Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, June 07, 2013

A fight for the soul of Chinese Communist Party

Constitutionalism as a revolutionary doctrine?

Drawing the battle lines
IN DECEMBER China’s new Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping, said something that encouraged advocates of political reform. No organisation or individual, he declared, had a “special right to overstep the constitution and law”. He was simply quoting the constitution… Officials are now warning optimists not to get carried away.

Liberal calls for “constitutionalism” mean that the document should be above any other law or party edict… But some in the party are clearly concerned about attempts to promote a reform agenda using the constitution as a shield. Now constitutionalism has come under fire.

The assault began on May 21st with an article in a leading party journal by Yang Xiaoqing of Renmin University. The main components of constitutionalism, it said, belonged to “capitalism and bourgeois dictatorship, not to socialist people’s democracy”. It said constitutionalism was “deceptive”: in fact only politicians supported by “big interest groups” could get elected.

On the following day Global Times, a Beijing newspaper, said that debate about constitutionalism was not just a theoretical one. It was being used, it said, to negate China’s political system and try to turn it into a Western one. Calling for constitutionalism was in fact unconstitutional…

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