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Communist Party Member Discusses Democracy in China


China’s Slow Road to Democracy

A Fulbright scholar and Chinese Communist Party member shares his views on the development of democracy in China.

A push for democracy is underway within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to Professor Tian Wei Min, J.D., Ph.D., a political scientist and vice dean of the School of Politics and Public Administration at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing.

Tian told an audience at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus on Dec. 1 that the movement is being led by younger members of the party, like himself. Changes are already happening, he said, citing that he and fellow party members feel comfortable openly discussing political transformation without fear of retribution.

Tian shared these and other views during a lecture titled “Democracy Within the Chinese Communist Party and the Future of Democracy in China.” The talk was the first of several presented by Tian, who spent 10 days at Fordham as a Fulbright Scholar in the Sino-American Seminar on Politics and Law run by Fordham political scientist Tom DeLuca, Ph.D.

Rampant corruption is by far one of the biggest drivers toward reform, Tian said. More than 846,000 party officials, or nearly one-sixth of the entire party, has faced criminal charges, which has led to widespread dissatisfaction among party members.

“The party wants to use democracy as a tool to take down the corruption,” Tian said. “Legitimacy is another reason to advance democracy. Any party has to have legitimacy in order to run the country. In the West, countries have elections to bring legitimacy to government. In China, there are no elections.”

That “legitimacy” has come in the form of more democratic economic policies. Economic growth, bolstered by China’s World Trade Organization membership, has increased incomes significantly over the past 10 years and has helped sustain some party loyalty, said Tian, whose own salary has increased 100 percent. However, the CCP cannot guarantee economic growth and runs the risk of losing power if the economy falters.

Tian acknowledged that transforming a communist culture into a more autonomous model of government will be slow. It will be up to the younger, well educated and more open-minded party members to facilitate change.

“It is not the Chinese way to push the older generation out of the party,” he said. “We are going to walk with them, even if they don’t understand democracy…we can wait until they understand or are naturally out of power.”

— Michele Snipe

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