Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Democracy, Participation, and Deliberation in China

The discussion about democratic centralism in the official Chinese press, 1978-1981

Taru Salmenkari

Doctoral dissertation, October 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Institute for Asian and African Studies.

This study examines the Chinese press discussion about democratic centralism in 1978-1981 in newspapers, political journals and academic journals distributed nationwide. It is thus a study of intellectual trends during the Hua Guofeng period and of methods, strategies, and techniques of public political discussion of the time. In addition, this study presents democratic centralism as a comprehensive theory of democracy and evaluates this theory. It compares the Chinese theory of democratic centralism with Western traditions of democracy, not only with the standard liberal theory but also with traditions of participatory and deliberative democracy, in order to evaluate whether the Chinese theory of democratic centralism forms a legitimate theory of democracy. It shows that the Chinese theory comes close to participatory types of democracy and shares a conception of democracy as communication with the theory of deliberative democracy. Therefore, the Chinese experience provides some empirical evidence of the practicability of these traditions of democracy. Simultaneously, this study uses experiences of participatory democracies outside of China to explain some earlier findings about the Chinese practices. This dissertation also compares Chinese theory with some common Western theories and models of Chinese society as well as with Western understandings of Chinese political processes. It thus aims at opening more dialogue between Chinese and Western political theories and understandings about Chinese polity. This study belongs to scholarly traditions of the history of ideas, political philosophy, comparative politics, and China studies. The main finding of this study is that the Chinese theory of democratic centralism is essentially a theory about democracy, but whether its scrupulous practicing alone would be sufficient for making a country a democracy depends on which established definition of democracy one applies and on what kind of democratic deficits are seen as being acceptable within a truly democratic system. Nevertheless, since the Chinese theory of democratic centralism fits well with some established definitions of democracy and since democratic deficits are a reality in all actual democracies, the Chinese themselves are talking about democracy in terms acceptable to Western political philosophy as well.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 18.09.2006

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