. At China Media Project, Wu Jiaxiang discusses these in terms of a liberal ‘market faction’, a conservative ‘Cultural Revolution faction’ and a mainstream ‘state planning faction’, while at BBC News last November, Cheng Li described the Party’s internal politics in terms of ‘populist’ and ‘elitist’ coalitions.

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