Chinese regional and global strategies


published: 7.07.2023

Xi Jinping and Democracy Storytelling in China

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Emeritus Professor, Department of Government and International Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University and part of Asia Centre:

In my recent book titled "China Tomorrow: Democracy or Dictatorship?" I draw on multiple opinion polls to show that a majority of People’s Republic of China (PRC) citizens think that their country is already democratic.

They are optimistic about the future development of what the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) calls “consultative democracy” as an appropriate way to give more say, if not more power, to non-CPP people and especially elites. They are also in favor of “electoral democracy” at the grassroots level, where both village and grassroots people’s congress candidates are usually vetted by the Party. Unsurprisingly, they tend to be less happy with the local bureaucracies — the government organs that they have to deal with on a daily basis — than the central authorities.

However, by and large, PRC or to be more specific, mainland China citizens — Hong Kong and, of course, Taïwan excluded — support their government. Moreover, there is apparently not much appetite in Chinese society for fundamentally changing the way politician system operates, only a willingness to ameliorate it. And, at least until recently, the COVID-19 health crisis seems to have comforted many mainland Chinese in their opinion that their country is better organized and managed than many others, particularly President Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s United States. Xi Jinping and the CCP’s storytelling about democracy therefore seems to have succeed in winning over the endorsement of most PRC citizens. To what extent is it true?