Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Separation of Communist Party of China and the functions of government?

From an outsider's perspective (and probably those of most textbook authors) there's little doubt about the locus of ultimate political power in China. So when Chinese officials argue for integrating the decision making power of the Party with the policy enacting power of the regime, those of us from far away can only wonder what they're talking about. Wang Qishan's statement at the article's end says it all, to me, an observer from far outside.

The article comes from the South China Morning Post, a generally pro-Chinese newspaper published in Hong Kong.

Why is China blurring the line between party and state
Wang Qishan
Ridding the Communist Party of corruption while leaving its absolute grip on power untouched was a daunting task, party anti-graft tsar Wang Qishan admitted two years ago.

Now, with many corrupt officials in jail, he’s spearheading an effort to combine the party and government corruption watchdogs into a super anti-graft organisation – the National Supervisory Commission.

While some have welcomed the move… it has also stoked concerns the restructuring marks the beginning of a fusing of the state and the party, making the prospect of liberal political reform even more remote.

At a meeting in February explaining the creation of the commission, Wang raised eyebrows when he said “there is no such thing as separation between the party and the government”.

“There is only a division of functions,” he said. “We must take a clear position and be straightforward on this issue.”

Late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1980 laid part of the blame for problems such as stifling bureaucracy on the conflicting powers of party cadres and government officials.

The concept of the separation of party and state, later written into the top-level political report at the party’s 13th national congress in 1987, urged the party to only take part in major decisions and retreat from daily government operations.

It was part of an effort to tackle excessive concentration of power, seen by the party as the root of the political mayhem during the Mao Zedong era…

Attempts at further political reform have stalled for decades following the leadership shake-up that accompanied the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 1989. Party committees were reinstated in government institutions…

Wang’s remark was affirmation of an ongoing trend of further mingling the party and the government…

Last year, for the first time, the party’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee began hearing reports from the State Council (China’s cabinet), the National People’s Congress (its legislature), the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (its top political advisory body), the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, which investigates and prosecutes offenders…

American political scientist Francis Fukuyama, told an audience at the US Council on Foreign Relations he had asked Wang if he could ever envision a time when China’s courts could be independent.

“And his answer was absolutely not. It’ll never happen,” Fukuyama said. “The Communist Party must remain in control. He was not ambiguous on that point.”

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