China Leadership Monitor

Intra-Party Democracy in China: Should We Take It Seriously?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The dominant theme of the recent Chinese Communist Party Central Committee meeting was “intra-Party democracy.”  China's top leaders characterized intra-Party democracy as the “lifeblood” of the Party and the principal determinant of whether the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will be able to maintain its position of primacy in the future.  Directives adopted at the meeting specify that the Party should more strictly and vigorously govern itself, noting that “this matter is more urgent than at any time in PRC history.”  It is evident that those who favor more political reforms, especially more competitive elections within the political establishment, now control the platform and agenda of the CCP.  This article argues that intra-Party democracy not only reflects the need for institutionalizing the new rules and norms of elite politics in the People's Republic of China (PRC), but might also provide for an incremental and manageable experiment of Chinese-style democracy.  The success or failure of this experiment will have profound implications for China's future, and this development should not be too hastily written off as irrelevant by the outside world.