As is the case with quite a few ChinaFund.com articles in particular and China in general, the question which constitutes the title of this post has a complex “yes, but no” answer. In other words yes, China is indeed technically a multi-party country in that the Communist Party of China is not the only one in existence. However, practically, there is no meaningful opposition because on the one hand, the 8 “legal” parties are loyal to the CPC and on the other hand, the political entities with other agendas are suppressed and frequently not even based in mainland China.
Before continuing, it makes sense to point out that this article refers specifically to mainland China and as such, Hong Kong and Macau will not be covered. These two are allowed to have a different political system and for more details on the specifics, we would recommend clicking HERE to read our article about Hong Kong and HERE to read our article about Macau.
That being stated, we can move on to actually highlighting the eight other parties which legally exist in China aside from the CPC:
- Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang (RCCK), founded on the 1st of January 1948 in British Hong Kong and led by Wan Exiang
- China Democratic League (CDL), founded in Chongqing on the 19th of March 1941 and led by Ding Zhonly
- China Democratic National Construction Association (CDNCA), founded on the 16th of December 1945 in Chongqing and led by Hao Mingjin
- China Association for Promoting Democracy (CAPD), founded in Shanghai on the 30th of December 1945 and led by Cai Dafeng
- Chinese Peasants’ and Workers’ Democratic Party (CPWDP), founded on the 9th of August 1930 in Shanghai and led by Chen Zhu
- China Zhi Gong Party (CZGP), founded in the US (not a typing mistake) on the 10th of October 1925 and led by Wan Gang
- Jiusan Society (JS), founded on the 3rd of September 1945 in Chongqing and led by Wu Weihua
- Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League (TDSGL), founded in British Hong Kong on the 12th of November 1947 and led by Su Hui
In terms of membership numbers, these parties are practically non-existent when compared to the Communist Party of China, with its roughly 90 million members. Six of them have membership levels in the low six figure zone, one has just shy of 50,000 members and one barely 3,000. While these parties do exist, they are a part of a United Front which runs China and in the very constitution of the country, it is clearly stated that this multi-party and political consultation framework is led by the Communist Party of China.
In other words, opposition parties are allowed to exist… but not really.
Aside from these eight, there are a series of other parties which are suppressed and not allowed to legally exist. As such, they are frequently run from outside the country and their very operation tends to be volatile at best:
- The Democracy Party of China, founded in 1998
- The New Democracy Party of China, founded in 2007
- The Union of Chinese Nationalists, founded in 2004
- The Zhi Xian Party, founded in 2013
- The Marxist-Leninist Chinese Communist Party, founded in 1976
- The Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army Chinese Communist Party, founded by another faction in 1976
- The Maoist Communist Party of China, founded in 2008
- The Chinese Proletarian Revolutionary Central Committee, founded in 2010
As can be seen, it would be a stretch (to put it mildly) to consider China a true multi-party country just because the term “multi-party” appears in the constitution and just because eight parties are allowed to exist… well, more so act as vassals of the Communist Party of China. In fact, the power of the CPC is made clear by the same constitution in the exact same paragraph in which China is defined as a multi-party country. As peculiar as this may seem to Western observers, those who are more familiar with how things proverbially “work” in China find this state of affairs to be completely natural.
At the end of the day, by understanding the current political system of China and the clear dominance of the Communist Party of China, you get one step closer to realizing how and why China is different. Whether you agree with the status quo or think it is sub-optimal is ultimately of little importance. The bottom line is that when gaining exposure to assets associated with a certain country or even establishing a business presence there, you need to understand the rules and nature of the game you are about to play.
And make no mistake, impressive opportunities abound. As do pitfalls and critical aspects which frequently end up being lost in translation, unfortunately. To help you navigate the sometimes-difficult waters of China and Chinese assets, the ChinaFund.com team of consultants is at your disposal, as absolutely everything that has to do with China comes as second nature to us. Should our expertise be required, we are only a message away.