Chinese Solution to Corruption
The addition of supervisory commissions to the Constitution evidences the importance of the new type of state organs in the national governance system and provides guiding principles for further reforming the supervisory system and enabling the supervisor
On March 11, 2018, the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, adopted an amendment to the Constitution. The bulk of the revision is related to supervisory commissions, which evidences the importance of the new type of state organs.
Using experience gained since the anti-corruption campaign especially after the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the CPC Central Committee with General Secretary Xi Jinping at its core made the strategic move to reform the national supervisory system—an important political innovation that affects the entire landscape and requires major adjustments of China’s political system, power and relations. An innovation in organization and institutionalization, the establishment of a centralized, authoritative and efficient system of supervision over all those who exercise public power will certainly promote full and strict governance over the Party and ongoing anti-corruption campaign. Heavy Influence
The amendment gives constitutional power to the supervisory commissions, which is a major move in the reform of China’s supervisory system. Given early successes in some pilot areas, further supervisory system reform is an important innovation in China’s political system reform. It involves major adjustments of China’s political system, power and relations. The supervisory commissions—both national and local—are created by the people’s congresses to which they are responsible and by which they are supervised. The establishment of the commissions enriches and improves the system of people’s congresses, China’s fundamental political institution, and reinforces CPC leadership and rule of law.
The defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Communist Party of China, which has been rightfully written into the country’s Constitution as the nation steps into the new era. Reform of the supervisory system aims to enhance the Party’s centralized, unified leadership over the campaign against corruption and form a centralized, unified, authoritative and efficient supervisory network. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, intra-party supervision has been strengthened by disciplinary inspection tours and oversight by resident discipline inspection agencies at both central and local levels, covering the state apparatus, every social organization and all public institutions. Through the reform, supervision will cover everyone working in the public sector who exercises public power. While reinforcing intra-party supervision, it will also solidify the leadership of the CPC.
Also, further reform of the supervisory system serves as an important measure to modernize China’s system and capacity for governance. China’s previous anticorruption mechanism and system were not fully compatible with the requirements of its five-sphere integrated plan and four-pronged comprehensive strategy. The establishment of the supervisory commissions, which work together with the Party’s disciplinary inspection commissions as one office, can effectively improve the
Party’s governance and capacity to utilize institutions and laws, marking progress in the country’s advancement of rule of law. Higher Efficiency
The reform of the supervisory system will pool anti-corruption resources and unify power to fight corruption. Before the reform, anticorruption resources were primarily distributed to administrative and judiciary bodies. This overlapping management mode enabled partial peer monitoring and prevented power abuses but failed to optimally integrate anti-corruption resources and strength, which weakened China’s anti-corruption efforts.
For example, the country formed corruption prevention departments both within various government bodies and through the procuratorial apparatus, which led to overlapping functions and decentralized leadership. According to global anti-corruption experience, a specialized organization dedicated to anti-corruption work is essential to address misconduct. For example, Singapore, France and China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region all have a single unified organ to handle corruption.
The amended Constitution empowers supervisory commissions to operate in parallel with their administrative and judicial counterparts. The amendment reads: “All administrative, supervisory, judicial and procuratorial organs of the State are created by the people’s congresses to which they are responsible and by which they are supervised.” This means that the National People’s Congress will lead the Central Government, the National Supervisory Commission, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. And supervisory power stands shoulder-toshoulder with administrative, judicial and procuratorial powers, which will improve China’s balance of power.
Additionally, the supervisory commissions can extend their power to every authority, from monitoring a “narrow government”
to a “broad government.” Traditional administrative supervision in the country only covers administrative bodies and their officials. But as the Party has strengthened its efforts to build a clean and honest government and new types of corruption have emerged, the previous supervisory system was unable to cover every corner, leaving significant public power out of control. After the reform, coverage of supervision expands from all apparatuses of the Party and the state to state-owned enterprises and public educational and research institutions as well as managers of grassroots self-governing public organizations, ensuring all public powers stay under surveillance.
The amendment also stipulates that supervision methods must be law-based to promote a fight against corruption governed by rule of law. According to China’s supervision law, supervisory organs must act within the law while conducting supervision, investigation and disposition. As the reform of the national supervisory system deepens, the practice of shuanggui (an intraParty disciplinary practice that requires a CPC member under investigation to cooperate with questioning at a designated place and a designated time) will be replaced by detention, which solves a long-term legal bottleneck and realizes standardized and lawbased anti-corruption operation. The exercise of supervisory power must conform to relevant regulations and approval procedures, guaranteeing the legal rights of the detained and keeping supervisory power within the cage of institutions.
By the end of 2017, reform of the supervisory system had been carried out in several pilot regions. Due to limited time and difficult tasks, the reform has faced many challenges. “Since the national supervisory commission was set up, our reform has entered uncharted waters,” declared Xiao Pei, deputy secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC. Reformers must pay attention to the methods and means while pressing ahead.
First, authorities need to integrate ideas related to ways and means to enhance the skill and
professionalism of the entire supervisory team. Team members must learn the Party Constitution, rules of intra-party political activities, intra-party supervisory regulations and accountability rules as well as specifics in the country’s Constitution, national supervision law, criminal law, criminal procedure law and civil servant act. The supervisory team should be armed with both political and legal awareness.
Second, authorities must explore internal operation mechanisms for supervisory commissions. Based on the national supervision law, detailed enforcement rules must be stipulated as soon as possible and focus on improving the methods of handling discipline problems and supervision, standardizing procedures for disciplinary reviews and enforcement and perfecting procedures and regulations to form a cohesive, efficient and check-and-balance working mechanism.
Third, authorities need to devise a reasonable method to define supervision subjects and employ different punishments for different types of corrupt officials. The number of monitored targets is expected to double. To perform such a tough job, supervisory commissions need to apply information technology such as big data to set up a daily surveillance mechanism and enhance their capacity to use technology to fight corruption.
Fourth, starting with the supervision law, authorities need to gradually establish China’s anticorruption legislation system to improve the system for addressing conflict of interest, the rules of property declarations and the regulations on informer protection. Over time, some of these regulations should become laws to strengthen the power and enforcement of them.
Fifth, authorities need to boost external oversight of the supervisory commissions. While conferring necessary power to the organizations, authorities need to restrict them to prevent abuse of power by keeping them under supervision of the people’s congresses and the public.
In summation, after it gathered its experience in ensuring full and strict self-governance, the CPC carried out reform of the supervisory system, which will help the government become cleaner, better and more capable. And the reform will create an efficient mechanism for long-term self-supervision of the Party and provide a Chinese solution to fight corruption globally. The author is a research assistant with the Center for Anti-corruption and Governance at Tsinghua University.
March 23, 2018: The National Supervisory Commission is inaugurated in Beijing. At the ceremony, members of the commission took the oath of allegiance to the Constitution. Xinhua