New Day for China’s Con­sti­tu­tion

The 19th CPC Na­tional Congress an­nounced that so­cial­ism with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics has en­tered a new era. The new path, new the­ory and new in­sti­tu­tions need reaf­fir­ma­tion and rephras­ing in China’s Con­sti­tu­tion.

China Pictorial (English) - - CONTENTS - Text by Jiao Hongchang

China’s Con­sti­tu­tion is the sym­bol of na­tional uni­fi­ca­tion and eth­nic unity. It serves as a set of gen­eral guide­lines for ad­min­is­ter­ing state af­fairs and en­sur­ing na­tional se­cu­rity. It also gives full ex­pres­sion to the will of the Party and the peo­ple. More­over, it is a crys­tal­liza­tion of the col­lec­tive wis­dom of the Chi­nese peo­ple.

The last para­graph of the Pream­ble of China’s Con­sti­tu­tion reads: “This Con­sti­tu­tion, in le­gal form, af­firms the achieve­ments of the strug­gles of the Chi­nese peo­ple of all na­tion­al­i­ties and de­fines the ba­sic sys­tem and ba­sic tasks of the state; it is the fun­da­men­tal law of the state and has supreme le­gal au­thor­ity.” The rea­son a coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion en­joys supreme le­gal au­thor­ity is that it con­tains the ma­jor func­tions of af­firm­ing and defin­ing. It af­firms the ex­ist­ing demo­cratic facts with the fun­da­men­tal law. It also de­fines the fu­ture, the dreams and hope of the coun­try and the peo­ple, and the pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights. China’s Con­sti­tu­tion also tes­ti­fies to those two func­tions.

The 19th Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC) an­nounced that so­cial­ism with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics has en­tered a new era. Ac­cord­ing to changes in guid­ing ide­ol­ogy, fun­da­men­tal tasks and in­sti­tu­tional achieve­ments, the sec­ond ple­nary ses­sion of the 19th CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee adopted a pro­posal on amend­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The ple­nary ses­sion noted that Xi Jin­ping Thought on So­cial­ism with Chi­nese Char­ac­ter­is­tics for a New Era is the lat­est achieve­ment in adapt­ing Marx­ism to the Chi­nese con­text and is a form of Marx­ism for con­tem­po­rary China and the 21st cen­tury. The Thought should be a guid­ing ide­ol­ogy that must be up­held in the long term by the CPC and the coun­try. Writ­ing a guid­ing ide­ol­ogy named af­ter a leader into the Con­sti­tu­tion is a Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tic—as it was with Marx­is­mLenin­ism, Mao Ze­dong Thought and Deng Xiaop­ing The­ory in the Pream­ble. If Xi Jin­ping Thought on So­cial­ism with Chi­nese Char­ac­ter­is­tics for a New Era is writ­ten into the Con­sti­tu­tion, it will be­come the guide to ac­tion and fun­da­men­tal rules, with supreme le­gal au­thor­ity.

The lead­er­ship of the CPC con­sti­tutes the most es­sen­tial at­tribute of so­cial­ism with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics, and the great­est strength in this sys­tem. This ma­jor move is the cul­mi­na­tion of China’s his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and sci­en­tific in­ter­pre­ta­tion of truth. The Con­sti­tu­tion adopted in 1982 so­lid­i­fied the lead­er­ship of the CPC into a con­sti­tu­tional norm with the peo­ple’s ex­er­cis­ing their power to re­vise the Con­sti­tu­tion. It should be ex­pected that the Party’s over­all lead­er­ship in all ar­eas will be­come more ef­fec­tive when the Con­sti­tu­tion is re­vised.

Build­ing China into a great mod­ern so­cial­ist coun­try that is pros­per­ous, strong, demo­cratic, cul­tur­ally ad­vanced, har­mo­nious and beau­ti­ful by the mid­dle of the cen­tury and achiev­ing the great re­ju­ve­na­tion of the Chi­nese na­tion are the fun­da­men­tal tasks of the coun­try. Gen­er­a­tions of Chi­nese peo­ple have per­sis­tently sought an­swers to such ques­tions: what kind of so­cial­ism should the coun­try up­hold and de­velop, and how to achieve it? This work con­verges in the Con­sti­tu­tion, which presents the fun­da­men­tal tasks for the coun­try. If the goals of build­ing a har­mo­nious and beau­ti­ful coun­try, from the Party’s Con­sti­tu­tion, are writ­ten into the coun­try’s Con­sti­tu­tion, they can serve as guide to the whole na­tion as it be­comes a strong coun­try.

China’s re­form of the na­tional su­per­vi­sion sys­tem is a ma­jor struc­tural po­lit­i­cal re­form that has a di­rect im­pact on the big pic­ture. It is a ma­jor strat­egy that will strengthen self-su­per­vi­sion of the Party and the gov­ern­ment. To make sure that ma­jor re­forms have a le­gal ba­sis, the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress (NPC)

has ap­proved pi­lot re­forms in Bei­jing, Zhe­jiang Province and Shanxi Province, which then rolled out through­out the na­tion. The stand­ing com­mit­tee con­sid­ers draft­ing the law on na­tional su­per­vi­sion the top pri­or­ity of the new NPC, which is ex­pected to be en­acted this law. If the na­ture, sta­tus, struc­ture, term, func­tions, and power of the su­per­vi­sion com­mit­tee are added in the Con­sti­tu­tion, it will create a solid con­sti­tu­tional foun­da­tion for the stip­u­la­tion of the law on na­tional su­per­vi­sion and the cre­ation of the su­per­vis­ing power. As a re­sult, the ma­jor re­form will have le­gal and con­sti­tu­tional ba­sis.

The ple­nary ses­sion also vowed to strengthen ma­jor in­sti­tu­tions re­lated to the Con­sti­tu­tion. Af­ter the 18th CPC Na­tional Congress, the NPC ap­proved an amend­ment of the Leg­is­la­tion­la­wof thep­eo­ple’s Repub­li­cof China , which au­tho­rized peo­ple’s con­gresses at mu­nic­i­pal level with the power of leg­is­la­tion on cer­tain is­sues. The NPC also de­cided to im­ple­ment reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing a pledge of al­le­giance to the Con­sti­tu­tion. If these ad­just­ments are writ­ten into the Con­sti­tu­tion, they will play a key role in de­vel­op­ing and im­prov­ing so­cial­ism with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Lau­rence H. Tribe, pro­fes­sor of con­sti­tu­tional law at Har­vard, com­mented that “the framers of the Con­sti­tu­tion wisely spoke in gen­eral lan­guage and left suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tions the task of ap­ply­ing that lan­guage to the un­ceas­ingly chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment in which they would live.” China’s rule of law has en­tered a new era, so the new path, new the­ory and new in­sti­tu­tions need reaf­fir­ma­tion and rephras­ing in the Con­sti­tu­tion. The au­thor is dean of the Law School of China Univer­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and Law.

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