BEIJING, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- Shi Lei is a promising member of the Communist Party of China (CPC), as he is a graduate of one of the most prestigious universities in China and works at the community level as a village official.
However, Shi experienced many challenges while becoming one of the 2,270 deputies to the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which is scheduled to start on Nov. 8.
The 24-year-old Shi is the CPC secretary of the village of Xihua in the city of Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu province. Due to his contributions to the development of the village, Shi was nominated by party members in the village to be a deputy to the CPC congress.
The procedure was quite long and complicated, including the publicization of the candidates and several rounds of elections. It was not an easy task, as Shi faced a multiple-candidate election.
But Shi was finally selected to be one of 70 deputies from the province. As an official from the lowest level, Shi will attend the congress along with the party chief of his province and other top leaders.
Public recommendations and the publicization of candidates have demonstrated that the elections are an important practice for democracy and a representation of China's achievements in building a democratic country since the 1970s, especially in the last 10 years.
The CPC attaches great importance to democracy. In his report on the Party's 17th National Congress, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and President of China Hu Jintao said the people's democracy is the lifeblood of socialism and developing the people's democracy is the CPC's consistent goal.
Therefore, democracy with Chinese characteristics is improving, both inside and outside the CPC.
Democratic procedures and publicization of the elections for the CPC congress are the result of a series of policies made by top leaders.
During the fourth plenary session of its 16th Central Committee, the CPC promised to improve its intra-party election system and expand the margin ratio for the elections.
In the report on the 17th National Congress in 2007, the CPC vowed to expand participation in the nomination of candidates for elections in community-level CPC organizations.
In Shi's opinion, the election procedures were carried out strictly in line with the policies, with transparent procedures ensuring the quality of the candidates.
"All of the nominees enjoy a high reputation in their respective areas and they have been widely recognized by the masses and CPC members," said Shi.
At the community level, public nominations and direct elections have been carried out more extensively since 2001. The system calls for candidates to be selected via recommendations from CPC members, the public and CPC organizations. The CPC branch secretary, vice secretary and members of village CPC committees are all elected directly by village CPC conferences.
Sun Shuihu, the branch CPC secretary of the village of Qingshan in central China's Jiangxi province, was elected in this way. Sun led the villagers in repaving a road to the village and expanded local agriculture by inviting outside investment, all within six months of taking his post.
"I must walk the talk or my fellow villagers will blame me for eating my words and my reputation will be tarnished," said 49-year-old Sun.
The public nomination and direct election system has boosted participation among CPC members. Among Qingshan village's 43 CPC members, 39 took part in the election.
"The wide promotion of democracy at the community level, with self-governance, public nominations and direct elections as its embodiment, is the most representative achievement of socialist democracy in the past 10 years," said Chi Fulin, executive president of the China Institute for Reform and Development.
The process of realizing democracy has been far from satisfactory, as procedures are sometimes poorly implemented. Some candidates seek posts through bribes and behind-the-scenes manipulation.
But power is no longer subject to a few people, so the public's need to participate in the decision-making process and their willingness to supervise have both increased.
For governments at higher levels, it has become more common to encourage participation by the public.
For instance, since 2006, public representatives of communities and neighborhoods in the city of Wuxi in east China's Jiangsu province have been able to veto construction projects through secret ballots.
Publicity and transparency are the preconditions for the people to supervise and participate in the decision-making process. In the past 10 years, public relations regarding CPC and government affairs have seen progress.
In a series of meetings held by the CPC Central Committee, the CPC promised to boost its publicity and establish a spokesperson system for CPC organizations.
In the past two years, governments at multiple levels have published over 51 million documents, including 2.6 million from departments under the State Council, or China's cabinet.
"Only with increased transparency of political affairs, social participation and supervision, can the people enjoy more freedom and democracy," said Chi.
Democracy and freedom have also been mentioned by top leadership. In a speech delivered on July 23, Hu called for developing a more wide-reaching people's democracy, paying more attention to exerting the important role of the rule of law in the administration of the country and society, safeguarding the dignity and authority of the rule of law and social justice and ensuring the people's extensive rights and freedoms according to law.
Chi said Hu's speech set a clear direction for China's political reforms.
"Room for the democracy and freedoms that people enjoy is becoming even bigger due to economic and social development. Political reforms will be the CPC's proactive approach to adapting to social demands and the people's expectations," added Chi.
Political reforms are pressing in China. Late leader Deng Xiaoping once said that obstacles are unavoidable as reform develops, especially when the political system no longer fits the needs of economic development. The fruits of economic reform will be at stake if political reform stagnates.
Although achievements have been made in democracy, it is far from enough in China, a country that was ruled by feudalism for thousands of years. More efforts are still needed to prevent arbitrary decisions from being made by a few people, rein in abuses of power and keep public interests from being ignored.
"Hu's speech indicated that the 18th CPC National Congress will unswervingly continue pushing forward its plans for political reform," said Li Liangdong, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.
Li said that after the congress, the socialist political system will be further improved.
Democracy within the CPC and the public will be continually expanded and checks and supervision will be further implemented, he said.
"The way the CPC leads will be more adaptable to the requirements of democracy and the rule of law. Its leadership will be more in line with the needs of times," said Li.