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Politics: The Rule of Law in Zhejiang, Grassroots Democracy, an Effective Government

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Part of the Research Series on the Chinese Dream and China’s Development Path book series (RSCDCDP)

Abstract

In the process of reform and opening-up, the Party Committees and governments at various levels in Zhejiang have attached importance to leveraging the political advantage of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and have done solid work to stay ahead, carried through one blueprint to consistently pursue development, they have played an important role in Zhejiang’s efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects and Zhejiang’s modernization drive, and have actively pushed forward transformation and upgrading of the governance mode, promoted Zhejiang’s all-round, coordinated and sustainable economic and social development and created new miracles in Zhejiang’s development.

In the process of reform and opening-up, the Party Committees and governments at various levels in Zhejiang have attached importance to leveraging the political advantage of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and have done solid work to stay ahead, carried through one blueprint to consistently pursue development, they have played an important role in Zhejiang’s efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects and Zhejiang’s modernization drive, and have actively pushed forward transformation and upgrading of the governance mode, promoted Zhejiang’s all-round, coordinated and sustainable economic and social development and created new miracles in Zhejiang’s development.

In the process of reform and opening-up, the Party Committees and governments at various levels in Zhejiang have attached importance to leveraging the political advantage of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and have done solid work to stay ahead, carried through one blueprint to consistently pursue development, they have played an important role in Zhejiang’s efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects and Zhejiang’s modernization drive, and have actively pushed forward transformation and upgrading of the governance mode, promoted Zhejiang’s all-round, coordinated and sustainable economic and social development and created new miracles in Zhejiang’s development.

The basic experience from Zhejiang’s political development and reform consists in proceeding from reality, blazing new trails, being bold in practice, always upholding the Party’s leadership, ensuring that the people become the master of the country and that the country is governed under the rule of law, giving play to the role of the market and arousing social vitality, combining the overall design with grassroots innovation, actively optimizing the local governance system and enhancing the governance capacity, taking the improvement of governance effectiveness as the core and driving force, comprehensively pushing forward the rule of law in Zhejiang, grassroots democracy and the construction of an effective government, and taking a political developmental path suited to Zhejiang’s reality.

3.1 Philosophy and Strategy: Governance Modernization

Modernizing the national governance is the actual requirement of China’s political development and the theme of the times. The 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China identified “improving and developing the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, modernizing the national governance system and the governance capacity” as the overall goal of comprehensively intensifying the reform; it profoundly reflects the general trend and new tasks in China’s current reform and development, and pinpoints the direction of advancement for comprehensively intensifying the reform at a new historical starting point, and it boosts the transformation and upgrading of the national governance paradigm; it has profound implications for the era and is of important practical significance.

Zhejiang, situated in the coastal developed areas, has stayed ahead nationwide during reform and opening-up, and has created much successful practical experience which can guide and set an example for national reform and development. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Party Committees and governments at various levels in Zhejiang have continued to make bold and practical experimentations, blaze new trails, and have incessantly promoted all-round, coordinated and sustainable economic and social development in Zhejiang, so that the small province with a severe shortage of resources was able to unleash enormous productive forces and has gradually become one of the provinces with the fastest economic growth, the strongest developmental vitality and the most conspicuous reform effect in China. During the recent decade, Zhejiang has written a vivid chapter in the province in terms of socialism with Chinese characteristics and has thus gathered tremendous energy and power for realizing the Chinese Dream by carrying out the “Eight-Eight Strategies” and the strategy of making the people rich by starting businesses and of building a strong province through innovation, by endeavoring to build a materially affluent and culturally advanced modern province and by doing a better job towards the goals set for the next 1, 3 and 5 years, doubling the value in four aspects.

Zhejiang has always been at the forefront of China’s reform and opening-up, and has stayed ahead nationwide in various fields of economic and social development; moreover, Zhejiang has explored and gathered much successful experience in political development. Zhejiang’s experience in political development is the specific experimentation in path-finding in promoting the socialist democratic political development with Chinese characteristics on the premise of upholding the Party’s leadership, the people being the master of the country and the rule of law. Deeply carrying out the “Eight-Eight Strategies” and pushing forward the rule of law in Zhejiang is the general guiding principle for Zhejiang’s political development in recent decades and the beneficial practical experimentation in the transformation and upgrading of the governance system.

3.1.1 The Course and Background of Zhejiang’s Political Development Since the Beginning of the 21st Century

The general objective of comprehensively intensifying the reform, as put forward in the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, is to improve and develop the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, modernize the national governance system and the governance capacity. At present, China’s reform and opening-up cause has entered a crucial period and the deep water area to the extent that many contradictions and problems are intertwined. Only when the institutions become more mature and complete and the overall effect is produced in modernizing the national governance system and the governance capacity can China effectively overcome the difficulties in economic and social transformation and upgrading, successfully cope with the risks and tests in the drive towards modernization and lay a solid foundation for governance for realizing the Chinese Dream. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Zhejiang has faced various problems and contradictions amidst rapid economic and social development, and the problems caused by lack of harmony, such as the problems concerning the transformation and upgrading of the economic structure, the underdevelopment of social undertakings, resource constraints and environmental problems, the problems in regional coordinated economic and social development, rural-urban integration and coordinated rural-urban development; all of these problems have exerted heavy pressure on the optimization and upgrading of the governance mode. In response to the new requirements and challenges in modernization of the governance system and the governance capacity, the Party Committees and government departments at various levels in Zhejiang have advanced with the times, and further leveraged the political advantages of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics in light of the developments and changes in the situation to actively introduce and implement new strategic measures in the economic, political, cultural, social and ecological fields as well as in building up the Party, and they have endeavored to achieve scientific development, explored the path of changing and upgrading the manner of governance into one which is more consistent with the requirements of practical development.

In July, 2003, the 4th Plenary Session of the 11th Party Committee of Zhejiang Province put forward the “Eight-Eight Strategies” with great significance, and made the major decision of further leveraging the “Eight Major Advantages” and pushing forward the “Eight Major Measures”. With rich connotations, the “Eight-Eight Strategies” cover the economic, political, cultural, social and ecological fields and embody the practice of the five-sphere integrated plan—promoting balanced economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological progress—in Zhejiang, thus laying a solid foundation for comprehensively achieving modernization in the new historical conditions.

In May, 2004, the 6th Plenary Session of the 11th Party Committee of Zhejiang Province deliberated and adopted the Decision of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province on Building a Safe Zhejiang and Promoting Social Harmony and Stability, making overall arrangements for building a safe Zhejiang and calling for actively building a harmonious society with Chinese characteristics, the characteristics of the times and Zhejiang’s characteristics according to the overall line of thought that development promotes harmony, democracy boosts harmony, fairness brings about harmony, management seeks to achieve harmony, a high level of stability guarantees harmony and culture fosters harmony. The “safe” in the safe Zhejiang is not the “safe” in a narrow sense; instead, it is the “safe” in a broad sense, which is wide-ranging, extensive and multifaceted and covers the economic, political, cultural and social fields; it embodies the organic unity and inner connection among economic progress, political development, cultural improvement and social construction.

In July, 2005, based on carrying out the Plan of Zhejiang Province for Building a Culturally Large Province (20012020), the 8th Plenary Session of the 11th Party Committee of Zhejiang Province made the Decision on Accelerating the Building of a Culturally Large Province; Zhejiang actively brought innovations to work carriers, earnestly implemented eight programs covering the quality of civilization, excellent cultural goods, cultural study, cultural protection, cultural industrial promotion, construction of a cultural front, cultural communication and cultivation of cultural talents; Zhejiang moved faster to build a strong province in education, science and technology, health and sports, and took various measures to intensify efforts to build a culturally large province.

In April, 2006, the 10th Plenary (Enlarged) Session of the 11th Party Committee of Zhejiang Province was held in Hangzhou, it deliberated and adopted the Decision of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province Concerning the Building of Zhejiang under the Rule of Law, specifying the overall requirements, basic principles and main tasks for doing that, fully pushing forward the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law. The strategy of building Zhejiang under the rule of law places emphasis on improving the way in which the Party leads and governs, and giving play to the roles of governance under the rule of law and the exercise of state power under the rule of law in modernizing the governance system and the governance capacity; it is the major decision and arrangement for carrying out the philosophy of the socialist rule of law and promoting Zhejiang’s democratic political construction; it is the early practical experimentation of “building China under the rule of law” at the provincial level; it directly embodies the integration of the Party’s leadership, the people being the master of the country and governance under the rule of law.

Building an ecological province and a green Zhejiang is a major decision and arrangement energetically advocated and promoted by Zhejiang. As early as December, 2002, in the 2nd Plenary Session of the 11th Party Committee of Zhejiang Province, the then Secretary of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province, Xi Jinping, vowed to actively carry out the strategy for sustainable development, and maintain coordinated population, resource, environmental, economic and social development and first build Zhejiang into an economically prosperous, culturally advanced ecological province with beautiful mountains and rivers by identifying “building a green Zhejiang” as the goal and taking “building an ecological province” as the main carrier. And accordingly, in August, 2003, the Party Committee and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province developed the Plan of Zhejiang for Building an Ecological Province, arranging and calling for implementing ten major projects, taking the “811” environmental governance action and specifying the goal of building five major systems. After 2005, the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province further put forward the developmental line of thought according to which clean, clear waters and lush mountains are the “gold and silver mountain”, so that Zhejiang continuously stayed ahead nationwide in the quality of its ecological environment while maintaining sustained and rapid economic development. Since 2013, the new Party Committee of Zhejiang Province has focused on the new situation and tasks to plan and promote the building of a beautiful Zhejiang, thoroughly carry out “three renovations and one demolition”, “cleaning, greening and beautifying beside the highways, railways, rivers and mountains” and the building of a beautiful countryside, and a beautiful Zhejiang by starting with governing the water.

Regarding building up the Party, in October, 2004, the 7th Plenary Session of the 11th Party Committee of Zhejiang Province earnestly studied and carried out the principles set down by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and proceeded from Zhejiang’s realty to adopt the Opinions of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province on Earnestly Implementing the Principles from the 4th Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Practically Strengthening the Building of the Party’s Governance Capacity, identifying Zhejiang’s main tasks and work arrangement for further strengthening the building of the Party’s governance capacity, specifying the specific requirements of “laying a foundation in 8 respects and enhancing the capability on 8 fronts” and stressing efforts to improve the capability of the Party organizations, Party members and leading cadres at various levels for self-purification, self-improvement, self-reformation and self-improvement. Afterwards, the successive Party Committees of Zhejiang Province have always attached importance to building up the Party and introduced a series of institutional documents concerning that building in different periods.

The major decisions and arrangements made by the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province in the past decade—including thoroughly carrying out the “Eight-Eight Strategies”, building a safe Zhejiang in all respects, more rapidly building a culturally large province, building Zhejiang under the rule of law, as an ecological province and as a green province, strengthening the Party’s governance capacity—constitute the overall layout for pursuing economic, political, cultural, social and ecological progress and building up the Party in a coordinated way in Zhejiang; they reflect the strategic, holistic and systematic nature of scientific development; they start from the dialectical line of thought, the whole picture and coordinated approach to plan the new pattern of the five-sphere all-round and coordinated development, creating the good conditions for Zhejiang to modernize its system of governance and its capacity for governance while, at the same time laying a solid foundation for realizing the Chinese Dream in Zhejiang.

3.1.2 The “Eight-Eight Strategies”: The Strategic Program for Modernizing the System of Governance

Zhejiang’s experience in political development has distinctive characteristics of the times; it presents the first-mover advantage in economic and social reform, and also has the provincial characteristics of gathering the first-ever experience, seeing the emergence of first-ever problems and undergoing scientific transformation. As local Party Committee and government, the Party Committee and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province have always resolutely carried out the lines and policies developed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and kept in alignment with the national developmental strategy. Zhejiang’s political development is part of China’s reform and opening-up. The development in Zhejiang can shed light on the interaction between the superstructure and the economic foundation in the historical course of China’s reform and opening-up; it is of universal significance for observing and understanding the changes and developments in the economic and social structure and institutional changes arising out of China’s reform and opening up. As Zhejiang has stayed ahead in economic and social development, Zhejiang’s path of local governance and the problems in Zhejiang serve as the reference for present and future experimentations on the modernization of national governance, and also present the important political practice for realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.

In the great course of reform and opening-up, the Party Committee and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province have made a difference, taken a forward-looking perspective and played a crucial role in promoting economic and social development. As the local leading Party and government organs, the Party Committee and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province have proceeded from local conditions to creatively apply the guiding line of thought and policies introduced by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and actively push forward the development of various reform undertakings in Zhejiang. In this process, the Party and government organs at various levels in Zhejiang can properly combine the overall and local interests, national and local interests, immediate and long-term interests, they have scientifically taken actions in particular areas in light of the characteristics of local development, strengthened strategic planning and arrangements, optimized and integrated the system of governance, fully leveraged provincial advantages, actively explored transformation and upgrading of local governance, thus breaking new ground in Zhejiang’s drive towards reform and opening-up.

The “Eight-Eight Strategies” directly embody a close combination between the socialist theory with Chinese characteristics and Zhejiang’s reality. Since the beginning of the 21st century, in response to the complex problems and contradictions in economic and social development, the Party Committee and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province have profoundly realized that in order to make further progress, Zhejiang will face greater pressure and difficulties, so Zhejiang should leverage the traditional advantages and also make breakthroughs in its strategic layout and ideas on governance. The then Secretary of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province, Xi Jinping, proceeded from Zhejiang’s goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and basically achieving modernization in advance, and the opportunities and challenges in economic and social development as well as in-depth surveys and studies, to put forward Zhejiang’s “Eight-Eight Strategies”, vigorously promoting optimization and transformation of the system of governance and the governance mode and arousing the inexhaustible driving forces for intensive development in Zhejiang. Based on summing up the experience in Zhejiang’s economic development over the years, the 4th Plenary (Enlarged) Session of the 11th Party Committee of Zhejiang Province, held in July, 2003, comprehensively and systematically identified eight advantages in Zhejiang’s development and put forward eight measures for future development—further leveraging the advantages in 8 respects and pushing forward the measures on 8 fronts—thus officially initiating the efforts to carrying out the “Eight-Eight Strategies” which are of important significance for Zhejiang’s reform and development.

With rich connotations, the “Eight-Eight Strategies” cover the economic, political, cultural, social and ecological fields and embody the practice of the five-sphere integrated plan—promoting balanced economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological progress—in Zhejiang. The “Eight-Eight Strategies” fully reflect the philosophy of all-round, coordinated and sustainable development; they present the developmental line of thought, philosophy, paths and methods concerning the economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological fields; they give prominence not only to the intensification of the reform for strengthening the system and advantages regarding mechanisms, but also the expansion of opening-up characterized by alignment with Shanghai, integration into the Yangtze River Delta and the world; they stress not only accelerated building of the advanced manufacturing bases and going down the road towards new industrialization, but also democracy and the rule of law, the building of a culturally large province and an ecological Zhejiang; they emphasize not only the development of the marine economy in coastal forerunner areas, but also the mountain-sea cooperation for leapfrog development of the underdeveloped areas with an effort to achieving rural-urban integration. Their core and quintessence lie in mobilizing all active factors, maintaining and carrying forward Zhejiang’s advantages, and developing the overall strategy of Zhejiang’s development; they present the active experimentations and attempts at modernizing the local system of governance.

The implementation of the “Eight-Eight Strategies” initiated the new practice of the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics in Zhejiang. During the past decade, under the guidance of the “Eight-Eight Strategies”, the Party members and leading cadres in Zhejiang forged ahead with heavy responsibilities, carried out concrete work to make Zhejiang remain in the forefront, so Zhejiang has made tremendous achievements in the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics, and Zhejiang has improved significantly in its comprehensive economic strength, development quality, the people’s living standards, social harmony, ecological progress, its capability for sustainable development and its level of reform and opening-up. During the ten-year period 2003–2013, Zhejiang’s economic aggregate soared from 920 billion yuan to 3.76 trillion yuan, the per capita GDP surpassed USD 10,000 to reach 68,462 yuan from 19,730 yuan; the per capita disposable income of urban residents and the per capita net income of rural residents increased from 13,180 yuan and 5,431 yuan to 37,851 yuan and 16,106 yuan, ranking Zhejiang No. 1 nationwide for 13 and 29 consecutive years; the income gap between urban and rural residents narrowed to 2.35:1, and Zhejiang became one of the provinces with the smallest income gap between urban and rural residents; both urban and rural areas were basically covered by the basic medical service, public health, public cultural and convenient service systems; the level of social assistance increased steadily; the housing guarantee system was strengthened continuously; the ratio of the primary, secondary and tertiary industries changed from 9.6:51.8:38.6 in 2001 to 4.8:49.1:46.1 in 2013; a marked effect was produced in transforming the economic developmental mode; in 2013, Zhejiang’s urbanization rate reached 64.0%, up 13.1% points over 2001 and 10.3% points higher than the national average level. Generally, Zhejiang’s underdeveloped areas developed faster than the rest of the province, the regional gap gradually narrowed. During the five-year period 2008–2013, the average annual GDP growth in Quzhou, Lishui and Zhoushan was 11.1%, 1.7% points higher than the province’s level; overall arrangements were made to promote the building of an ecological province, and actions were taken to build a beautiful Zhejiang by starting with governing water. According to the China Science Development Report released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Zhejiang ranked No. 1 nationwide for four consecutive years in the overall level of science development, and No. 1 nationwide for two consecutive years in the index for the quality of the GDP.1

3.2 Line of Thought and Pattern: The Building of Zhejiang Under the Rule of Law

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province has pressed ahead with reform and opening-up by proceeding from reality, deepening the understanding, blazing new trails, comprehensively building Zhejiang under the rule of law, exploring the path towards the development of socialist politics with Chinese characteristics suited to Zhejiang’s practical characteristics, paying more attention to improving the way in which the Party leads and governs, and to improving the democratic system, enriching the democratic forms, and to giving scope to the roles of the governance under the rule of law and the exercise of state power under the rule of law in modernizing the governance system and the governance capacity.

During the past decade, Zhejiang has made a series of active and effective experimentations and acquired rich experience in political development in upholding and improving the system of people’s congress, the socialist consultative democratic system and the grassroots democratic system, governing the province under the rule of law, intensifying the reform of the administrative system, improving the power operation check and supervision system, consolidating and developing the most extensive patriotic united front. In the general layout of Zhejiang’s political development, comprehensively strengthening the rule of law, actively promoting grassroots democracy and building an effective government make up three basic points in building Zhejiang under the rule of law; they are the important means by which to modernize the governance system and the governance capacity in the new period and during the new stage; they provide great impetus for comprehensively pushing forward Zhejiang’s political development, and the transformation and upgrading of the governance system.

3.2.1 The Historical Background and Practical Significance of Building Zhejiang Under the Rule of Law

Since the reform and opening-up, Zhejiang has always attached great importance to socialist democracy and the rule of law, and actively explored the socialist path towards political development with Chinese characteristics suited to Zhejiang’s reality. In particular, since the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Zhejiang has given priority to political development in carrying out the “Eight-Eight Strategies” and building a safe Zhejiang, it has moved faster to promote the rule of law in the whole society, laying a good foundation for building Zhejiang under the rule of law. The Party Committee of Zhejiang Province has sized up the situation, deeply analyzed and accurately judged the characteristics of the stages and the overall trend of economic and social development, leading to the conclusion that the crucial period of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects is a period of strategic opportunity for development and also a period during which social contradictions are acute. As continued progress has been made in developing advanced socialist productive forces, reforming the economic system and enhancing the people’s awareness about the rule of law, there are new and higher requirements for promoting the rule of law and new demands for the Party’s capacity for governance, especially scientific and democratic governance and governance under the rule of law. Against such a background, strengthening and promoting socialist democracy and the rule of law becomes an inevitable choice.

Comrade Xi Jinping believed that “a harmonious society is essentially a society under the rule of law.”2 Building Zhejiang under the rule of law is an effective way to developing socialist democratic politics.3 As the main carrier of democratic political development, the strategy of building Zhejiang under the rule of law is an active response made by the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province to the development of the market economy and the resulting development and changes in the social, political and cultural fields as well as in other fields. Zhejiang is the province where the market economy developed early on and the degree of marketization is relatively high, while the development of the market economy has certainly brought about profound changes in the social structure, the people’s interest appeals have become increasingly diverse, and the disputes and contradictions among the people have been on the rise. According to statistics, during the period 1998–2002, the courts at various levels in Zhejiang Province heard and settled 1,691,900 criminal, civil, commercial and administrative cases, up 68.6% compared with the previous five years. The criminal, civil and commercial cases decreased slightly in 2002 and 2003, but the criminal cases increased greatly in 2004, up 15.87%—and the cases of property violations increased noticeably. The administrative litigations reflect the changes in the relations between the government and the society, between cadres and the people in the transition period. According to statistics, since the implementation of the Administrative Litigation Law, the cases of administrative litigations have been on the increase in Zhejiang during most of the years. The first climax occurred in 1991 when there were 1,563 administrative litigations. Afterwards, their number fell to some extent until 1994 when their number rose again. Until 1997, the number was basically below 2,000 each year. The second climax occurred in 1998 when the number soared to 3,029. Afterwards, there was a slight decrease, but the number was basically above 3,000 each year. In 2004, the number rose sharply and exceeded 4,000.4 This suggests that the government played an active, and even a leading, role in promoting economic and social development, so disputes were prone to occur between the government and citizens, legal persons and other social organizations. As mentioned by comrade Xi Jinping, subject to such a new situation and new requirements, it is imperative to, according to the requirement of building a socialist country under the rule of law, actively build Zhejiang under the rule of law and gradually incorporate the economic, political, cultural and social life into that rule of law.5

The establishment of and gradual improvement in the system of a market economy certainly calls for transforming government functions and reforming the government’s administration mode, shifting the focus from administrative means to economic and legal means. This inevitably calls for ensuring that government administration is put under the rule of law, institutionalized and regularized, and for strengthening supervision and restriction over public powers, so as to regularize the development of the market economy and the operations of government powers. This objectively requires continued efforts to improve the legislative, judicial and administrative law enforcement systems and mechanisms. The market economy is an economy under the rule of law. The level of marketization is closely associated with democracy and the rule of law. As Zhejiang has stayed ahead in marketization, it is certainly necessary for Zhejiang to reinforce democracy and its rule of law.

Under such a circumstance, the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province attached great importance to socialist democracy and the rule of law, and continuously strengthened the guiding and regularizing role of the rule of law in the course of reform and opening-up. In 1996, the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province decided to build the province under the rule of law; the 32nd Session of the Standing Committee of the 8th People’s Congress of Zhejiang Province made the Decision on Governing the Province under the Rule of Law. In early 2000, the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province further made the Decision on Further Promoting the Rule of Law in the Province, thus intensifying the implementation of the strategy of governing the country under the rule of law in Zhejiang, making the rule of law in Zhejiang reach a new stage and creating good conditions for building Zhejiang under the rule of law during the new period. In April, 2006, the 10th Plenary Session of the 11th Party Committee of Zhejiang Province officially adopted the Decision of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province Concerning the Building of Zhejiang under the Rule of Law (“the Decision”), identifying the strategy of building Zhejiang under rule of law. According to the Decision, building Zhejiang under the rule of law is a long-term task, a gradual process and a systematic project. The main task for building Zhejiang under the rule of law consists in upholding and improving the Party’s leadership, the system of the people’s congress and the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation led by the Communist Party of China; strengthening the development of local laws, regulations and rules, the construction of a judicial system and working mechanism, as well as the publicity and education relating to the rule of law; another task is making sure that the people’s political, economic and cultural rights and interests are practically respected and guaranteed; it is also important to provide important institutional support and rule-of-law guarantee for fully carrying out major strategic arrangements including the “Eight-Eight Strategies”, the building of “a safe Zhejiang” and a culturally large province, for smoothly implementing the plans for economic and social development, and for more rapidly building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and basically completing modernization in advance.6

3.2.2 The Basic Tasks and Main Measures for Building Zhejiang Under the Rule of Law

The general objective of comprehensively intensifying the reform, as put forward in the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, is to improve and develop the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, modernize the national governance system and the governance capacity, uphold the Party’s leadership, the people being the master of the country and the governance of the country under the rule of law in order to intensify the reform of the political system, move faster to improve the institutions, standards, and procedures of a socialist democracy, build a socialist country under the rule of law and make the people’s democracy more extensive, fuller and more complete. Building Zhejiang under the rule of law is Zhejiang’s practice of building a socialist country under the rule of law; it deepens and develops the governance of the province under the rule of law; it is the experimentation on a concrete path in promoting socialist democracy and the rule of law with Chinese characteristics on the premise of upholding the Party’s leadership, the people being the master of the country and the governance of the country under the rule of law; it provides the important rule-of-law guarantee for fully carrying out major strategic arrangements including the “Eight-Eight Strategies”, the building of “a safe Zhejiang” and a culturally large province, for smoothly implementing the plans for economic and social development, and for building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

The general objective of building Zhejiang under the rule of law, as established by the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province, is: promote the rule of law in the economic, political, cultural and social fields through concrete and effective work amidst Zhejiang’s efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects and achieve socialist modernization; more rapidly build a society under the rule of law in which the socialist democracy and socialist legal system become more full-fledged, the basic policy of governing the country under the rule of law is fully carried out, the people’s political, economic and cultural rights and interests are practically respected and guaranteed; make Zhejiang generally stay ahead nationwide in the rule of law, by comprehensively carrying out the Scientific Outlook on Development, building a harmonious socialist society, firmly upholding the philosophy of socialist rule of law, and keeping to the correct direction of socialist rule of law; by focusing on governing the country under the rule of law, regarding law enforcement for the people as the essential requirement, taking fairness and justice as the value pursuit, moving toward the important mission of serving the general situation, and relying on the Party’s leadership as the fundamental guarantee.

Comrade Xi Jinping point out that “As we make efforts to build Zhejiang under the rule of law, we should earnestly work on governing the country under the rule of law, governing for the people, stressing fairness and justice, serving the general situation and upholding the Party’s leadership, and better combine the Party’s leadership, the people being the master of the country and the governance of the country under the rule of law.7 Building Zhejiang under the rule of law is the general guiding principle for promoting the rule of law in Zhejiang during the new period and at the new stage, it is the important practice in exploring efforts to modernize the governance system and the governance capacity, and it establishes the overall layout of the rule of law in Zhejiang, so its impact is extensive and its significance is far-reaching. The basic tasks and main measures for building Zhejiang under the rule of law cover the following fields.

Regarding building up the Party, building Zhejiang under the rule of law poses explicit requirements for carrying out the basic strategy of governing the country under the rule of law, improving the way of the Party’s leadership, promoting the exercise of state power under the rule of law and enhancing the governance capacity. Comrade Xi Jinping stressed, “To build Zhejiang under the rule of law, it is imperative to clearly uphold the Party’s leadership, develop socialist democracy and socialist rule of law under the Party’s leadership.8 According to the Decision, it is necessary to, by following the principle of ensuring that the Party exercises overall leadership and coordinates work in all areas, regularize the relations between the Party Committee and the people’s congress, the government, the People’s Political Consultative Conference, political-legal organs and social organizations, support the people’s congress to perform the functions of the organs of state power according to laws, support the government in performing the statutory functions and carrying out administration according to laws, support the People’s Political Consultative Conference in performing functions by focusing on solidarity and democracy. It is essential to strengthen the Party’s leadership over legislative work, combine the major decisions made by the Party Committee with local legislation, and institutionally guarantee the implementation of strategic arrangements including the “Eight-Eight Strategies” and the building of a safe Zhejiang and a culturally large province. It is necessary to urge and support state organs to perform functions and powers according to laws, and make sure that state organs do so, push forward the work on various fronts under the rule of law. It is essential to support adjudication and procuratorial organs to independently and impartially exercise adjudication and procuratorial powers according to laws, and to intensify efforts to supervise and guarantee judicial activities. Actions should be taken to improve the cultural and political quality and professional competence of the Party members and cadres, strengthen the building of the leading groups and cultivate more cadres, build the leading groups at various levels into a strong collective leadership, nurture a contingent of high-caliber cadres. Solid work should be carried out to improve Party conduct and government integrity and to fight corruption, seriously investigate and handle duty-related crimes. The intra-Party supervision should be strengthened and full scope should be given to the role of the commission on discipline inspection as the special organ for exercising intra-Party supervision. Efforts should be made to improve the Party’s leading system and working mechanism, reform and improve the decision-making mechanism, increase the level of decision-making, institutionalize and regularize the building up of the Party and the intra-Party life.

Regarding upholding and improving the system of the people’s congress, building Zhejiang under the rule of law presents explicit requirements for supporting the people’s congress and its standing committee in performing various functions and powers according to laws and ensuring that they do so, for giving full play to the role of the people’s congress, making the people’s congress correctly perform the supervisory function, and strengthening institutional improvement of the standing committee of the people’s congress. According to the Decision, the system of the people’s congress is China’s fundamental political system, and it is the organizational form of political power through which the Party leads and supports the people to be the master of the country and makes sure that the people are the master of the country, and the Party leads the state and social affairs. It is necessary to further strengthen and improve the Party’s leadership over the work of the people’s congress, support the People’s Congress of Zhejiang Province, the people’s congresses of cities and counties with local legislative power and their standing committees in exercising local legislative power and ensure that they do so and support the people’s congresses at various levels and their standing committees in exercising the power to supervise, decide on major matters, elect, appoint and dismiss according to laws and ensure that they do so. It is necessary to improve the work on the election of deputies to the people’s congress, improve the system of keeping the public informed of the candidates for deputies, optimize the composition of deputies, and enhance the overall quality of deputies and their ability to perform duties. The people’s congresses at various levels and their standing committees should place equal emphasis on performing the supervisory function and supporting the government, courts and procuratorates in carrying out their work according to laws. The standing committees of the people’s congresses at various levels should uphold the Party’s leadership, give scope to the role of deputies, perform the duties conferred by the constitutions and laws, and further improve the organizational system and operational mechanism.

Regarding upholding and improving the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation led by the Communist Party of China, building Zhejiang under the rule of law raises explicit requirements for enhancing cooperation with democratic parties, improving political consultation with democratic parties, further ameliorating the content, form and procedures of political consultation at the People’s Political Consultative Conference (PPCC), actively promoting the PPCC’s democratic supervision, deeply involving PPCC members in administration and discussion of state affairs and reinforcing the building up of the PPCC. The Decision stresses that the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation led by the Communist Party of China is a basic political system in China, it is necessary to uphold the policy of long-term coexistence, mutual oversight, sincerity, and sharing the rough times and the smooth, give full scope to the roles of democratic parties and the personages without party affiliation in administration and discussion of state affairs and democratic supervision and consolidate and develop the broadest possible patriotic united front.

With respect to strengthening the development of local laws, regulations and rules, building Zhejiang under the rule of law presents explicit requirements for improving laws and regulations, the legislative mechanism and the quality of legislation. According to the Decision, it is necessary to, according to the provisions and authority concerning local legislation specified in the Constitution and the Legislation Law, and in light of Zhejiang’s reality, focus on pushing forward coordinated economic and social development and sustainable development, scientifically develop the legislation plan, rationally determine the annual legislation items, further improve the legal guarantee for carrying out the Scientific Outlook on Development and building a harmonious society. It is essential to improve the working system under which the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province leads local legislation, offer legislative suggestions to the People’s Congress of Zhejiang Province in due time and uphold democratic and scientific legislation. It is necessary to, according to the requirement of promoting the rule of law in a unified way, further improve the mechanism for the review of law conflicts, make legislation more targeted and operable and ensure that laws, regulations and rules are explicit, concrete, scientific, normative and realistic.

With regard to strengthening the building of the government under the rule of law, building Zhejiang under the rule of law poses explicit requirements for intensifying the reform of the administrative system, comprehensively pushing forward law-based government administration and developing civil servants who are politically qualified, understand and abide by laws, carry out government administration in strict compliance with laws. According to the Decision, it is necessary to—according to the requirements of law-based authority, law-based government administration, effective supervision, high efficiency and convenience for the people—actively change government functions so that they fully perform the functions of economic regulation, market supervision, social management and public service. It is essential to intensify the reform of government institutions, rationally define and regularize according to laws the duties and authority of the governments and government departments at various levels, continue to create agencies that are more efficient, intensify the reform of the investment system and speed up the building of the public fiscal system.

Regarding strengthening the development of the judicial system and the working mechanism, building Zhejiang under the rule of law presents explicit requirements for earnestly carrying out the measures taken by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to push forward the reform of the judicial system, regularizing judicial behaviors, as well as strengthening and regularizing legal services. According to the Decision, it is essential to, according to the unified arrangements made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, steadily propel court reform, intensify procuratorial reform, push forward the reform of prison work, further improve the judicial system with well-defined powers and responsibilities which feature coordination, mutual restriction and efficient operations and practically safeguard judicial fairness. It is necessary to place equal emphasis on substantial justice and procedural justice, safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organizations. It is necessary to strengthen the development of lawyers, improve the mechanism for the supervision of lawyers, regularize notarial management and services, commercial arbitration and urban-rural grassroots legal services, improve the judicial expertise management system and establish a unified judicial expertise system for the society.

With regard to ensuring that the people’s political, economic and cultural rights and interests are practically respected and safeguarded, building Zhejiang under the rule of law raises explicit requirements for expanding grassroots democracy, improving the systems and mechanisms for safeguarding the citizens’ rights and interests, perfecting the right relief and safeguarding mechanism and really safeguarding the safety of the people’s life and property. According to the Decision, it is necessary to earnestly outline and promote the experience and practices from various areas of Zhejiang in improving the grassroots self-governing organizations and democratic management, uphold and improve the system of openly handling affairs and ensure that the people carry out democratic elections, democratic decision-making, democratic management and democratic supervision according to laws. Actions should be taken to improve villager self-governance and urban resident self-governance, uphold and improve the congress of workers and staff and the democratic management systems of enterprises and public institutions in other forms. It is necessary to establish and improve a mechanism for the coordination of interests and a system to guarantee social justice, uphold and improve the system of regional national autonomy and fully carry out the Party’s policy concerning the freedom of religious belief. It is necessary to strictly execute the administrative compensation system, fully carry out the systems involving letters and visits for lodging complaints to higher authorities, strengthen the organizational and institutional improvement of legal assistance, reinforce the legal assistance obligation of lawyers and strengthen and improve the work on safeguarding rights.

Moreover, the Decision also specifies requirements and overall arrangements for intensifying legal publicity and education, improving the legal quality for the entire population and strengthening the leadership over building Zhejiang under the rule of law.

3.2.3 Comprehensive Intensification and All-Round Development in Building Zhejiang Under the Rule of Law

The building of Zhejiang under the rule of law, as put forward and promoted by the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province, involves further improvement, made according to the decisions and arrangements of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, in the general arrangement for Zhejiang’s drive towards modernization. The Party and governmental organs at various levels in Zhejiang have carried through one blueprint for building Zhejiang under the rule of law to promote the rule of law, seek improvement in the people’s livelihood and maintain harmony. In 8 years, Zhejiang has conformed to the new positioning, requirements and opportunities for development, the connotation of building Zhejiang under the rule of law has been constantly enriched and improved, a local system for the rule of law with Zhejiang’s characteristics preliminarily took shape. First, strengthening legislation in key fields, promoting scientific and democratic legislation, improving the quality of legislation. In 2013, Zhejiang adopted the first local regulation on private financing in China—the Administrative Regulations of Wenzhou City on Private Financing. As of late September, 2014, there were 352 local regulations, self-governance regulations and specific regulations adopted in Zhejiang, including more than 100 pioneering regulations including the Regulations of Zhejiang Province on Promoting the Development of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and the Regulations of Zhejiang Province on the Management and Protection of Enterprises’ Trade Names. Second, upholding strict law enforcement, earnestly carrying out the responsibility system in the administrative law enforcement, ensuring that responsibilities are commensurate with powers, enabling authoritative and efficient law enforcement, gradually achieving strict, regularized, impartial and civilized law enforcement. Zhejiang became the first to carry out the grid-type and fine management of environmental supervision; Zhejiang established the system of responsibility for environmental law enforcement which puts in place supervision, services and communication; Zhejiang enhanced the connection between administrative law enforcement and criminal justice, and Zhejiang became the first to issue the implementation criteria and main evaluation indicators for the building of the government under the rule of law. Third, taking care of public adjudication, procuratorial, police and prison affairs, establishing the red line for intervention in judicial affairs, strengthening supervision over judicial organs and the personnel handling of cases, reinforcing a judicial safeguard for protecting human rights, so that the people believe that every case is handled in an impartial and just way.

In December, 2014, the 6th Plenary Session of the 13th Party Committee of Zhejiang Province further pointed out that it was necessary to carry forward the philosophy, line of thought and methods developed by comrade Xi Jinping for building Zhejiang under the rule of law, follow the arrangements made in the 10th Plenary Session of the 11th Party Committee of Zhejiang Province to take the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law as an important strategic task, relentlessly maintain lush mountains, ensure that the successive governments do solid work in this regard, pursue coordinated progress in the governance of the country under the rule of law, the exercise of state power under the rule of law, and the government administration under the rule of law; moreover, it is necessary to promote the integrated development of rule of law for the country, the government, and the society, ensure sound lawmaking, strict law enforcement, impartial administration of justice, and the observance of law by everyone, continue to stay ahead in comprehensively pushing forward the governance of the country under the rule of law and building a socialist country under the rule of law, producing the demonstration effect, establishing a full-fledged system of legal norms, an efficient system for the implementation of the rule of law, a strict rule-of-law supervisory system, a vigorous system for the guarantee of rule of law and a complete intra-Party regulation system to comprehensively promote the rule of law in the economic, political, cultural, social and ecological fields and the building up of the Party throughout the province. The session adopted the Decision of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province on Comprehensively Expanding the Building of Zhejiang under the Rule of Law, making arrangements for the work priorities in seven aspects.

First, making all-round improvements in the capacity and level of exercising state power under the rule of law; exercising state power under the rule of law is the fundamental requirement for modernizing the national governance system and the governance capacity, it is the important part of efforts to promote a socialist rule of law and it is key to comprehensively expanding the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law. There are five key tasks for making all-round improvements in the capacity and level of exercising state power under the rule of law: (1) making it clear that the first priority in exercising state power under the rule of law lies in exercising state power according to the constitution and ensuring that the constitution and laws are effectively enforced under the Party’s leadership; (2) improving the way in which the Party leads and governs, strengthening the Party’s leadership over the people’s congress, the government, the People’s Political Consultative Conference, adjudication organs, procuratorial organs, the people’s organizations and social organizations according to laws as well as strengthening and improving the Party’s leadership over political and legal work; (3) improving the institutions, standards, and procedures of socialist democracy, including supporting and promoting the system of people’s congress to advance with the times and supporting and promoting extensive, multi-level institutional development of consultative democracy; (4) developing and improving the rule-of-law line of thought of the Party members and cadres and their ability to handle affairs according to laws, taking the effectiveness in promoting the rule of law as the important indicator for measuring the performance of the leading group and the leading cadres and taking the observance of laws and law-based handling of affairs as the important indicators for assessing cadres; (5) strengthening the building of the intra-Party regulations and systems and working system, improving the systems and mechanisms for making, filing, reviewing, interpreting, evaluating and clearing up the intra-Party regulations and normative documents.

Second, improving the regulations and rules with Zhejiang’s characteristics. In an effort to comprehensively deepen the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law, it is essential to first carry out legislative work, solve the problem that local legislation generally lags behind economic and social development, change the tendency towards “fragmentization” in the institutional development of legislative work, and better give play to the leading and driving role of legislation. In this regard, the Decision stresses the following several points: (1) it is essential to further improve the local legislation systems and mechanisms, strengthen the Party’s leadership over legislative work, improve the systems and mechanisms under which the people’s congress with legislative power leads the legislative work, and strengthen and improve the institutional development of the government’s legislative work; (2) it is necessary to push forward scientific and democratic legislation, improve the mechanisms of project initiation, drafting, feasibility study, coordination and deliberation concerning legislation and improve the ways in which various actors from the whole society orderly participate in local legislation, thus enhancing the quality of local legislation; (3) it is essential to start with Zhejiang’s reform and developmental conditions to strengthen the legislative work in key areas including the economic, political, cultural, social and ecological areas.

Third, more rapidly building a government under the rule of law. The realization of the goal of comprehensively expanding the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law largely depends upon the progress in and quality of building the government under the rule of law. Therefore, it is essential to focus on more rapidly building a government under the rule of law, deeply push forward the government administration under the rule of law and promote the modernization of governmental governance. The Decision mainly proceeds from the following five aspects to arrange for more rapidly building the government under the rule of law: (1) taking deepening the work on “four lists and one network” as the means, vigorously promoting government reform, intensifying efforts to streamline administration and delegate power to the lower levels, stimulating the governments at various levels to fully perform functions according to laws; (2) improving the administrative decision-making mechanism and the legal procedure for making major decisions, establishing the mechanism for reviewing the legality of major decisions within administrative organs and the post-decision-making evaluation and error correction system; (3) reforming and improving the system of administrative law enforcement, pushing forward comprehensive law enforcement, improving the mechanism for building a connection between administrative law enforcement and criminal justice; (4) regularizing the behaviors of administrative law enforcement, improving the benchmark system for discretionary power in administrative law enforcement, fully putting in place the system of responsibility for administrative law enforcement; (5) innovating the mode of administrative management service, promoting a market-oriented allocation of public resources, exploring the diversification of public service suppliers.

Fourth, enhancing judicial credibility in an all-round way. Judicial justice plays an important leading role in social justice. Judicial injustice can fatally disrupt social justice. To comprehensively deepen the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law, it is essential to take judicial justice as the lifeline, continuously improve judicial credibility, fundamentally reduce and gradually eliminate judicial injustice and safeguard social fairness and justice. The Decision presents the countermeasures for the outstanding problems in Zhejiang’s judicial field according to the principles adopted in the 4th Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China: (1) ensuring that the adjudication power and the procuratorial power are exercised independently and impartially according to laws, establishing and improving the system of recording and reporting the leading cadres’ interference in judicial activities and the handling of specific cases as well as the accountability system; also establishing and improving the mechanism of protection under which judicial personnel perform statutory duties; experimenting with ways to establish the judicial jurisdiction system that is properly isolated from administrative divisions; (2) optimizing the allocation of judicial authority, improving the systems and mechanisms under which investigation, procuratorial, adjudication and execution powers coordinate and check each other and reforming the system of court acceptance of cases for handling; (3) regularizing judicial behavior, pushing forward the reform of the litigation system centering on adjudication, regularizing the exercise of the discretionary power of judicial organs and improving the mechanism for the internal management of judicial organs; (4) guaranteeing the people’s participation in judicial affairs, improving the system of the people’s assessors, introducing the judicial measures of convenience for the people; (5) strengthening the judicial safeguard for protecting human rights. The political and legal departments across the province made and introduced 33 systems for preventing unjust, false and erroneous cases. The Decision specially stresses that it is necessary to resolutely prevent and correct unjust, false and erroneous cases, improve the working system involving legal principles including legally prescribed punishment for a specified crime, no punishment in doubtful cases and the exclusion of illegal evidence; it also stresses that it is necessary to strictly carry out Zhejiang’s systems for preventing unjust, false and erroneous cases and improve the mechanism for promptly correcting unjust, false and erroneous cases.

Fifth, improving the system for checking and supervising the wielding of power. Power is the core in social and political life; scientific and effective operation of power is an important indicator for measuring a country’s political progress and level of development. To comprehensively deepen the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law, it is essential to improve the system for checking and supervising the wielding of power, make sure that the use of power does not go beyond the specified limits, and is not in the right position and is not absent. Therefore, in response to the problems in the check and supervision of the use of power, the Decision stresses efforts to integrate supervisory resources, further strengthen intra-Party supervision, the supervision from the people’s congress, and administrative, auditory, judicial, democratic and public opinion supervision; it is necessary to establish a scientific and effective power operation check and supervisory system, ensure that responsibilities come with powers, the exercise of powers is subject to supervision and the law breakers are punished; moreover, powers must be put into an institutional cage. The Decision also emphasizes that it is necessary to make power operation public and regularized, further hold the responsible persons accountable, and fully carry out the system of responsibility for one’s work as well as an accountability system. Moreover, in response to the problems concerning conduct and corruption about which the people have great concern, the Decision states that actions should be taken to consolidate and expand the achievements in the activities of making the Party members act according to the Party’s mass line, enhance the system of routinizing conduct improvement, and press ahead with the innovation to the system and institutional guarantees for combating corruption.

Sixth, building the society under the rule of law. The authority of laws comes from the people’s support and sincere belief. The people’s rights and interests need to be protected by laws, while the authority of laws needs to be safeguarded by the people. To comprehensively deepen the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law, it is essential to enhance the awareness of the entire population about the rule of law and push forward the building of the society under the rule of law. In this regard, the Decision mainly proceeds from the following three aspects to build a society under the rule of law: (1) with respect to the platforms for practicing the rule of law, it is necessary to always focus on the central task to comprehensively deepen the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law, take into account the progress made in carrying out the central task to build the platforms for practicing the rule of law; (2) regarding promoting the whole society to learn about, observe and utilize laws, it is essential to make the publicity and education concerning the rule of law more targeted and effective, strengthen legal services and improve social integrity, and ensure that the rule of law and the rule of virtue promote and reinforce each other; (3) with respect to promoting governance under the rule of law, actions should be taken to boost the grassroots governance under the rule of law, improve the grassroots democratic system, innovate and develop the Fengqiao Experience, deepen the building of a safe place, improve the mechanism for the settlement of contradictions and disputes, and practically safeguard the people’s legitimate rights and interests.

Seventh, strengthening and improving the Party’s organizational leadership over comprehensively deepening the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law. Upholding the Party’s leadership and establishing the leadership system for building Zhejiang under the rule of law under which the top leader assumes the overall responsibility is the valuable experience gained from building Zhejiang under the rule of law, and it is also the basic requirement for comprehensively deepening the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law. Therefore, the Decision stresses that it is necessary to improve the organizational leadership system and working mechanism for building Zhejiang under the rule of law, strengthen the Party committees’ unified leadership, unified arrangement and overall coordination in promoting the rule of law, and ensure that the people chiefly in charge of the Party and government organs are first responsible for promoting the rule of law. It is essential to strengthen the development of personnel for working on the rule of law, and build a contingent of politically reliable, professionally competent personnel with good conduct and a strong sense of responsibility who are responsible for promoting the socialist rule of law. Efforts should be made to correctly handle the relations between comprehensively intensifying reforms and comprehensively expanding the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law, and it is necessary to push forward reforms under the rule of law and ensure that major reforms are based on laws.

3.3 Foundation and Vitality: Grassroots Democracy

General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that “Developing socialist democracy is essential for modernizing the national governance system and the governance capacity.”9 In the overall development of China’s democracy, the development of grassroots democracy is always in a very important position and plays a huge role; it is the foundation for the development of China’s democracy and for building a system of local governance. Developing grassroots democracy and ensuring that the people enjoy more democratic rights which are more concrete is the most extensive and profound practice in socialist democracy and the most effective way to ensuring that the people run the country.

The grassroots democracy in Zhejiang has developed against the general background of overall national development; its development inevitably shares similarities with other provinces. As Zhejiang’s economic and social development has local characteristics, the development of grassroots democracy in Zhejiang has its own characteristics and logic. Since the reform and opening-up, Zhejiang has stayed ahead nationwide in economic and social development. The people of Zhejiang have developed the pioneering Zhejiang Spirit through social practice, and its fundamental aspect lies in making bold attempts, being good at making breakthroughs and designing, and being brave in practice. This spirit is embodied not only in the active material and cultural pursuits of the people of Zhejiang but also in their active experimentations with and innovations to the system of socialist grassroots democracy. Zhejiang’s practice of innovation in the development of grassroots democracy keeps great vitality for economic and social development and lays a solid foundation for economic and social governance and the development of democracy.

3.3.1 The Course of Development of Zhejiang’s Endogenously-Driven Grassroots Democracy Which Adapts to Change

Since the reform and opening-up, Zhejiang’s practice in grassroots democracy has been continuously deepened and gradually promoted in an institutionalized, regularized and procedural way; Zhejiang has made active experimentations and practical attempts at villagers use of self-governance, community governance, enterprises’ democratic management and the cultivation of social organizations, resulting in the unique grassroots democratic developmental mode with Zhejiang’s characteristics. Overall, Zhejiang’s grassroots democracy is characterized by adaptation to change, accelerated development, its endogenously–driven nature, and diversified and orderly development; it mainly underwent three stages of development in experimentation and practice.

3.3.1.1 The Initial Stage (1978–1987)

During this stage, the development of Zhejiang’s grassroots democracy focused on building and improving rural and urban grassroots self-governing organizations, laying a solid foundation for the development of grassroots democracy during the next stage. In 1982, based on relevant national laws, Zhejiang organized urban neighborhood committees, established and improved the organizations of neighborhood committees, and made and improved various regulations and systems; the work on neighborhood committees was carried out in an orderly fashion. In the meantime, Zhejiang piloted the election of villagers committees. After the separation of government administration from commune management, Zhejiang established 43,307 villagers committees and held elections. During this stage, Zhejiang gradually established and improved rural and urban grassroots self-governing organizations, preliminarily rationalized the internal relations in various kinds of grassroots organizations, actively fostered the people’s awareness about self-governance and enhanced the people’s self-governance capacity. Because it was the initial stage, in many areas, grassroots organizations were lax, a democratic system was absent, the self-governance in which administration was strong and democracy was weak was apparent, procedures were roughly designed and the degree of democracy was low.

3.3.1.2 The Exploratory and Experimental Stage (1988–1997)

The main characteristic of this stage is that based on the Villagers Committee Organization Law (Trial) promulgated by China in 1987; Zhejiang, by starting with the election of villagers committees, extensively carried out the villagers self-governance demonstration activities, and actively explored urban residents self-governance dominated by community services, experimented in establishing trade unions in non-public enterprises. In November, 1988, the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of Zhejiang Province adopted the Measures for the Implementation of the Villagers Committee Organization Law (Trial), making Zhejiang one of the provinces which became the first nationwide to promulgate the measures of implementation. As of late 1997, there were 43,163 villagers committees across the province, and most villages had held 3–4 elections of villagers committees. The villagers self-governance demonstration activities were extensively carried out in various areas according to the requirements of democratic elections, democratic decision-making, democratic management and democratic supervision. During this stage, the rural grassroots democracy featured increasing competition in elections and a significant increase in villagers’ enthusiasm about participation; the cadres of villagers committees became younger, their structure was optimized, the economically able persons entered the grassroots political circle. Zhejiang started earlier in urban residents self-governance compared with the rest of the country. In 1988, Xiacheng District, Hangzhou City became the first nationwide to carry out community services. As of late 1993, the penetration rate of community services reached 75% in Hangzhou, Ningbo and Wenzhou. As of late 1998, there were 11,000 community service facilities and 100 community service centers across the province. Xiacheng District, Hangzhou City was designated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs as the National Community Service Demonstration Urban Area. Regarding the grassroots democracy in enterprises, the establishment of trade unions in non-public enterprises was another bright spot in the development of grassroots democracy in Zhejiang during this stage. In 1986, the first trade union in non-public enterprise in China was established in the Pingyang Woolen Mill in Wenzhou City. In September, 1996, Zhejiang established the provincial-level confederation of trade unions in private enterprises. In late 1997, there were 2,152 trade unions in private enterprises in Zhejiang. Overall, compared with other provinces across the country in the same period, the grassroots democracy developed rapidly in cities and non-public enterprises in Zhejiang during this stage, but villagers’ self-governance developed slowly, less institutional innovations were made and the degree of democracy was limited.

3.3.1.3 The Stage of All-Round and Innovation-Driven Development (1998–Now)

With the emergence of and progress in the goal of establishing the socialist market economy system, Zhejiang witnessed rapid economic and social development. Since 1998, especially during the 21st century, Zhejiang has seen significant improvement in the adaptation of grassroots democracy to economic and social transformation and in the innovation of grassroots democracy; the development of grassroots democracy has entered a new period; villagers’ self-governance, urban community self-governance and the reform of non-public enterprises were pushed forward in an all-round way, a diversified pattern with three-in-one development has emerged, and a large number of practical innovations in grassroots democracy have been made. In the past decade, Zhejiang has more rapidly explored the effective way to practicing grassroots democracy in the new situation; the models of the development of grassroots democracy which are influential in Zhejiang, and even nationwide, have come into being; Zhejiang has gradually moved to the forefront nationwide in the development of grassroots democracy. Zhejiang has been granted the prizes of local governments’ innovations for the fact that it has ranked No. 1 on several fronts in the development of grassroots democracy; Zhejiang has stayed ahead nationwide in innovation and the demonstration effect—the innovations made by Zhejiang in this regard include “self-recommendation and mass elections”, “democratic earnest talk”, “village affairs supervision committees”, “election and recruitment separation”, “a modern harmonious community”, “wage consultation”, “trade union’s safeguarding of rights”, “non-governmental chamber of commerce” and “rural cooperative associations”. During this period, Zhejiang promoted grassroots democracy in an all-round way through innovations and model demonstrations, it achieved leapfrog development of grassroots democracy and stayed ahead nationwide in this regard.

3.3.2 Innovation Practice and Main Characteristics of Grassroots Democracy in Zhejiang During the Recent Decades

In 2003, the then Secretary of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province, Xi Jinping, pointed out that “Expanding grassroots democracy and practicing residents’ self-governance is an important part of socialist political development and also the basic principle for community construction.”10 As a form of grassroots people self-governance and its operational mode, grassroots democracy is an important way in which the people exercise their democratic rights and participate in the administration of state and social affairs, and it is an integral part of the socialist democratic system. In recent decades, Zhejiang has steadily pushed forward the development of grassroots democracy, Zhejiang has seen continuous improvement in the urban and rural community governance mechanism; Zhejiang has witnessed the gradual formation of a good pattern in which democratic elections are held in an orderly manner, democratic decision-making is increasingly strengthened, democratic management becomes more regularized, democratic supervision is reinforced according to laws, and democratic consultation mechanisms have emerged. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Zhejiang has actively pushed forward practical innovations in the development of grassroots democracy, it has gained a lot of typical experience and developed many typical practices in rural villagers’ self-governance, urban community governance and enterprises’ grassroots democracy, greatly enriching the practice in the development of grassroots democracy.

3.3.2.1 Building the Platforms of Grassroots Democracy, Providing Good Channels Through Which the People Can Express Their Opinions

Enriching the forms and carriers of grassroots democracy and building the platforms of grassroots democracy is an important part of efforts in developing grassroots democracy. In recent decades, Zhejiang has made fruitful practical innovations in this regard. The system of “earnest democratic talk” adopted in Wenling City of Taizhou is a typical example in this regard. As one of the forerunners in practicing the market economy, Wenling City is an area where the private economy has developed, the people have a high degree of independent consciousness and a strong awareness about participation, and they have a strong desire to participate in decision-making and administration concerning grassroots social affairs. The “earnest democratic talk” in Wenling started in June, 1999; initially, it was conducted in towns and villages. In August, 2000, the “earnest democratic talk” was extensively carried out in towns (subdistricts), villages, communities, non-public enterprises across the city and the functional departments of the municipal government; the theme of the “earnest democratic talk” initially focused on the issues concerning the people’s own immediate interests; later, its theme shifted to public benefit issues in towns, villages, enterprises or across the city, and it was gradually institutionalized, and became the essential procedure through which towns, villages, enterprises and functional departments in Wenling City made decisions on important matters. In early 2001, with the support and guidance of the Party Committee of Taizhou City, the Party Committee of Wenling City regularized the form and content of the “earnest democratic talk”, and developed regulations for it at the village, town, county and municipal levels.

The importance of the “earnest democratic talk” in Wenling is that it is an important institutional attempt to smoothen the channels through which the people can express their opinions, and enrich the form and carrier of grassroots democracy, and it offers a mechanism for direct expression of opinions and information exchange between citizens and officials, between the people and the government. After the “earnest democratic talk” in Wenling became successful, “democratic night talk” and “democratic discussion and appraisal” emerged in various parts of Zhejiang; the people put forward suggestions to grassroots governments and communicated with local cadres, vigorously pushing forward the transformation of the structure and mode of grassroots governments’ governance.

3.3.2.2 Innovating the Forms of Grassroots Democracy, Boosting Urban and Rural Residents Self-governance

Grassroots self-governance is an important way in which the people exercise democratic rights and participate in public social affairs. Zhejiang has experimented with and carried out grassroots self-governance under multiple modes. Zhejiang has comprehensively pushed forward “self-recommendation and mass elections” which originated in Zhejiang, and it has experimented with innovations to the election mode involving villagers’ committees. The “self-recommendation and mass elections”, which started in Tangjiadai Village, Yuhang District, Hangzhou City in March, 2005, means that all of the eligible voters can make self-recommendations and apply for participating in the election of members of the villagers’ committee. In the elections, voters can recommend either the people recommended by them or those not recommended by them. Specifically, all of the voters who make self-recommendations have to register with the village election committee ten days before the election, and submit their speeches concerning village governance from the perspective of the positions involved in self-recommendation; after verification, the list of the people who make self-recommendations is announced in the order of the number of strokes of their Chinese name three days before the election; the villagers who make self-recommendations deliver speeches concerning village governance in terms of the positions involved in self-recommendation in the meeting held by the village election committee or the election meeting. If the number of electees is less than three or the election does not produce electees for the corresponding positions, another election will be directly held for the vacancies.

The innovative significance of the “self-recommendation and mass election” is mainly embodied in the following aspects: First, simplifying the procedure and saving costs. The previous “mass recommendation and direct election” of candidates involved red tape and high costs. According to statistics, in 2004, in the case of “mass recommendation and direct election” in the villages with scale adjustment, it was necessary to hold a villagers’ congress six times, elections generally involved voting at least twice; an election in Shuangxi Village saw voting four times and a cost of 120,000 yuan; the election cost was too high. In Zhejiang, the private economy has developed and the people have a strong sense of time, so the people have gradually become tired of the burdensome “mass recommendation and direct election”. The “self-recommendation and mass election” involves a simple procedure and low cost without loss of the democratic spirit; it often only involves the holding of a villagers’ congress twice. Second, improving the working efficiency. The previous “mass election” enhanced democracy, but it was easy to cause these problems: there were no goals, votes were dispersive, the one-time success rate was low, and it was prone to incur such black box operations as disorderly soliciting votes. The “self-recommendation and mass election” is conducive to overcoming the above defects and can turn “disorderly” into “orderly”, greatly enhancing the efficiency.

In the meantime, Zhejiang has also explored the system of separating elections and recruitment in rural areas and communities, under which the election of the community neighborhood committee is separated from the recruitment of full-time social workers; the villagers’ committee and the neighborhood committee are directly elected by local residents in a competitive way; social workers, including village affairs personnel and community staff, are recruited through competition, and the recruitment expenses are covered by governing finances. The innovative system of the separation of elections and recruitment not only expands grassroots democracy, but it also makes grassroots organizations more effectively promote development and serve the people better, it enhances the quality of community self-governance and it has produced a very good practical effect.

3.3.2.3 Strengthening Grassroots Democratic Supervision, Building the Mechanism of Checks and Balances

In China’s development of grassroots democracy, democratic elections were carried out early on, the institutions of democratic elections have become relatively sound and the people are highly enthusiastic about participating in them. However, democratic decision-making, democratic supervision and democratic management have always been underdeveloped. In recent decades, Zhejiang has made sound experiments and has taken practical actions in these respects, resulting in fruitful achievements. For example, the system of the committee that supervises village affairs established in Wuyi County, Zhejiang has been incorporated into the Villagers’ Committee Organization Law so that it can be applied nationwide.

The system of the committee that supervises village affairs in Wuyi County is the result of problem-driven practical development. With industrialization and urbanization, the village cadres in Wuyi County got access to more and more economic resources, while the constraints were relatively weak, so lack of supervision became increasingly severe, the Party members and cadres in the villages frequently violated laws and norms of discipline, and so the cases of lodging complaints about village cadres to higher authorities through letters and visits were on the rise. In 2003, the discipline inspection commission of the county received and handled more than 300 letters and visits, 65% of which involved complaints about village cadres. Under these circumstances, the leaders of Wuyi County decided to make breakthroughs by making village affairs open and pushing forward democratic management; in 2004, pilot work was first carried out at Houchen Village in the Baiyang Subdistrict where the relations between the cadres and the masses were strained. On June 18, with a democratic election, the first committee that supervises village affairs in China was established at Houchen Village, and the Management System of Houchen Village for Village Affairs and the System of Houchen Village for the Supervision of Village Affairs, designed to regularize cadres’ behaviors, were established, stating that the committee for the supervision of village affairs is elected by the villagers’ congress and is responsible to the villagers’ congress, it exercises the power of supervision, it is separated from the villagers’ committee and the Party branch in terms of supervision, the members of the villagers’ committee and the Party branch cannot be elected as the members of the committee that supervises village affairs. The committee that supervises village affairs performs extensive supervisory functions that basically cover all of the activities except those of the Party branch; it breaks through the limitation for which the original financial supervision group and other groups only supervised specific affairs; it focuses on performing functions in five respects: revising village systems, auditing the financial affairs at the village level, holding hearings on village affairs, conducting evaluation through year-end reports on work and supervising the procedure for the removal of village cadres from office. The implementation of the system for the supervision of village affairs with the supervisory committee as the carrier has produced a marked effect; the collective economy of villages has developed greatly, the democratic awareness of villagers has generally improved, the powers of village cadres have been subject to effective constraints and the incidents involving the people’s letters and visits for lodging complaints to higher authorities have decreased markedly.

3.3.2.4 Expanding the Scope of Grassroots Democracy, Pushing Forward the Building of a Harmonious Society

In recent decades, in various parts of Zhejiang, actions have been taken to actively promote consultation arising out of grassroots democratic self-governance, to actively explore social consultation with Zhejiang’s characteristics and local characteristics, to establish various unique consultative decision-making modes including consultative meetings, consultative democratic meetings, private think tanks, hearings and “public opinion weather stations”; moreover, actions have been taken to energetically encourage and guide social intermediary organs, industrial associations, social groups and organizations as well as professional organizations to extensively participate in consultation as well as to develop BBS, online communities, online organizations and online blogs as carriers to promote the online expansion of consultative democracy, gradually shaping an effective mechanism of consultative governance with diverse actors.

With economic and social change in Zhejiang, some new problems have gradually loomed large; in particular, labor disputes caused by the problems relating to rural migrant workers have been on the increase. Against such a background, the scope of grassroots democracy has been actively expanded, and the problems in economic development and social stability have been solved through democracy in enterprises in various parts of Zhejiang. The typical representatives are the industrial system of collective consultation on wages in Wenling City, the mode of trade unions’ safeguarding of rights in Yiwu and the mode of collaborative governance by non-governmental chambers of commerce in Wenzhou City. In 2003, the woolen sweater industry at Xinhe Town in Wenling City became the first to explore the system of collective consultation on wages; after many years of development and improvement, the consultation mode under which industrial consultation, regional consultation and enterprise consultation focus on standards, the bottom line and the extent of increase respectively have taken shape; the new wage consultation mechanism involving real-time “micro consultation” on wages and the three-level collective consultation on wages have been tested. In a year after that consultation mechanism was implemented, the letters and visits, involving labor disputes, for lodging complaints to higher authorities decreased by 70% in the woolen sweater industry in the town; since 2006, no letters or visits occurred, the labor relations have been effectively improved, the rights and interests of workers and business owners have been guaranteed, and social stability has been effectively safeguarded.

The mechanism under which democracy promotes the people’s livelihood in Hangzhou City is another important way of expanding the scope of grassroots democracy and promoting the building of a harmonious society. The working mechanism under which democracy promotes the people’s livelihood in Hangzhou City can be summarized as follows: understanding the people’s conditions to put in place the right to know, identifying the people’s needs to put in place the right to make choices, collecting ideas from the people to put in place the participatory right, using evaluation of performance by the people to put in place the right to supervise, so that public policies are guaranteed by a complete democratic mechanism and procedure from policy-making to execution, evaluation and supervision, and the issues concerning the people’s livelihood are effectively addressed in line with public opinion, and democracy plays an important role in practically addressing the issues concerning the people’s livelihood, providing an effective institutional guarantee for harmonious urban development. In the mechanism under which democracy promotes the people’s livelihood in Hangzhou City, the participation of citizens (groups) mainly takes the following forms: direct participation in evaluating major projects, mass-decentralization participation with stakeholders as main participants, open decision-making and democratic discussion and appraisal. Hangzhou’s grassroots practice in which democracy promotes the people’s livelihood has played an important role in promoting citizens’ orderly participation, collecting appeals from the people, as well as enhancing policy cognition and government effectiveness.

Overall, the course of grassroots democratic development in Zhejiang is characterized by an adaptation to change, accelerated development, which is endogenously driven, diversified and orderly development. The pioneering Zhejiang Spirit is embodied not only in economic development but also in democracy. In Zhejiang, with rapid economic development, especially the rise of the private economy, the original systems have failed to address the new situation, so institutional changes and practical innovations have been triggered, and so new systems emerge. This is also the main path for many practical innovations in grassroots democracy. It can be found that the practical innovations in Zhejiang’s grassroots democracy are often generated to overcome difficulties under a particular developmental situation and are highly realistic. Therefore, Zhejiang’s grassroots democracy is promoted in a localized way; with institutional innovations rooted in local soil, they have distinctive local characteristics, they stress practical results and do not impose uniformity. In general, only when actions are based on the reality, conform to the times and are realistic and pragmatic, and grassroots democratic innovations are made according to local conditions can the development of grassroots democracy become more targeted and fruitful and become vibrant. This is also the basic experience gained from practical innovations in Zhejiang’s grassroots democracy.

3.4 Priority and Key: An Effective Government

Thanks to the reform and opening-up, historic tremendous changes have taken place in China. China has successfully embarked on a road towards modernization with Chinese characteristics. In the wave of reform and opening-up, Zhejiang has stood out, caught up from behind, created a legend in China’s development; Zhejiang has also provided valuable experience and inspirations for China’s development. In the process of reform and opening-up, the Party and government organs at various levels in Zhejiang have provided correct guidance, exercised scientific management and played a crucial role in economic and social development, so Zhejiang has taken a new path which accords with Zhejiang’s reality, and is suitable for developing a socialist market economy, achieving scientific development and promoting the transformation of the local governance mode. In recent decades, Zhejiang has proceeded from reality to creatively adjust the government’s roles and functions, thus boosting rapid economic and social development in Zhejiang. The government’s roles and functions have generally changed from the traditional mode of governing by noninterference to the mode of scientific improvement; Zhejiang has intensified the reform of the administrative system in various respects and fields, it has pushed forward the transformation of government functions and made innovations to the management mode, giving rise to practical innovations which can serve as models.

3.4.1 Actively Promoting the Transformation of Government Functions

The transformation of government functions is the core of the reform of the administrative system; its key lies in properly handling the relations between the government and the market, between the government and the society, ensuring that the market plays the decisive role in resource allocation and the government plays its role better. When working in Zhejiang, comrade Xi Jinping pointed out, “We should lose no time in intensifying the reform of the administrative system, speeding up the transformation of government functions; it is necessary to further rationalize the relations between the government and the market, between the government and the society and between the government and enterprises; it is also necessary to strengthen the government functions of social management and public service while working on economic regulation and market supervision.”11 In a decade, with government reform, Zhejiang has greatly reduced the direct allocation of resources by the government and has based resource allocation on market rules, market prices and market competition so as to maximize benefits and optimize the efficiency. The government is mainly responsible for ensuring that the macro economy is stable, guaranteeing fair competition, strengthening market supervision, safeguarding market order, promoting sustainable development and common prosperity, and building a basic public service system beneficial to the entire population.

3.4.1.1 Strengthening the Function of Public Services, Building a Universal Public Service System

In November, 2004, in response to the most pressing, most immediate issues that concern the people the most, the Party Committee and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province issued Several Opinions on Establishing and Improving the Long-term Mechanism for Doing Substantive Work for the People, systematically identifying ten practical work priorities, including employment and reemployment, social security, science, education and culture, medical service and health, infrastructure, rural and urban housing, ecological environment, poverty relief and development, the safeguarding of rights and interests and social stability. The People’s Government of Zhejiang Province made annual commitments in its government work reports for ten consecutive years, actively promoted the work in various fields to make sure that the relevant work was entirely completed. In the field of social security, Zhejiang has changed from single breakthrough to holistic promotion, from policy adjustment to the rule of law, from urban security to rural-urban integration; Zhejiang has established a well-functioning multi-level social security system covering rural and urban areas, and has basically built an extensive three-in-one social security system in which employment and reemployment, social insurance and social assistance are interconnected and promote each other. In the educational field, Zhejiang has worked on promoting balanced development of compulsory education, improving the mechanism for a fund guarantee for compulsory education, leading to a substantial increase in educational funds. In Zhejiang, the per capita public fund standard for junior middle school students and primary school students increased from 460 yuan and 295 yuan in 2005 to 750 yuan and 550 yuan in 2013; in the meantime, Zhejiang fully carried out such programs as the expansion of assistance to poverty-stricken students, loving-care nutritional meals, school board and lodging renovation, improvement of the quality of teachers and the safety of middle and primary school houses to improve the school running conditions for rural compulsory education; Zhejiang became the first across the country to basically popularize 15-year compulsory education from three years before schooling to senior high school, and has achieved rural-urban free compulsory education.

3.4.1.2 Comprehensively Pushing Forward the Building of a Safe Zhejiang, Actively Bringing Innovations to Social Governance

In recent decades, the governments at various levels in Zhejiang have, by focusing on comprehensively building a safe Zhejiang, earnestly solved the problems concerning the violation of the rights and interests of urban and rural residents in land requisition, housing demolition and relocation as well as enterprise restructuring, with active efforts at safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of the disadvantaged groups; Zhejiang has developed the policy documents for reinforcing the management of services relating to rural migrant workers; Zhejiang has strengthened labor security supervision and law enforcement, it has established the government emergency fund for unpaid wages and the security deposit system for wage payment in such fields as construction; Zhejiang has actively safeguarded public security by developing and improving the Overall Emergency Plan of Zhejiang Province for Public Emergencies and other early warning mechanisms and emergency plans, strengthening the management of public emergencies, regularizing and institutionalizing emergency response; Zhejiang has strictly carried out the responsibility system for work safety, solidly taken special rectification actions in key fields and weak links; as a result, the number of accidents, the death toll and direct economic loss on Zhejiang have grown negatively for ten consecutive years since 2004. In the meantime, Zhejiang has improved the system of prevention and control for public security, so that the people have a higher sense of safety.

3.4.1.3 Building a Green Zhejiang, Strengthening Environmental Protection and Ecological Improvement

One of the outstanding features in the transformation of Zhejiang’s developmental philosophy is that Zhejiang has attached great importance to environmental protection and ecological improvement and has taken environmental protection and ecological improvement as an important part of the government’s efforts to perform public service functions. Since the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province, based on the goal of building a green Zhejiang and with the building of an ecological province as the carrier and breakthrough, has further vowed to take the developmental path featuring increased production, higher living standards, and healthy ecosystems. Zhejiang has energetically brought innovations to the working carriers, vigorously governed “five waters” in tandem, carried out the action plan for resource saving and environmental protection, the “811” three-year initiative and new three-year initiative for environmental protection, the “991” action plan for the circular economy, ten major projects for energy saving and consumption reduction, six major projects for land saving and intensive land use to build a pilot province of the circular economy, an ecological province and a green Zhejiang. Ecological improvement has been further strengthened, the forest coverage rate is higher than 60%; Zhejiang has established an ecological financial transfer payment system covering the areas where eight major water systems originate across the province; Zhejiang has become the first nationwide to pilot ecological restoration of the course of water in the Ou River. Zhejiang has become the first nationwide to build the facilities for centralized treatment of municipal sewage and centralized disposal of domestic waste above the county level, and to build an automatic monitoring network for environmental quality and major pollution sources; Zhejiang has launched the 10-billion project for water resource guarantee for the period of the 11th Five-Year Plan, and the quality of the ecological environment has steadily improved throughout the province.

Furthermore, since 2004, in response to a long period of a wide and increasing rural-urban gap, Zhejiang has given priority to promoting coordinated development between urban and rural areas and among regions, and it has intensified efforts in coordinated development, carried out the action plan for ensuring equal access to basic public services and the project of “1,000-village demonstration and 10,000-village rectification”, and allocated more public resources of the government to particular areas in order to accelerate the construction of a new countryside and the development of the underdeveloped areas, thus achieving balanced development between rural and urban areas. In the meantime, Zhejiang has also speeded up the construction of infrastructures in a more networked and systematic way, and it has more rapidly pushed forward the action plan for carrying out major projects and major government-led construction projects; Zhejiang has successfully completed five major 10-billion projects; Zhejiang is making regular progress in three 100-billion projects; The Hangzhou Bay Sea-crossing Bridge, the Zhoushan Sea-crossing Bridge, the Dongtou Peninsula Project and the Ningbo-Taizhou-Wenzhou Railway have been completed and are open to traffic; a crisscross integrated transportation network has taken shape, and the competitiveness of regional economy has improved significantly.

3.4.2 Gradually Intensifying the Reform of the Administrative System

Reforming the administrative system is the inevitable requirement for adapting the superstructure to the economic foundation, while government functions cannot be changed unless the reform of the administrative system has been intensified. In recent years, Zhejiang has incessantly intensified the reform of the administrative system in various respects and fields, pushed forward the transformation of government functions and innovations in the managerial mode, giving rise to a number of typical practical innovations.

3.4.2.1 Intensifying the Reform Involving the Expansion of the Powers of Strong Counties

In the process of marketalization, the Party Committee and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province have energetically delegated administrative powers to lower levels, continuously optimized the allocation of powers among the governments at various levels, experimented in shifting direct administration of counties by the provincial government from the fiscal field to the administrative field, thus effectively arousing the enthusiasm of grassroots governments. Since the 1990s, Zhejiang has introduced policies four times to expand the economic management authority of the economically developed counties (county-level cities). In 2002, the Party Committee and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province undertook a new round of policies involving the expansion of the powers of strong counties by delegating the economic management authority, involving 313 items under 12 categories, originally granted to the prefecture-level cities, to 17 counties (county-level cities) and Xiaoshan District, Yuhang District and Yinzhou District. In November, 2006, Zhejiang issued Several Opinions on Carrying out Pilot Reform Involving the Expansion of the Economic and Social Management Authority of Yiwu City, identifying Yiwu City as the pilot area for carrying out the reform involving further expansion of the economic and social managerial authority of county governments. In December, 2008, based on summing up Yiwu City’s experience in pilot reform involving the expansion of powers, Zhejiang issued the Circular Concerning the Expansion of the Economic and Social Management Authority of Some Counties (County-level Cities), calling for expanding the powers of strong counties in an all-round way across the province. The reform involving expansion of the powers of strong counties has further increased the autonomy of grassroots governments, enhanced the administrative efficiency and promoted the development and prosperity of the county’s economy.

3.4.2.2 Intensifying the Reform of the Administrative Examination and Approval System, Introducing “Four Lists and One Network”

The administrative examination and approval system is an important mode for power arrangement under which the government regulates, manages and serves economic and social public affairs; it directly embodies the relations between the government and the market, between the government and the society and among governments. With progress in the fourth round of reform designed to streamline administration and delegate power to the lower levels, Zhejiang has introduced “four lists and one network”—the list of the powers of government departments, the negative list of enterprise investments, the management list of special fiscal funds, the list of responsibilities—and has lost no time in building a governmental network of services for interaction among the provincial, municipal and county levels. Since Zhejiang officially initiated a new round of reform of the administrative examination and approval system in 2013, in Zhejiang, the number of items subject to provincial administrative licensing decreased from 706 to 424, the number of items not subject to provincial administrative licensing decreased from 560 to 96, the number of items subject to provincial examination and approval declined by 59%. The time for completing administrative procedures in terms of government-invested projects and enterprise-invested projects was shortened from 360 days and 300 days to 60 days and 55 days, respectively; the time for establishing trading entities was shortened from 30 to 10 days.12 The “four lists and one network” intensify the reform of the administrative examination and approval system in Zhejiang and represent a power revolution focusing on clearing up, ascertaining and checking powers; they can serve as an important reference nationwide.

3.4.2.3 Exploring and Pressing Ahead with the Reform Involving the System of Larger Government Departments that Integrate the Functions Smaller Ones Had Performed

In March, 2013, Zhoushan City fully initiated innovations to the administrative system by focusing on enhancing the capability of coordinated development of new areas, development, protection and comprehensive management of the sea and sea islands, and by strengthening the function of coordinating the new areas, the transformation of government functions, the building of economic function zones, and by optimizing the setting of departments and agencies, the administrative division of towns (subdistricts), grassroots social management and public services, and by building a structurally rational and efficient administrative system with streamlined government organs and integrated functions. To further optimize the setting of departments and agencies, Zhoushan has established the offices of the Party working committees and management committees of new areas, and merged them with the offices of the Party Committee and the People’s Government of Zhoushan City while keeping their separate identities; Zhoushan has also steadily carried out the reform involving the system of larger government departments responsible for market, agricultural, cultural and health affairs. It has established a market regulation administration, and has fully integrated the functions and forces involving industry, commerce, quality supervision and food and drug control at the municipal, county (district) and town (subdistrict) levels; it has become the first nationwide to explore and build a system of overland comprehensive law enforcement and a system of marine joint law enforcement. After agency integration, the number of working departments under the municipal Party committee and the municipal government decreased from 11 and 34 to 8 and 25, respectively; the working departments under the Party committees and governments of the four counties (districts) of Zhoushan City were downsized by 24–40%. The number of positions at the county division level in 29 municipal units decreased by 46, the number of positions at the section level declined by 79, a decrease of 27.9% and 16.8%.

3.4.3 Strengthening Innovations in the Mode of Government Management

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the governments at various levels in Zhejiang have actively explored and carried out innovations to the mode of government management and the reform of the administrative operation mechanism and has constantly increased the level of management and administrative effectiveness, with a view to building a functionally scientific, structurally optimal, clean and efficient service-oriented government satisfactory to the people.

3.4.3.1 Establishing a Scientific, Democratic and Open Decision-Making Mechanism

The government’s decision-making has a direct bearing on economic and social development and the immediate interests of the people; reforming and improving the mechanism for the formation and execution of government decision-making so as to adapt it to economic, social and scientific development has become a priority in government self-improvement. In recent decades, with respect to the major issues in the administrative process and the major matters concerning the immediate interests of the general public and social public interests and urban master planning, the important government-invested social facilities and the benchmark price in urban housing demolition and relocation, the governments at various levels in Zhejiang have extensively solicited opinions and suggestions from democratic parties, groups of the masses, the deputies to the people’s congress, citizens and enterprises through meetings with citizens, hearings, questionnaires, public opinion polls and online channels; active explorations have also been made to introduce the mechanism of third-party risk evaluation of government decision-making, thus greatly broadening the channels through which the general public and the society can participate in government decision-making, enhancing the citizens’ enthusiasm about government decision-making and making decisions more scientific, democratic and institutionalized.

3.4.3.2 Strengthening the Supervision and Management of the Leading Cadres

Comrade Xi Jinping held that “the leading cadres are the main targets of improvement in conduct.”13 In June, 2004, Zhejiang issued the Opinions on the Evaluation of the Life Circle and the Social Circle of the Leading Cadres, calling for fully evaluating the life circle and the social circle of the cadres below the county division level in the municipal and county Party and government organs. In order to strengthen focused management of the cadres at the key posts, in 2006, Zhejiang issued the Opinions on Further Strengthening and Improving the Routine Management of the Leading Cadres Directly Managed by the Provincial Organizational Department, specifying the measures for intellectual and political improvement and the routine management of the cadres directly managed by the department of provincial organization. In 2009, Zhejiang conducted a centralized annual evaluation of 1,518 leading cadres directly managed by the provincial organizational department for the first time, and issued the Implementation Opinions on Further Strengthening the Development of the Secretaries of the County Party Committees, intensifying efforts in selection and appointment, education and training, classified evaluation, supervision and management of the secretaries of the county Party committees. During the period 2004–2009, Zhejiang conducted an economic responsibility audit of the people chiefly in charge of 103 units directly under the provincial government, 5 mayors and 56 heads of counties (county-level cities, districts). Since 2009, Zhejiang has fully conducted economic responsibility audits of the secretaries of county (county-level city, district) Party committees and the heads of counties (county-level cities, districts) at the same time.14

3.4.3.3 Vigorously Strengthening the Mechanism of Supervision of Rendering Power Operations Public

Strengthening the supervision over power operations is a priority in Zhejiang’s work on combating corruption and upholding integrity. The Party Committee and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province have, with the goal of building a clean government, pushed forward supervision over power operations through the Sunshine Project, and established and improved an effective mechanism for rendering power operations public and transparent. In 2012, Zhejiang issued the Opinions on Thoroughly Carrying out the Sunshine Project getting power operations out in the open and achieving the working goal of covering all departments, making all matters public, regularizing the whole process, making the results transparent and exercising all-round supervision. Since 2013, Zhejiang has further worked on the Sunshine Project, and has gradually extended the pilot work from the original 21 power matters in 14 departments across the province to cover the provincial, municipal, county, town and village levels—Zhejiang has made public 2,645 administrative power matters at 47 provincial departments and 68 major matters, required by the people to be made public, concerning the people’s livelihood.15 Based on pushing forward the Sunshine Project, Zhejiang has fully introduced the system of power lists, ensuring that the functions and powers are defined by laws, that responsibilities come with powers, that the exercise of powers is subject to supervision and that the law-breakers are punished and that infringers make compensation. The core of the system of power lists consists of clearing up, reducing and checking powers, making the power operations procedure and the result of power exercise public and effectively strengthening the mechanism of supervising power operations.

3.5 Several Inspirations from Political Development

In the process of reform and opening-up, the successive Party committees and governments at various levels in Zhejiang have leveraged the political advantages of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, carried out solid work to stay ahead and carried through one blueprint to pursue development; they have played an important role as leaders in economic and social development, actively pushed forward the transformation and upgrading of the governance mode, promoted all-round, coordinated and sustainable economic and social development in Zhejiang and created new miracles of Zhejiang’s development.

The basic experience from Zhejiang’s political development and reform consists in proceeding from reality, blazing new trails, being bold in practice, always upholding the Party’s leadership, ensuring that the people become the master of the country and that the country is governed under the rule of law, giving play to the role of the market and arousing social vitality, combining the overall design with grassroots innovation, actively optimizing the local governance system and enhancing the governance capacity, taking the improvement of governance effectiveness as the most important aspect of and the driving force for political development, giving full scope to the roles of the rule of law, orderly democracy and an effective government in promoting governance modernization, thus taking a political developmental path suited to Zhejiang’s reality.

To sum up, the experience and inspirations from Zhejiang’s political development are mainly embodied in the following aspects.

3.5.1 Enhancing the Effectiveness of Governance Is the Fundamental Factor in Zhejiang’s Political Development

Thanks to reform and opening-up, tremendous historical changes have taken place in China. From the perspective of realizing enduring peace and stability and fully leveraging the superiority of the political system, the traditional governance system and governance capacity have no longer been sufficient to meet the needs of realistic development, and they need to be improved on various fronts. Comprehensively intensifying the reforms, unceasingly increasing governance effectiveness and modernizing state governance has become an inevitable choice in political development.

The outstanding feature of Zhejiang’s political development and practical innovations in a decade lies in focusing on enhancing governance effectiveness to explore the concrete path for modernizing the local governance system and governance capacity. The strategic line of thought of building Zhejiang under the rule of law and its implementation are the beneficial practical explorations of the socialist political developmental path with Chinese characteristics with the goal of achieving effective governance. The Secretary of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province Xia Baolong pointed out that building Zhejiang under the rule of law was the local practice in building China under the rule of law and in modernizing the national governance system and governance capacity; expanding the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law was very important and highly urgent, and the opportunities were rare.16

As shown by Zhejiang’s political development practice with the enhancement of governance effectiveness as the main driving force in a decade, Zhejiang has paid more attention to improving the way in which the Party leads and governs, to perfecting the democratic system and enriching democratic forms, expanding citizens’ orderly political participation at various levels and in various fields, making socialist democracy institutionalized, standardized and procedure-based, and to giving play to the roles of the governance of the country under the rule of law and the exercise of state power under the rule of law in political development, improving the rule of law in governance, and to optimizing the governance system as well as to reinforcing the governance capacity, transforming and upgrading the local governance mode, and applying this developmental line of thought in upholding and improving the system of the people’s congress, the socialist consultative democratic system and the grassroots democratic system, in governing the province under the rule of law, intensifying the reform of the administrative system, improving the system of power operation restriction and supervision, consolidating and developing the broadest patriotic united front, and introducing the effective governance philosophy to guide and promote Zhejiang’s political development and practical innovations. Practice proves that continuously enhancing governance effectiveness has become the most important factor and an important feature of Zhejiang’s political development.

3.5.2 Strengthening Strategic Planning and Encouraging Grassroots Innovations Is the Basic Path for Political Development

The basic path of Zhejiang’s political development lies in leveraging the system and institutional advantages, valuing strategic planning and macro guidance, respecting and encouraging grassroots innovations, arousing the market and non-governmental vitality, giving full scope to the initiative and creativity of grassroots governments, taking the enhancement of governance effectiveness as the basic focus, enabling engagement at the upper and lower levels and effective interaction to jointly promote the cause of reform and opening up in various fields in Zhejiang.

Zhejiang has stayed ahead in economic and social development, but Zhejiang has also faced contradictions because it has made pilot efforts to gather experience and thus problems occurred early and first in Zhejiang. Therefore, it is particularly important to strengthen strategic planning and macro guidance and make governance more forward-looking, proactive and effective. As indicated by the course of Zhejiang’s decade-long reform and development, the “Eight-Eight Strategies” have played a crucial role. As a major decision, the “Eight-Eight Strategies” are aimed at addressing the key issues concerning coordinated economic, political, cultural, social and ecological development in Zhejiang and the overarching issues involving Zhejiang’s efforts at building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and basically achieving modernization in advance. Practice has proved that the major decision fully conforms to the objective reality, its perspectiveness and leading role are very conspicuous, it has played an irreplaceable role in Zhejiang’s efforts to turn challenges into opportunities and elevate economic and social development to a higher level and a new stage within the complex and changing domestic and international environment.

In the meantime, continuous grassroots innovations have also played a very important role in putting into practice the “Eight-Eight Strategies”. Zhejiang, a province situated in coastal economically developed areas, and the people of Zhejiang who are at the forefront of reform and development have always ridden the waves in reform and development, and have created much fresh experience through grassroots practice. A prominent feature in Zhejiang’s political development is that grassroots innovations are very active. The Party committees and governments at various levels in Zhejiang have always respected the pioneering spirit of the people and their enthusiasm about grassroots innovations, fully arousing non-governmental vitality, pooling non-governmental and grassroots wisdom for implementing the “Eight-Eight Strategies”, building a safe Zhejiang, a culturally large province and building Zhejiang under the rule of law, as an ecological province and a green Zhejiang, and establishing the important basic support for political development.

3.5.3 The Rule of Law, Orderly Democracy and an Effective Government Are the Important Means for Promoting the Modernization of Governance

The important means adopted by Zhejiang to modernize the governance system and the governance capacity consist in fully strengthening the rule of law, boosting orderly democracy and building an effective government. Strengthening the rule of law can make the socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics institutionalized, standardized and procedure-based; democratic systems are improved and democratic forms are enriched to actively promote orderly democracy and broaden the political paths for citizens’ orderly participation; the efforts to build an effective government are conducive to making decisions in a scientific way and building an efficient, clean and responsible government, thus providing practice carriers and administrative support for fully enhancing the effectiveness of governance.

The rule of law is the basic way to governing the country and handling state affairs; it directly embodies the modernization of the national governance capacity; it is an important part of the development of the socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics in which the Party’s leadership is upheld, the people become the master of the country and the country is governed under the rule of law. In the process of reform and opening-up, Zhejiang has always attached importance to strengthening the rule of law by taking the building of Zhejiang under the rule of law as the guiding principle to continuously improve the exercising of state power under the rule of law, more rapidly making local regulations, and to improving the legislative mechanism and the quality of legislation; by comprehensively pushing forward government administration under the rule of law, promoting the rule of law in the government to gradually regularize administrative law enforcement; by constantly deepening judicial reform to ensure that judicial justice is strengthened continuously; by deeply carrying out legal publicity and education to ensure that the legal service system gradually becomes full-fledged and the legal awareness of the whole people, especially the leading cadres, is enhanced constantly. In a decade, with the goal of strengthening the effectiveness of governance, Zhejiang has kept on enriching the connotation of the times of the rule of law and making it more targeted in practice; Zhejiang has made continuous improvements in the legal system and has attached greater importance to improving law enforcement and increasing its effectiveness, endeavoring to modernize the local governance system and the governance capacity through governance under the rule of law which meets the needs of practice and the development of the era.

Democracy is essential for socialism. Handling affairs according to laws and acting in compliance with regulations and order is the inherent requirement for democratic development and is an important sign of effective state governance. Since the reform and opening-up, with rapid economic and social development, democratic practice has been unprecedentedly active and citizens’ awareness about democratic rights has been increasingly enhanced in Zhejiang. In an effort to promote democracy, Zhejiang has actively explored the concrete path for realizing orderly democracy, Zhejiang has fully aroused and safeguarded the enthusiasm of the people as the masters of the country, and gradually enriched the connotations and forms of democratic practice according to laws and regulations; Zhejiang has also constantly improved the democratic system and enriched the democratic forms, expanded the political paths for citizens’ orderly participation, and Zhejiang has always ensured that democratic development is orderly and political development is stable, and it has successfully achieved economic prosperity and development, social harmony and stability while fully safeguarding citizens’ democratic rights.

An effective government is the important guarantee for all-round, coordinated and sustainable economic and social development. Building an effective government and pushing forward scientific decision-making and management is the inevitable choice for modernizing the governance system and the governance capacity. An effective government is not an omnipotent government; instead, it is an efficient, clean and responsible government under the rule of law; it is a government which has benign interaction with the society and the market through many democratic channels. Since the reform and opening-up, the government’s roles and functions in Zhejiang have generally changed from the mode of governing by noninterference to the mode of scientific improvement. In political development, the Party and government organs at various levels have correctly handled the relations between the government and the market, between the government and the society, they have fully respected the inherent law of the market economy, the non-governmental vitality and creativity, they have done something in some areas but refrained from acting in other areas, and taken actions in a scientific and proper way, so that Zhejiang can, based on inconspicuous economic and natural resource endowment, achieve brilliant developmental achievements and advance the cause of reform and opening-up to a new stage of development.

Overall, the basic experience from Zhejiang’s political development and reform consists in proceeding from reality, upholding the Party’s leadership, ensuring that the people become the master of the country and the country is governed under the rule of law, valuing strategic planning and macro guidance, respecting and encouraging grassroots innovations, taking the improvement of the effectiveness of governance as the principal of and driving force for political development, actively optimizing the local governance system and enhancing the governance capacity, taking promoting the rule of law and orderly democracy and building an effective government as the important means to modernizing the local governance system and the governance capacity and actively exploring the concrete path for realizing the socialist political development with Chinese characteristics. Zhejiang’s developmental achievements and practical innovations are great; Zhejiang’s experience and inspirations are rich and profound. Zhejiang’s cause of reform and opening-up and its achievements in political development have profound implications on the era and important realistic significance; they are the important political practice for modernizing the national governance system and the governance capacity.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    The Theoretical Study Center Group of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province: Major Theoretical Achievements in Zhejiang's Practice of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, Zhejiang Daily, April 4, 2014, Page 1.

  2. 2.

    Xi (2007), p. 204.

  3. 3.

    Xi (2007), p. 201.

  4. 4.

    Chen (2006).

  5. 5.

    Xi (2007), p. 202.

  6. 6.

    The Decision of the Party Committee of Zhejiang Province Concerning the Building of Zhejiang under the Rule of Law, Zhejiang Daily, May 8, 2006, Page 1.

  7. 7.

    Xi (2006), p. 357.

  8. 8.

    Xi (2007), p. 207.

  9. 9.

    Xi (2014).

  10. 10.

    Xi (2006), p. 381.

  11. 11.

    Xi (2006), pp. 366–367.

  12. 12.

    Wen et al. (2014).

  13. 13.

    Xi (2007), p. 264.

  14. 14.

    Zhang (2010).

  15. 15.

    Fang (2014).

  16. 16.

    Quoted from Zhu Haibing, Zhejiang's Practice in Building China under the Rule of Law, Zhejiang Daily, October 13, 2014, Page 1.

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Copyright information

© Social Sciences Academic Press and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jie Yun
    • 1
  1. 1.Chinese Academy of Social SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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