September 15 is Democracy Day, so read up on China’s other political parties

In Chongqing, you can visit the Democratic Parties History Museum of China—yes, China does have parties other than the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Upon entering, you will find that the entire bottom floor of this museum, which is ostensibly dedicated to parties other than the CPC, is dedicated entirely to the exploits of…the CPC.

Information on the other parties are found on the higher floors, and even these exhibits are entirely related to how these parties supplement the work of the CPC.

Which, actually, is a pretty good metaphor for how China’s minor parties actually work in practice. They’re not separate political parties with different ideologies to the CPC. Indeed, they’re not anything that anyone from a multi-party democracy would regard as an actual political party.

Each is more of an advisory board with a certain set of expertise, and expected to offer that insight to the CPC when appropriate.

There are eight formally registered parties. Many of their names sound similar, but their functions are slightly different and bear very little resemblance to the names of each party. The China Democratic League, for example, focuses on cultural education and science and technology. The China Democratic National Construction Association is dedicated to economics. The Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party is not, as you might expect, a union organization—instead it is focused on intellectuals who specialize in medicine and ecology.

Membership in these minor parties is actually encouraged, with some state-owned companies and organizations having quotas for staff who must belong to them. Though from time to time there have been other parties, which have been banned, the full list of permitted minor parties is currently:

  1. China Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang

A holdover from the KMT era, this party has had a tumultuous history. Today it’s dedicated to reunification with Taiwan.

  1. China Democratic League

The CDL is for intellectuals who support socialism. More specifically, they should be in the fields of culture, education, science, or technology (which more or less covers just about everything).

  1. China Democratic National Construction Association

Economic intellectuals.

  1. China Association for the Promotion of Democracy

Intellectuals in education, culture, publishing and science.

  1. Chinese Peasants and Worker’s Democratic Party

Medical and technology intellectuals

  1. China Zhi Gong Party

A party for overseas returnees to China

  1. Jiusan Society

More intellectuals for science, technology and health

  1. Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League

A party for Taiwanese compatriots living on the mainland.


David Dawson is the former deputy editor of The World of Chinese.

Related Articles