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Li Tieying, Lun Minzhu
Reputed to be rather on the reform side in the mid-1980s, the author of this work, who is currently Chairman of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, achieved renown as Chairman of the State Education Committee during the 1989 democracy movement. The twelve intervening years since those events, and his frequent contact with researchers from that prestigious institution have produced little intellectual originality.
This book is written in a particularly cold wooden style, and it contributes absolutely nothing to Party propaganda. It opens with two pages of quotations from the thoughts of the founding fathers; on the first page we have Marx, Engels and Lenin, and on the second, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. If this work really represents the thinking on democracy within the Party leadership, its predictability will only come as a disappointment to the optimist. There is hardly anything new in these 441 pages of heavy stereotyping.
Thus we are instructed that bourgeois thinkers and politicians who claim that democracy and dictatorship are incompatibly opposed principles, are attacking the peoples democratic dictatorship Every country that has a democratic system unites democracy and dictatorship (p. 15). Specialists in political science will no doubt appreciate such an ingenious handling of dialectics.
The concepts of democracy and human rights are mobilised here in the service of the regime, but without forgetting, of course, that to defend human rights, one must safeguard above all State sovereignty, the right to existence, and the right of the people and the nation to development (p. 16). And to help those who may not have fully grasped the purpose of democracy, the author clearly spells it out: We believe that the four fundamental criteria for judging the success or failure in building a socialist democracy are as follows: firstly, it must be seen to respect the Four Cardinal Principles(1) and allow the people to be true masters in their own house; secondly, it must favour the development of the productive forces; thirdly, it must help to protect the unity of the country, the union of the peoples, and social stability; fourthly, it must strengthen the vigorous life of the Party and the State (p. 21). Specialists in political discourse will no doubt appreciate this creative addition to the theories of democracy.
Li Tieyings study touches on the question of bourgeois democratic regimes, and he recognises that socialist countries can learn something from their experience, such as the need for the rule of law and the importance of proper procedures (p. 404). Nevertheless, one should never forget, as Marx demonstrated in The Civil War in France, that there are numerous bourgeois parties in the West; they have different names but also points in common: they represent the interests and aspirations of the bourgeoisie (p. 409).
This book by the Chairman of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which tirelessly emphasises the importance of the three representations and the theory of Deng Xiaoping, offers no new ideas. Anyone who expected from him some ideological groundwork for a platform of political reforms to be adopted at the 16th Party Congress will have been wasting their hopes.
Translated from the French original by Jonathan Hall
1. Laid down by Deng Xiaoping in March 1979, these Four Principles are: Socialism, Marxism-Leninism and Mao-Zedong Thought, the Leadership of the Communist Party, and the Peoples Democratic Dictatorship.