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China Promotes Multiparty System - 2003-12-04

The Chinese government says it is committed to a multiparty system and that approved democracy groups work harmoniously with the ruling Communist Party. Some analysts suggest that China is trying to publicize its version of democracy before Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visits the United States next week.

Officials with the government's United Front office, which serves to link the Communist Party with other legal political groups, say China's system is more stable and effective than other multiparty systems. They told reporters on Thursday that the system allows one central party, the Communist Party, to lead government affairs while other parties contribute to overall discussions.

Chen Xiqing, deputy head of the United Front, explained that the Communist Party used the system to reach more of the population.

"Although the CPC has the experience of exercising state power over the past 50 years, and the number of party members stands at 67 million, it still accounts for only five percent of the total population of China of 1.3 billion people," said Chen Xiqing.

Government documents refer to the United Front as an "important weapon through which to win victory in revolution, construction and reform."

United Front officials, however, say that only about 600,000 people belong to China's eight sanctioned democratic parties.

China's constitution bans parties that oppose the leadership of the Communist Party. David Zweig, a politics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, says most people who join China's alternate parties want to work within the system.

"The leaders of these parties and the members of these parties know the rules of the game," he said. "These are not dissidents."

Mr. Zweig suggests that China may be bringing attention to its multiparty system to placate human rights critics before Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visits Washington next week.

Other recent political events in Asia, including local elections in Hong Kong and a new law allowing for a referendum in Taiwan, also may have inspired China to show that it is fostering its own multiparty system.