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Grassroots Organizations: New Structure and Democratic Development


Zhao Shukai, Development Research Center of the State Council

The development of China’s grassroots democracy results from social transition and change in institutional structure brought about by reform and opening-up. The rural household operation system has broken away from the unified commune management system. Farmers’ family-based self-reliant operation has become intensified while the traditional management system is replaced by a new management system and institutional arrangements. In cities, due to the weakening of government institutions and their change of functions as social organizations, former urban management system could no longer respond to new conditions while communities are playing a more and more important role in city management. However, although the appearance of grassroots democracy is a response to problems relating to the traditional system, it also brings about new problems. In rural areas, the relation between the Party committees and village committees is remarkably inappropriate, uncooperative and even quite opposite to each other. This is regarded as the major problem affecting self-governance of villagers. In cities, the work of newly-established owners’ committee is inappropriate with that of the neighborhood committee, with the two types of work colliding with each other on many occasions, which is especially so in newly-built communities and upscale communities with well-developed property management. In enterprises, the relation between the congresses of representatives of workers and office staff and the management teams is quite complicated. With deepened reform of enterprise management system, the roles of former organizations such as the congresses of representatives of workers and office staff and labor unions are also changing. Viewing from the present facts, the discordant relations between grassroots organizations reflect structural changes in power bases since the implementation of grassroots democratic self-governance system. The central role of grassroots Party organizations should be reflected not only in grasping the direction of development and the overall situation but also in respecting the rights of self-governance and relevant social organizations and bringing their roles into full play. This is a requirement raised by the times for the Party organizations to carry out democratic administration at grassroots levels and also by the system of grassroots organizations for the improvement of grassroots democracy.

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