An idea from a middle school student that triggered a revision to the minor protection law gives a glimpse of how China's whole-process democracy operates.
When approached about a draft revision to the minor protection law in August 2020, Li Junhao, a middle school student in Shanghai, voiced concerns about a provision imposing a fine on minors' guardians if they fail their duties.
Li worried that if the minor comes from a needy family the fine would make the child's life more difficult. His opinion was taken seriously, and the relevant provisions were removed when the law revision was adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, in October 2020.
What helped bring together the lawmakers in Beijing and the student in Shanghai was one of the community-level contact stations set up by the NPC Standing Committee. Draft laws are sent there so that ordinary citizens can discuss and have their opinions heard by lawmakers.
President Xi Jinping visited the Gubei civic center in Shanghai's Changning district, one of such stations, on Nov 2, 2019. "People's democracy is a type of whole-process democracy," he said there.
"Whole-process democracy" is described by Wang Chen, vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, as "a hallmark of socialist democracy that distinguishes it from various capitalist democratic systems."
Socialist democracy runs through all processes including elections, decision-making, management and supervision.
The drafting of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), a key blueprint for the country's economic and social development, presented a fine example of democratic policy-making.
The authorities for the first time solicited public opinions online for such documents in August last year. Among more than 1 million comments online, Li Dianbo, a village official from Inner Mongolia under his online alias "Yunfan," proposed a cooperative model of elderly care service, which was incorporated into the plan later.
Besides state affairs, citizens also have their say in everyday matters around them.
On Feb 1, 2019, when President Xi walked into a "courtyard meeting hall" in a neighborhood of downtown Beijing, community workers and resident representatives were talking about renovating courtyards in hutongs, Beijing's traditional alleys.
Xi joined the discussion, hailing the courtyard meetings as a mechanism that enabled community members to discuss and decide their own affairs.
The "courtyard meeting hall" in Beijing has several similar models in other parts of the country, for instance, "a village chat booth" in east China's Zhejiang Province. These effective mechanisms empower ordinary people and serve as a pillar of China's people's democracy.
The essence of the people's democracy is that people get to discuss their own affairs to reach the greatest common ground based on the wishes and needs of the entire society, Xi said.
The electoral law of the NPC and local people's congresses was amended to increase the number of grass-roots deputies to people's congresses at the county and township levels. The Organic Law of the NPC was also revised to streamline the operation of NPC.
The country put in place a system through which the State Council reports to the NPC Standing Committee on the management of state-owned assets, a step to sharpen the legislature's supervision. Several documents were also released to improve legislative procedures.
"Without democracy, there would be no socialism, socialist modernization, or national rejuvenation," Xi said.