Monday, May 26, 2008

Shenzhen Democracy

For the past 30 years, Shenzhen has been the big Chinese experiment on capitalism. This Special Economic Zone started from a fishing village to become the most modern Chinese city. Not only is the economy in the forfront, but the rule of law, transportation and civil systems are among the best in China. There has even been talk about a Shenzhen - Hong Kong mega city in its future plans while the development of Shenzhen's airport has been mentioned in Kanye West's blog.

This big experiment seems to be ready to expand to politics as well. Reported in the Pakistan Observer, Shenzhen's steps Toward Democracy describes the future development of an“intraparty democracy.”

The Shenzhen local government published a draft of a document titled “Shenzhen Future Reforms” on its Web site for the public to comment upon . The draft summarizes tentative plans for political, administrative, economic and cultural reforms in Shenzhen and describes 19 key tasks, including the holding of mayoral elections in Shenzhen when “conditions allow.” Members of the regional National People’s Congress will be allowed to run directly in these elections.

By conducting China’s “intraparty democracy” experiment in Shenzhen, Chinese President Hu Jintao is paying homage to the legacy of Deng Xiaoping and signaling that if the test proves successful, intraparty democracy will spread to the rest of China.

The document is a result of the National People’s Congress in March, when “intraparty democracy” the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) version of “rule by consensus” was put in place as one of the key planks of Chinese President Hu Jintao”s legacy. The groundwork for the Shenzhen experiment originally was laid in March when Wang Yang, secretary of the CPC’s Guangdong Provincial Committee, visited Shenzhen and officially announced that the city would “set an example for the nation.” Such initiatives have been tried at the village level before but never in as large or as prominent a city as Shenzhen.

Long a showcase for new ideas from the center, Shenzhen was one of the original sites of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s groundbreaking economic, political and social reform programs and was home to China’s first special economic zone. By formally launching China’s intraparty democracy experiment in Shenzhen, Hu is paying direct homage to Deng’s legacy and signaling that if this test proves successful, intraparty democracy will spread to the rest of China. The province of Guangdong has never built the political power base that Shanghai has, so this latest spotlight on Shenzhen does not signal an impending central government “crackdown” on disobedient local officials.

Beijing wants to build some sense of accountability in the prevailing system and emphasize that the party and government are owned by the people.

I have been recently been considering leaving Shenzhen, but I might just have to stay a little bit longer to see these things happen firsthand, undercover.


Robert said...

Thanks for this Mike. I had thought this would happen at some point, I'd debated with some friends while in China that it would begin to happen at some point, they thought not.

I'd originally thought it would happen in Hong kong, my guess is they are going to introduce greater democracy in Hong Kong and lesser in Shenzhen as tests I suppose. If things go well I wonder what the next target could be. I originally put my money on Shanghai, it has the self confidence but at the same time the practicality not to go rocking the boat.

Mike said...

it seems that way. If i could put money on it, I would say that Hong Kong would happen first. Its media is already defacto independent and the people are of a high enough socio-economic status that it would work.

However, I was really not surprised that Shenzhen would consider this in the future nor was I surprised that Shenzhen would be the "model" for it.


Chris Carr said...

Good post. Glad to see you are up and blogging again. No longer working at the toy place? Got your own business? If so, congrats!

We won't make it to Shenzhen this summer for the annual MBA trip. Not enough time as we are doing 8 days China and 8 days India!

Anonymous said...

Mike, I'd like to get in direct contact with you about a project I am starting in Shenzhen. You can read about it here:

I am looking for contibuting writers.