Democracy With Chinese Characteristics Debunked

December 22, 2021 Updated: December 22, 2021

News Analysis

Beijing’s claim that China is a democracy according to the generally accepted definition is nonsense. In practice, China’s “whole-process people’s democracy” amounts to authoritarianism.

Chinese state-run media are continuing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) agitprop campaign aimed at denigrating the U.S.-led Democracy Summit, in which communist China was not invited, while uplifting China’s self-proclaimed “whole-process people’s democracy.”

On Dec. 16, state-run media People’s Daily Online bleated out this headline: “Whole-process people’s democracy is a high quality democracy.” Such dreary declarations are standard fare from the likes of People’s Daily and are endlessly repeated—with repetition being the soul of political propaganda as the CCP attempts to persuade, manipulate, and influence people according to its false politically-motivated narratives.

The claims supporting the headline are presented as unsubstantiated assertions of fact in the article: “Whole-process people’s democracy includes democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management, and oversight. It integrates with the will of the state. It is a model of socialist democracy that covers all aspects of the democratic process and all sectors of society.”

The real facts are, of course, otherwise. The only part that is true was the reference to integrating “with the will of the state”—a veiled reference to the CCP that controls the entire political process in China. Of course, that fact undermines the whole premise that democracy somehow exists in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Let us examine the other assertions in that article in order to dispense with the propaganda.

First of all, the phrase “whole-process people’s democracy” is a classic Marxist euphemism that masks reality. Marxists frequently use cleverly contrived word salads for the purpose of mass political indoctrination and agitation, and “whole-process people’s democracy” is one of those used because the word “democracy” itself resonates with people in the civilized world.

Examples of other such Marxist phrases include the following:

Critical theory: The phrase has an intelligent ring to it. But what does it really mean? Its express purpose is to critique society in order to profoundly effect changes leading to state socialism.

Multiculturalism: What could be better than promoting respect for the cultures of the forbearers in a complex society like the United States? Except that is not the purpose of the word as defined by leftists. Rather, its purpose is to prevent assimilation of people into the “melting pot of America” by exacerbating the differences and tensions among ethnic, racial, and religious groups.

Progressive: This is another word that sounds great because the normal meaning relates to making improvements based on lessons learned. But, in actuality, the word hides the ideology of those who profess to be “progressive”—they are in reality communists and other garden variety leftists.

Undocumented worker: This contrived euphemism is intended to soften the stigma of the long-used and much more descriptive phrase “illegal alien” (or “illegal immigrant”). Its use is entirely political—to remove any notion that the people who bypass U.S. immigration laws, in order to enter the country, are actually committing criminal acts.

There are many, many more Marxist euphemisms widely used in political discourse. “Whole-process people’s democracy” is another example—or, rephrased as “democracy with Chinese characteristics.” Inquiring minds will ask, what makes that phrase an oxymoron? The phrase implies that all Chinese people participate in a free democratic society because that is what the definition of democracy generally means to the rest of the civilized world.

Epoch Times Photo
People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers march next to the entrance to the Forbidden City during the opening ceremony of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing on May 21, 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)

A free democratic society contains multiple political parties representing different societal interests and ideologies that compete with each other in regular democratic elections. Not so in China, as the CCP is the dominant political party that tightly controls and “supervises” the other eight parties that are allowed to exist in order to maintain a façade of “multi-party cooperation” (membership numbers in parentheses):

  • Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang (151,000)
  • China Democratic League (330,000)
  • China National Democratic Construction Association (193,000)
  • China Association for Promoting Democracy (157,000)
  • Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party (178,000)
  • China Zhi Gong Dang (48,000)
  • Jiu San Society (184,000)
  • Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League (3,000)

All of the eight legal parties were founded before the Communists took power in 1949, are ideologically far left, and support yet another Marxist euphemism, “socialism with Chinese characteristics” (in practice, communism as defined by the CCP), and also the “one-China” policy.

After 1949, all eight have been thoroughly infiltrated and controlled by the CCP through the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is part of the CCP’s “united front” political strategy that consists of networks of pro-CCP groups, individuals, and informers who help neutralize any opposition to the CCP throughout Chinese society.

And needless to say, with a total of slightly under 1.25 million people spread across those eight parties, their political influence among the 1.4 billion Chinese people and within the byzantine Chinese bureaucracy at levels of government is miniscule—just as the CCP intends. So much for any notion that China has a free and open multi-party democracy!

The aforementioned People’s Daily article overwhelmed us with a grab-bag list of “democracies” to try to convince without facts that a “whole lot of democracies” somehow equates to a “whole lot of Chinese democracy”:

  • Process-oriented democracy
  • Results-oriented democracy
  • Procedural democracy
  • Substantive democracy
  • Direct democracy
  • Indirect democracy
  • People’s democracy
  • Socialist democracy

What do any of these terms mean in a one-party dominated state like the PRC? What is the context and proof that such undefined terms actually exist in practice in China other than the declarations from People’s Daily? It makes one wonder how the Chinese communist stenographers at People’s Daily would actually take the standard online definitions of “substantive democracy” or “procedural democracy,” and define how they are implemented in China.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping (center) and lawmakers stand for the anthem during the closing session of the rubber-stamp legislature’s conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on March 11, 2021. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Chinese elections are a farce at all levels. Ostensibly, Chinese voters can directly elect deputies to the people’s congresses of townships, towns, districts, and counties. However, the only candidates are CCP-approved. All provincial and national senior government officials are elected by the appropriate people’s congress deputies or are appointed, not democratically elected by Chinese citizens.

Members of the eight minority parties are occasionally appointed to government positions in order to “prove” that the CCP-orchestrated “multi-party cooperative process” actually works. But those people are hand-picked by the CCP anyway to ensure alignment with CCP policy objectives. What a farce!

Another factor to consider in normal democratic elections is the premise that citizens exercise free will in casting votes for candidates. This process has been thoroughly corrupted by the CCP, which is implementing a tight surveillance and social credit system whose goal is to “harmonize Chinese society.” The system will eventually allow the CCP to monitor and control every aspect of human behavior in China—especially political activity and dissent—by regulating the behavior of Chinese citizens based on a point system.

A good title for the system might be “George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Comes to China.” Full implementation of the system will allow the CCP to “commend sincerity and punish insincerity,” as was reported here. Voting “correctly” will certainly be “commended” through the assignment of positive social credit system points. What person would risk losing societal privileges, such as overseas traveling or access to public places, by voting for candidates not approved by the CCP?

Lastly, there is the constant political surveillance and intimidation at all levels of Chinese society by United Front Work Department (UFWD) cadres and informants, who are continually on the lookout for dissension and publicly expressed disagreements with CCP policies or government actions. That intimidation extends to “wrong voting,” too. The UFWD has perfected measures that help psychologically condition Chinese citizens to acquiesce to the CCP in all things, including elections.


China’s “whole-process people’s democracy” is an oxymoron that perverts the generally accepted meaning of “democracy.” Beijing’s version includes complete corruption of CCP-approved political parties in China, complete control of the candidate selection process at all levels of government, and intimidation, coercion, and psychological conditioning of Chinese citizens that crush their ability to exercise free will in the political process. “Whole-process people’s democracy” is in reality nothing but a Marxist euphemism for a communist-dominated authoritarian state.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Stu Cvrk
Stu Cvrk retired as a captain after serving 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Through education and experience as an oceanographer and systems analyst, Cvrk is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education that serves as the key foundation for his political commentary.