By Editorial board
Published: 2008-03-10

Cover editorial, issue no. 358, Mar 10 2008
Original article: [Chinese]

Zhang Yin, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), has been criticized by fellow committee members and internet commentators over three proposals they say were overly representative of her own interests. The following criticism was leveled at Zhang: "members should have a fixed position, and while on this stage, they should not just represent their own interest-groups."

The criticism above quoted the report of the congress' chairman Jia Qingling, who also said: "CPPCC committee members are representatives of the masses from all classes. They should listen to their constituents, reflect the people's real wishes and empathize with their hardship. They should take peoples' fundamental interests as the starting and standing point of their efforts. They should try their best to solve problems and do well for the masses."

Zhang made three proposals that elicited fiery criticism from both the public and her peers. She suggested that that labor-intensive businesses (such as her own paper company) should be able to cancel open-ended labor contracts; that taxes on monthly salaries above 100,000 yuan (such as her own) be cut down from 45% to 30%; and that businesses be given tariff reduction incentives for importing advanced "green" technology – a boon for the highly polluting paper industry.

If this is all that critics have to say, then we believe that their arguments are far-fetched.

We can conclude from Jia's report that CPPCC members have the right to represent their interest groups and deliver comments and opinions on their behalf. As a Chinese expression goes, the members should be "the first to worry about everyone else's troubles and be the last to enjoy happiness". Zhang, as a new social class representative, was not just representing her own opinions, but also the concerns of those in the much larger business community.

According to the critics' logic, if a banker participates in the CPPCC, they should refrain from putting forward proposals from a financial standpoint. And if a university president asks for the state's help in solving a school's debts problem, it is also out of gross self-interests. The critics demand us to "adopt a stance that benefits all." How exactly do we accomplish that?

The existence of the political consultative conference system itself is an admission of the diversity of China's social groups, and allows for them to pursue and express their own interests. The current political participation system, whether called "political consulting" or "democratic supervision", aims to make the most out of a socialist democracy, under which public opinions are expressed and decision-making is made more scientific and open. Political consultants, who all hail from different classes, and industries and make proposals on behalf of the groups they belong to, embody a country's normal political life as well as the progress of its democracy.

From another angle, criticism of Zhang doesn't necessarily stem from the fact that she advocates for her own class, but that it unacceptable for the wealthy to call for tax deduction, and a boss to seek the abolishment of the flexible-term labor contract.

This seems against the initial intention of the political participation systems. As a political advisor, Zhang has every right to put forward her own proposals and clarify who she speaks for. This is her legal right, and should be protected. We welcome such political consultants, and hope there will be more in the future.