SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China experimented in the past with various political systems, including multi-party democracy, but it did not work, President Xi Jinping said during a visit to Europe, warning that copying foreign political or development models could be catastrophic.
China's constitution enshrines the Communist Party's long-term "leading" role in government, though it allows the existence of various other political parties under what is calls a "multi-party cooperation system". But all are subservient to the Communist Party.
Activists who call for pluralism are regularly jailed and criticism of China's one-party, authoritarian system silenced.
"Constitutional monarchy, imperial restoration, parliamentarism, a multi-party system and a presidential system, we considered them, tried them, but none worked," Xi said in a speech at the College of Europe in the Belgian city of Bruges, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Tuesday.
Because of its unique historical and social conditions, China could not copy a political system or development model from other countries "because it would not fit us and it might even lead to catastrophic consequences", Xi added.
"The fruit may look the same, but the taste is quite different," he said.
A constitution that went into effect about two years before the 1949 Communist takeover allowed for multi-party democracy in China, but its implementation was hampered by deep-rooted enmity between the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party.
The Nationalists ended up fleeing to Taiwan, where they began landmark political reforms in the 1980s and the island now has one of Asia's most vibrant democracies.
Xi's ascendancy in a once-in-a-decade generational leadership transition had given many Chinese hope for political reform, mainly due to his folksy style and the legacy of his father, Xi Zhongxun, a former reformist vice-premier.
But since he assumed office, the party has detained or jailed dozens of dissidents, including anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong and ethnic Uighur professor Ilham Tohti.
Reinforcing the message that there will be no liberalisation under Xi, the ruling Communist Party's influential weekly journal Qiushi (Seeking Truth) wrote in its latest issue that there was no such thing as "universal values", adding that China's political system should not be underestimated.
The West has been harping on about freedom, democracy and human rights for some 200 years, and has nothing new to add, the magazine wrote in an editorial.
"You know if the shoe fits only if you try it on for yourself. Only the Chinese people have the right to say whether China's development path is correct," it wrote.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Ron Popeski)