China – A step towards democracy?

Chinese labour camps in Fuzhou City

Since I made my decision to study abroad in Thailand for a semester, in summer 2013, I took a closer look to Asian countries such as Thailand of course as well as China, Japan, South and North Korea. Especially China seems to attract me in a particular way as back in the Netherlands some of my colleagues are from China. Through them I got a greater overview about the political and economic system in China. In some parts I was surprised how they handle things as freedom of expression over there. In Germany these fundamental rights are primary goods of every citizen but in China it is not the case. Thereby I was really astonished when the Chinese government announced new reforms in November 2013.

Chinas communist government surprisingly came up with new economic reforms which also included themes such as One-child policy, abolishment of labour camps and changes in death penalty. It seems that China is moving towards a more democratic form and even human right activists will have a closer look at China.

One-child policy will be relaxed in China in order to pay the pensions for retired persons. Chinese who are currently 65+ are 8.5 % of the population and will rise to 23.9 % until 2050, according to United Nations data.  Since the elderly people will almost triple China needs more money to pay for pensions. Even the Chinese government noticed that for an increasing part of elderly people, a state also needs a boost in birth-rate. How to fix such a future and serious conflict? Of course China just needs to relax the One-child policy. Therefore couples are allowed to have two children if one parent is an only child.

The One-child policy got introduced in 1979. From that time on couples who are living in a city are allowed to have only one child. On the country side it was just allowed to have a second child, if the first child is a female. The reason for that policy was to stem the population growth which reduced approximately the population by 300 million. Additionally, you must critically view this policy, due to some reports about recent abortions and bondage sterilizations. Moreover this policy led also to an imbalance between man and woman whereby China has a huge problem with getting couples together, which is the basis for children. But with relaxing the One-child policy, the government will solve that problem. There is only one question left, if couples, if there are any couples, are willing to get children nowadays at all? 1; 2

No dead line for abolishment of labour camps. In year 1957 a system was applied by the government, whereby defendants could be convicted to very long imprisonment in labour camps without any jurisdiction. They call it re-education through labour. The duration of imprisonment without jurisdiction can be up to three years with the option of one year of extension. Nowadays most of the prisoners are burglars, prostitutes, rioters and activists such as human rights activists. One of the most famous inmates of a labour camp is Liu Xiaobo, awarded with the 2010 Nobel Prize Peace.

This system was launched under the pretext to react quicker on little or smaller issues.  According to a report of United Nations in 2009, 190,000 Chinese were affected by such an ‘illegal’ decision-making. The conditions in those labour camps should be different. Labour camps should make good businesses and profit. Officially convicts are working just 6 hours in factories or in the agricultural field. But even official Chinese sources report about the condition in those labour camps and published numbers where inmates have to work 10 hours a day 7 days a week. One case provided a great stir last year where a mother got punished, just because she addresses to authorities that her daughter was kidnapped and forced into prostitution. So carrying about your child seems to be prohibited in China. But for a final abolishment of labour camps is, of course, no dead line announced. 3

Changes for death penalty or even cancellation of death penalty? Another tiny but quiet important part of the reforms is the topic about death penalty. In 2012 about 3,000 people were executed, after US-Human Rights Organisation. In 2002 the number of executions was about 12,000. Since then the number of executions decreased continuously.

The communist party decided to reduce the amount of offenses which are punished by death penalty, ‘step by step’. However, it is not clear how many offenses will be affected by changes for death penalty, since the government describes their plan with a ‘step by step’ process. It seems that they have not established a final goal for the reduction or even cancellation, because it is easier to hide behind the surprising statement. 4

Could these 3 different examples of reforms be seen as a step towards democracy or is it more a kind of polishing Chinese facade? Due to the fact that most of the reforms which I have mentioned have no deadlines, you just can expect that they will change it but you cannot be sure. All these statements seem pretty vague but perhaps they have to be vague in the beginning, since these are drastic reforms for the People’s Republic. The time will tell if China takes the reforms serious and is willing to change. In my opinion China goes the right way towards democracy but even when they implement all of these new reforms, China cannot be called as democracy.

  1. http://www.cnbc.com/id/101205322
  2. http://www.cnbc.com/id/101201784
  3. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-28/an-china-social-reforms/5177120
  4. http://thediplomat.com/2013/11/china-tackles-one-child-policy-death-penalty-labor-camps/
6 Comments
  1. I would like to add up the one-child policy in China is actually just one child no matter the first child is a female or a male. Furthermore, we have 56 nationalities in China. The majority Chinese people are named as “Han” for them the one-child policy is more strict. However, if both of the couple are minority nationalities they could have a second child, for instance, a mongol Chinese and a Manchu.

  2. Different countries have different national conditions。 one-party system: easy corruption, rampant official corruption ,but the political situation is relatively stable, the continuation of the policy is strong, the policy period is short . I do not understand why the Western country does like commenting or suspecting China is whether democratic.Does it mean that your country is very democratic? I think the democratic society’s candidates like boasting 、 pledged carelessly , and sometimes knowing that many of the people of the Views is a fundamental error, but for the sake of votes ,iust follow the public opinion 。The Government(Western countries )issued policy reform, if you do not agree, you have freedom to express your dissatisfaction, for example demonstrations.In a population of more than 1.3 billion Chinese, I do not say the 1.3 billion Chinese people all in opposing a political reform, Even if it’s just one-third of the population, processions and demonstrations, the consequences are horrific. Maybe these people can ruin China . Population is a major problem, if everyone’s freedom, it is very difficult to manage 。Anyway , the different political system country all has own advantages and disadvantages 。 The democratic political reform is a very long process . In my opinion , I do not care about if China can be called as democracy. I am only concerned about the living conditions of the Chinese people whether can live a better life.

  3. China should evaluate the fault of the individual. If the person has missed a serious, it should penalty in their own country. I think China should make a trained prisoners to have the potential to live, so in the future they won’t do this again. The China population has become the country that male and female are the most unequal in the world. Chinese women have the opportunity to have the option of finding a spouse more. As young people begin to decline. But the elderly increased. The problem is that the government must find the funds to support the care of these older people. Because of the one-child policy of China government. One thing that everyone should realize parenthood. That is to make their child. Whether they are male or female should have right to survive and grow up as a nation to have qualified personnel. This could be the best solution for the children.

  4. First of all I am very grateful for your comments. Secondly, I want to say that this blog is just an analysis of the current situation and the reforms which are necessary according to the Chinese government. Since I am really interested in your opinion I would like you to explain your postion more in detail about the reforms. Unfortunately, I think that I did not completely understand it.

  5. In my opinion, i understand the fact that china has created such reforms and regulations involving the one-child policy, because as we all know, china is one of the leading countries regarding population density. i somehow disagree with the policy because i feel like every family should have the rights and freedom to have more then one child, however i think that a family should not have more then 3 kids.

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