Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday praised the Communist Party of China (CPC) describing it as an alternative to Western democracy. "Until now, we had been told that the best way for societies to improve was through Western democracy. However, the CPC introduced an alternative system and they have beaten all Western electoral democracies in the way they have highlighted merit in society," the PM pointed out. The western powers, post-World War II, advocated the value of Jeffersonian democracy, human rights, free speech and more of it as a way of state governance for themselves and for the nations emerging from the yoke of colonial rule.
At about the same time China was embroiled in a bloody civil war. China, upon emerging out of it in 1949 as a people's republic, went for a political model based on autocracy and meritocracy with no relevance to democracy and the other ideals and values by propounded western powers as a new world order.
China's meteoric rise from a starving and a marginalised nation to a leading economic and political powerhouse of the world in just 72 years is unprecedented in the history of mankind. Whether China made the right choice for itself necessitates a deeper look into its model of state governance.
Since the end of the civil war in 1949, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has ruled the country and operates a power pyramid which reaches every village and every workplace. The party's 89-million membership makes it the second largest political party in the world. At the apex of the pyramid is the core decision-making body which comprises the seven-member Standing Committee of the Politburo that works as a kind of inner cabinet. President Xi Jinping is the head of the Politburo and calls the shots.
Every significant decision affecting China is first discussed and approved by these handful of men who sit on the party's Politburo which is the repository of all power. The 25-member Politburo is elected by the party's Central Committee. New Politburo members are chosen only after rigorous discussions and investigations of their backgrounds, experiences and views.
Under the Politburo is the Central Committee of 205 full members and 171 alternate members which is elected once every five years by the National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
The National People's Congress (NPC) is China's unicameral legislature which comprises over 2,270 delegates elected by China's provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and the armed forces. Delegates hold office for five years.
The Constitution of the People's Republic of China is a changing or evolving document. The first Constitution was declared in 1954. After that it was amended eight times - the last being in 2018. In addition, changing Constitutional conventions have led to significant changes in the structure of Chinese government.
It is interesting to note that there is no special organisation tasked with the enforcement of the Chinese Constitution. The courts in China do not have the general power of judicial review and cannot invalidate a statute on the grounds that it violates the Constitution.
The western democracies criticise China on its lack of understanding for values of democracy, human rights and people's freedom although West's own record of it is now looked upon by the emerging nations as compromised, politicised and double faced.
China has no plans or intentions to transform itself into a Western style democracy. The Chinese Communist Party, during all these years, has managed a remarkable hybrid communist-capitalist blend. This maintained discipline in its society and state governance hierarchy and its free economy ushered in unhindered prosperity for its people with millions of them moving out of poverty each year while hundreds of them attaining the status of billionaires. Politics is no longer the interest of its population; they want prosperity and fun and they are having both.
Prime Minister Imran Khan's envy of the Chinese model of state governance and frustration with Western democracies is very obvious. Interventions by judiciary in state affairs, autonomous bureaucracy and establishment and accountability institutions like National Accountability Bureau (NAB), legislatures in both houses of parliament aligned more to vote politics and party loyalty than national interest are the factors that have apparently disillusioned the Prime Minister. With the present model of state governance in the country, it is almost impossible for any Prime Minister to come up with a government of dramatic change.
But, what Prime Minister Imran Khan can straight away do is to trim the size of his cabinet (25 federal ministers, 5 ministers of state, and 6 advisors) to somewhat near China's core cabinet of 7 members of remarkable credentials. This move in itself would bring about a remarkable change in the process of meaningful and sound decision making, ownership, efficiency and self-accountability in state governance.
(The writer is a former President, Overseas Investors Chambers of Commerce and Industry)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021