This essay argues that the democratic centralism of the revolutionary People's Republic of China did produce a form of popular sovereignty. As the process that created the people as a political subject, democratic centralism produced popular sovereignty as an effect of the revolutionary praxis of the mass line perfected by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the 1940s. In the post-Mao period, the CCP sponsored political reforms that pursued an alternative strategy of democratic centralism — direct elections at the village level for villagers' committees and for deputies to local people's congresses. Together, these strategies demonstrate that democratic centralism articulates a form of popular sovereignty quite different from that of liberal democracy, one much more interested in a type of self-government based on managed participation.
Douglas Howland; Popular Sovereignty and Democratic Centralism in the People's Republic of China. Social Text 1 March 2012; 30 (1 (110)): 1–25. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-1468299
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