8. The biggest problem for the Chinese Communist Party is corruption, and of course anti-corruption is the biggest challenge for the Party. In the real life, there are a few party members or cadres whose personal interests defeat the Party’s interests. What kinds of institutional design in your opinion can improvement the loyalty of the members to the Party? What kind of institution can prevent corruption?Corruption is a problem for all systems. Corruption is an important issue in Cuba, the European states and the United States as it may be in China. No matter who correct an ideological line, no matter how well organized an institutional apparatus for implementing ideology, people can disappoint. Yet no system can survive without strong vigilance and a proper set of mechanisms against corruption. But those systems to guard against corruption cannot themselves corrupt the very system that they meant to protect. That is the great challenge for any system, then, to protect against corruption without being corrupted by the processes put in place to punish corruption. This poses an additional obligation on those members of a society who exercise political power and have been given a leadership role whether within the CCP, in society or in cultural matters. Corruption can assume many forms—from the simple theft of property to the abuse of power. Beyond actual corruption, the appearance of corruption can also damage the legitimacy of a system. But corruption is a two edged sword. It can undermine a system when individuals engage in corrupt acts. But it can also undermine a system when it is used as a means of masking personal battles for power and influence among officials. In either case individual arrogance and lack of respect for Party principle and the rule of law can provide bad examples that may debase the CCP in the eyes of the people. Both sorts of corruption require control. Thus, for example, when a high official moves family and wealth out of China, the reason may be to hide corrupt acts, or it may be to protect innocent family from the false assertion of corruption by others who are abusing the system. The only real cure for this is stricter Party discipline and a sustained commitment to substitute rules and institutional values for individual power and influence that would bed a system to personal ends. It requires the protections of the high principles of the CCP to protect the innocent and to punish the guilty but under a set of fair and consistently applied rules that reflect party values and principles of fairness.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
I thought it appropriate, on the eve of the 18th National Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party to reflect on some of the major themes that are now confronting Chinese intellectuals and Chinese Communist Party leaders.
What follows are contemplations grounded in eight parts. This is very much an opening to a more sophisticated analysis. But it suggests one way of thinking through current issues of Chinese constitutionalism that may be of most interest within China (even if less interesting to foreigners, and especially foreign intellectuals). I look forward to reactions and additional conversation. A later version has been published as "中国共产党创造出世界上最活跃的发展体制" interview by Zhao Yining, Decision and Information, 2012 Vol.12, December 2012, ISSN 1002-8129.
1. President Hu Jintao summarized that China Communist Party and Chinese people have (1) created Socialist the Road with Chinese characteristics, (2) formulated Chinese socialist theoretical system and (3) set up Socialist Institution with Chinese characteristics after ninety years’ struggle, innovation and accumulation. As a western intellectual with significantly different political background and ideology, how do you think about these three conclusions? Do you think Chinese road, Chinese theory and Chinese institution are existing? How do you assess them?
I think it would be unfortunate for people to question the validity of Hu Jintao’s “Three Chinese Characteristics”/三个中国特色。 I think that a careful review of China’s recent history suggests that Hu Jintao’s “Three Chinese Characteristics” line expresses a reality that is often overlooked outside of China, and one that goes back a least a century. The “Three Chinese Characteristics” reminds us of the profound effects of Chinese mistreatment by the international community and its own struggles to overcome a system in which tradition was not properly related to scientific development but had become an end in itself. (Deng Xiaoping, “We Must Tell Our Young People About China's History,” February 18, 1987, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping Vol. III). It is very clear to me that China has long traveled on its own road toward socialism and that the Chinese road toward socialism is founded on a socialist theoretical system with deep roots in traditional Marxist Theory but with its own development suitable for the specific conditions of China and that this has produced an institutional system with specific Chinese characteristics. It is the blending of universal political theory and ideology with the specific aspirations and needs of the Chinese people that suggest that Hu’s “Three Chinese Characteristics” represents the reality of political and economic development in China. It is that balance between universal principles and national realities and aspirations that serve as the basis for the success of the Chinese systems even under conditions of internal and external stress. Indeed, the “Three Chinese Characteristics” reminds me of Deng Xiaoping’s ideas about the proper way of integrating Marxism within China:
The universal truth of Marxism-Leninism must be integrated with the concrete practice of a country -- a formulation which is itself a universal truth. It embraces two aspects -- universal truth and the integration of that truth with a country's concrete conditions. We have consistently held that neither aspect can be ignored. It is the view of our Chinese Communist Party that the universal truth includes abolishing feudalism and capitalism and realizing socialism, to be followed by communism. Can we do without taking the socialist road? No, we cannot. If we deviate from this universal truth and give up our efforts to establish socialism, the People's Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party would have no need to exist. How then can China abolish feudalism and capitalism and realize socialism and communism at an earlier date? We have to study the characteristics of our own country. Otherwise, if we mechanically copy the experience of other countries, this universal truth will not be realized in China. (Deng Xiaoping, “Integrate Marxism-Leninism With The Concrete Conditions Of China,” November 17, 1956, Selected Writing of Deng Xiaoping Vol. 1).
One can assess the success of the “Three Chinese Characteristics” easily—that China can now celebrate the 18th Party Congress is evidence of its success even as other socialist models have fallen away in failure. The Chinese avoided an unnecessary internationalism that marked the Soviet Union and it has also avoided an unnecessary historicism that is now impeding Cuban socialism. The essence of the “Three Chinese Characteristics” suggests the centrality of scientific development tied to facts, that is, it serves to remind of the importance of rationale rational innovation, that marks the culmination of a century long historical trend that realizes the goal of an independent China. That independence necessarily requires China to create its own road to serving its people and the development of a theoretical system to support that effort and a set of institutions to implement the theoretical system. Each suggests a distinct aspect of independence. So in a sense, the “Three Chinese Characteristics” line emphasizes that China may independently order its affairs, drawing on universal principles but adapting them scientifically and independently in the service of China’s people. Of course, there are many challenges ahead for China, there is always room for improvement with respect to institutional design, and it is always possible to be more diligent in the application of ideology. But it is more useful to speak about how conditions can be improved within the evolving system than to rethink the fundamental course of Chinese history since 1949.
2. When analysts explain Chinese economic miracle, they often evade one important factor which the influence of China Communist Party within and beyond the administration system. In terms of polity, the ruling party China Communist Party is often seen as one-party dictatorship by the western. My questions are (1) Does China Communist Party has its long term legitimacy as ruling party? (2) How can the China Communist Party play its role in governing the country? (3) What are the relations between China Communist Party and the state?
Many in the West are concerned about the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party within the Chinese state system. That concern, of course, is derived in part from out of the political ideology that is the foundation of Western political systems. Western style ideologies tend to have a precise form that structures the role of political parties within a system in which the organization and operation of the state apparatus is given the highest political role and ideological constraints are built into the state apparatus itself. Within this system political parties vie for control of the highest levels of the state apparatus by presenting themselves to voters as the better representatives of state ideology, while the vast bureaucracies that actually carry out the administrative work of the state tend to be more impervious to changes among parties.
These assumptions do not translate well into the Chinese system. I think the principal error is to characterize the CCP as a mere political party the way that these are understood in the West. I wrote about this is a recently published article. Backer, Larry Catá, “Party, People, Government, and State: On Constitutional Values and the Legitimacy of the Chinese State-Party Rule of Law System” (January 12, 2012). Boston University International Law Journal, Vol. 30, 2012. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1977551. In that article I said:
The Chinese constitutional order is grounded in the distribution of popular sovereign power between the Chinese Communist Party and the administrative apparatus of the government of the state, privileging the political authority assigned to the Party over the administrative authority vested in the government. For those who embrace the ordering framework of western style constitutionalism, this organizational model poses novel questions about the legitimacy of the system itself. This article addresses those questions and attempts to articulate a basis for a legitimizing constitutionalist theory for states, like China, organized on a state-party model thus conceived. In the West, constitutional theory has tended to look suspiciously at the constitutionalization of Marxist governments under the control of a single party in power. This article suggests that these criticisms are unwarranted with respect to the Chinese constitutional system as formally constructed. China has moved toward a legitimately constitutionalist governance system in which power is divided between a vanguard party, which serves as the repository of political power, and the administrative organs of government. The CCP serves an institutional role within Chinese constitutionalism and also represents the political power of the Chinese polity directly in the political ordering of the government. The CCP, in turn, is constrained by the normative basis on which Chinese constitutionalism is ordered -- Marxist Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important Thought of Three Represents. Thus framed the Chinese constitutional system can be understood as both unique and legitimately constitutionalist.
It follows that the CCP can retain its long term legitimacy as the party in power as long as it carries out its constitutional role as the state organ of political power constrained by the principles of Chinese socialism and avoids personality cults and abuse of the people. The CCP can play its role in governing the country in the same way, by limiting its role to that of the vanguard party, the political organ charged with the scientific development of an ideology that best serves the people of China and is applied by the organs of the administrative apparatus of the state. “And we must encourage the full expression of opinions, demands, criticisms and suggestions from all quarters, so that the government can benefit from them, promptly discover and correct its own shortcomings and mistakes and push forward all phases of our work.” (Deng Xiaoping, “The United Front And The Tasks Of The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference In The New Period,” June 15, 1979, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping vol. II). The CCP maintains its proper role by leading, advising and pointing the way forward and by ensuring that the organs of state constantly adhere to the principles of governance that best serve the people. In this respect it is useful to remember Deng Xiaoping’s remarks made in 1957:
Our Party is the ruling party and enjoys high prestige. A good many of our cadres hold leading posts. In China who is in a vulnerable position to make big mistakes? None other than the Chinese Communist Party. When it makes such mistakes, the effects are most widespread, so the Party should be particularly careful. The Party's leadership position is stipulated in the Constitution. If the Party wants to exercise good leadership, it should constantly overcome subjectivism, bureaucratism and sectarianism, accept supervision and expand democracy within the Party and the state. If we do not accept supervision or work to expand democracy within the Party and the state, we shall surely cut ourselves off from the masses and make big mistakes. If we handle affairs behind closed doors, rest content with our long years of experience and refuse to listen with an open mind to opinions from the masses and non-Party people, we are most likely to become uninformed and consider problems in a one-sided way, thus inevitably making mistakes. (Deng Xiaoping, “The Communist Party Must Accept Supervision”
April 8, 1957, Vol. 1 Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping)
Of course, it is important to remember the role of the United Front parties. And in the relationship between the United Front Parties and the CCP one can see the great difference between political parties and the role of a vanguard party with a constitutional role in governance.
It is also import to remember that with great power comes greater responsibility. A vanguard Party that does not control itself, or that gives in to cults of personality or that fails to adhere strictly to its own principles will quickly lose its legitimacy in the eyes of the people. The CCP has built a great edifice of theory and ideology. The great task ahead to ensure that all cadres adhere strictly to these principles and ideologies in their everyday work and that the institutions of the Party itself reflect. The Party’s progress in this respect should serve as a model for popular struggle to spread these values and practices among the entire country. But if the Party officials behave badly and are not punished and if the rules and protections of the socialist system reflected in the “Three Chinese Characteristics” are not applied uniformly, consistently, and fairly from the most humble worker to persons with the most exalted positions in society, then again the Party will have failed in its leadership role and will have failed to apply its own ideology properly. This I think is well reflected in Xi Jinping’s recent discussion of the Five Advantages. But it should also be emphasized that these problems of legitimacy are central to all valid constitutional systems, whether constructed on the Chinese or Western model. Hu Jintao has stressed that the reform of political system should integrate the leadership of the Party, the position of the people as masters of the country, and the rule of law, develop a more wide-reaching people's democracy. In the end, all roads must lead to the satisfaction of the needs of the people.
3. An initial question about ideology. In the past, the political ideology in China was quite simple, which was communism based on the theories created by Marks and Engels. But after the openness reform, the ideology was going to be multidimensional including liberalism, capitalism, nationalism, conservatism and so on. But in general, the ideology of the China Communist Party was still socialism, and it was different from western democracy, consciousness of responsibility. I have three questions. (1) At the moment, can China Communist Party’s ideology represent all China people? (2) How western analysts understand China Communist Party’s ideology literally? (3) How could China Communist Party strengthen its ideology, and make sure it can be a instrument to convey its values to Party members and the public?
This question is quite profound. It suggests a connection that has been made by Deng Xiaoping and worth remembering now—“One of the features distinguishing socialism from capitalism is that socialism means common prosperity, not polarization of income. The wealth created belongs first to the state and second to the people; it is therefore impossible for a new bourgeoisie to emerge. The amount that goes to the state will be spent for the benefit of the people, a small portion being used to strengthen national defense and the rest to develop the economy, education and science and to raise the people's living standards and cultural level.” (Deng Xiaoping, “Bourgeois Liberalization Means Taking The Capitalist Road,” May and June 1985, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping Vol. III). Especially now in China there are questions about the direction of opening up and of the direction of reform, but those questions ought to be understood against the background of Hu Jintao’s notions of scientific development—a society that stands still will not prosper, and ideology remains vibrant only when it is developed by the vanguard party in the service of the people. Opening up does not mean rejection of the old, but also reminds that tradition is not supposed to be a tomb.
So, how can CCP ideology represent all of the people in China? That was question at the heart of Sange Daibiao, 三个代表. In Backer, Larry Catá, “The Rule of Law, the Chinese Communist Party, and Ideological Campaigns: Sange Daibiao (the 'Three Represents'), Socialist Rule of Law, and Modern Chinese Constitutionalism,” Journal of Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2006. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=929636, I explained that Sange Daibiao provides an ideological basis, a deep constitutional foundation, for the position of the CCP at the center of the constitutional apparatus of the Chinese state. But it does more than that—it also provides the basis through which the rule of law, as a framework for the proper relationship between state institutions (representing the collective) and the individual (as an instrument of that collective), acquires Chinese characteristics. As developed by the organs of the CCP, it is clear that Sange Daibiao can provide the principles through which the framework of commonly understood rule of law constitutionalism can be adopted with Chinese characteristics. But the problem of Sange Daibiao was that it was not expressed in language that was easily understood by cadres much less ordinary people. It required the addition of principles of harmonious society to make clearer the obligation of the CCP to represent the whole of the people for the purpose of ensuring a harmonious and moderately prosperous society. It is on the way in which the CCP fails to meet this obligation that it may be legitimately criticized. And indeed the decision nearly a decade ago to expand membership in the CCP indicated a willingness to transform the CCP from a revolutionary Party to a vanguard party representing all the people. But the CCP still has some way to go before it can fulfill this obligation that it has imposed on itself. “The point is that the Party must provide good leadership; only through constant improvement can its leadership be strengthened.” (Deng Xiaoping, “On The Reform Of The System Of Party And State Leadership” August 18, 1980), Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping vol. II.
Thus changes brought on by the development of Chinese ideology do not represent a rejection of the old as much as a building up from the past. To think otherwise is error of the type that is also common in the West where people have confused respect for tradition with a rigid historicism that prevents development. That rigid historicism was as much a problem of feudalism in Late Imperial China as it was in the United States during periods of the 19th century. Westerners have difficulty understanding CCP ideology for the same reasons they have trouble understanding the organization of the Chinese political and state administrative system—yishi xingtai 意识形态. Westerners literally do not understand the Chinese system on its own terms and thus seek to judge it in terms more familiar to them. This is not uncommon phenomenon, and is a great problem for scholars seeking to understand foreign systems and customs; imagine how much more difficult this task is for officials and non-specialists. But this is a problem for all cultures and is not limited to Westerners. The complexity of Chinese political ideology, often (and sometimes unnecessarily) difficult for Chines to understand as well, contributes to misunderstanding among western intellectuals and makes it easier for CCP cadres to avoid their obligations to Party and state. The question of the strengthening of CCP ideology to make it an instrument to convey its values to Party members and the public, then, is the great challenge for the next 10 years. But this is a problem of all great states. The United States spends much time seeking to strengthen and teach its governing ideology to the people; it is sometimes a difficult task. The Chinese have a similar problem. Part of this involves making the ideas more accessible to the people, something that becomes harder as society becomes more complex. More importantly is to “learn by doing”—the people learn when they can observe Party cadres “doing”. Learning by doing is an important lesson for all advanced societies.
4. Do you think Chinese institutions are unique? Do you think the combinations of state administration and China Communist Party can form exceptional socialist institution with Chinese characteristics? What has obstructed the western to understand above issue?
Chinese institutions are unique as specifically applied to Chinese conditions. However, the Chinese system is certainly not idiosyncratic or aberrational. The Chinese system is a great experiment in governance that seeks to find a way of implementing high ideals within the realities of a developing state. The system is sensitive to the uniqueness of China in the world. Like the United States two hundred years ago in a world in which there were very few Republics established on the same principles, China is in many ways a pioneer. Even within the Socialist camp, China has managed to develop its system in a more sophisticated way than any other state. But this is also what causes stress among the intellectual classes and, when the system is not appropriately implemented or explained among the people. The same thing happens in Western states. The failure of the intellectual class and people with senior positions to decisively explain and apply the ruling ideology can only have a negative effect on its legitimacy. If leaders do not seem to believe in the system then why should others? However, the model could be adapted elsewhere. That is what makes the system distinctive but not idiosyncratic. The division between political authority and administrative authority is capable of application in other states. The challenge for China is no longer theory—the Three Chinese Characteristics /三个中国特色are well established—instead the challenge lies in ensuring proper implementation within the State and Party apparatus of the strong principles governing the behavior of party members and state officials. For that propose an ideology that can be enforced fairly, consistently and by explicit reference to rules, is critical. China has made good progress in that respect but still must consider how it will create institutional mechanisms for enforcing ideology when it must be applied by the state apparatus. That was the question I was considering in my article A Constitutional Court for China. As a consequence one can understand China as developing a new model for political and state organization that has the attributes of legitimate constitutional order (respect for rights, institutionalization of power, stable rule systems for preserving social harmony) that may have some application in other states modified to suit local conditions. That is the mark of a maturing system. Its particular application to China, of course must reflect the situation in China. As conditions in China change, the system may reflect those changes as well—that is the nature of scientific development, and the avoidance of rigid historicism in the construction of state or ideological orders.
5. Does my research suggest that it is possible to argue that the socialist theoretical system with Chinese characteristics is legitimate? What is it composited and who contributed more to it? Are there ideas scientific or ideological? Is there already very comprehensive theoretical system for that?
My research suggests that the foundations of a socialist theoretical system with Chinese characteristics are legitimate and constitutional. The Chinese socialist theoretical system is both scientific and theoretical. Hu Jintao has reminded people that scientific development is both grounded in fact and in policy. Scientific development stresses the need to speak truth from facts but also reminds us that facts have a political dimension that cannot be ignored. Facts, in this sense, are given value by their use. While it is important to speak truth from facts it is also important to utilize facts scientifically in the service of the people. In China, that means scientifically developing facts to advance harmonious society principles. But that requires both science and a strong discipline by the Party cadres as an example to the people. In addition, as I have already suggested, Hu Jintao’s insight of the “Three Chinese Characteristics” also reminds that the Chinese socialist road is distinguishable as much from old Soviet socialism (with its well known errors of internationalism and chauvinism), as it is from Western capitalism (with its singular and culturally necessary emphasis on the individual and individual activity through markets).
6. China's Communist Party has carried out separation of Party and administration pilot for several times during different periods. If China Communist Party accepts and follows the western principle that Party is under State, what will be the result? How do you think about the separation of Party and administration?
The question presents complex and sensitive issues. On the one hand, from the time of Deng Xiaoping, it has been very clear that the paramount function of the CCP is political and not administrative. That necessarily requires substantial attention to policy and its implementation rather than to the details (very important ones of course, but derived from and applying political principles) that tend to make up the life of state officials. This would suggest that the basis of the current Chinese system is correct, leaving political work to the CCP and administrative work to state officials under the guidance of the CCP. On the other hand, Deng Xiaoping himself was also sensitive to the limits of the policy of separation. While the state apparatus is separate from the CCP, it does not follow that the state apparatus must be autonomous of the CCP. Indeed, the opposite must be true if the administrative and political life of the nation are to be correctly coordinated. To take this extra step is to change the fundamental character of the Chinese political order, which is, as the question suggests, put the Party under the State. Thus, for example, under the conditions of the Chinese political order, it might be error to reduce the CCP to the status of “voters” for high state officials. Such a change dissipates the role of the CCP as a political organ and makes it a passive instrument of administrative policy. That would effectively transfer authority over the development of ideology from Party to State officials, and the Party would, like Western electorates, have only an approval power, not a power to initiate. That would pervert the current system without corresponding benefit, by displacing the current organization of disciplined political power (in the CCP) to a bureaucracy without an ideological center. The resulting fracture would be liberating for the most powerful sectors of social and economic life but would offer little protection to workers and peasants in theory or in actual operation of government. A similar result might occur if the CCP was formally placed below the state. Such a change might result in the dissipation of the core mission of the CCP, and the Party would be reduced effectively to the status of one of the United Front Parties, turning the clock back to 1948 in China rather than converting the current system to a Western style democracy. This turn of events would produce scientific development in reverse. Keep in mind that the CCP is no longer merely a revolutionary Party; it is the Party in Power, and it is meant to safeguard the political and constitutional that serve as the core principles of state organization and describe its relationship to the people. If the CCP no longer serves that purpose, then what institution would take its place? Even the United States does not leave those matters to the market. Thus, the question of separation of state from Party is sensitive and complicated, and solutions may not be as easily acquired as one might acquire a lamp with a different style “off the shelf” from some sort of department store of political systems and then plug it into the political system a state expecting it to work. It is not likely to work well at all. These questions, of course, are similar to whether the CCP must follow the Constitution. Some people understand that question as implying that the CCP is under the Constitution in the same way as the Party is under the State.
A better way of understanding the relationship might be based on connection rather than hierarchy. The Constitution has been developed under the leadership of the CCP and reflects the ideology that is central to the CCP’s political mission. It is an important expression of the application of ideology in the articulation of the structures of the administrative apparatus and of the proper relationship between state officials and the people they serve, so that both will work toward the ultimate political goals of the nation. As a consequence the CCP must follow the constitution because it precisely reflects and is the product of the political work of the Party. Theoretically then, there can be little space between Party and Constitution. Constitution and Party exist in a harmonious and reciprocal relationship rather than in a vertical one. Likewise state and Party must be understood as working in a harmonious and reciprocal relationship, each sensitive to the role of the other. In a sense, then, the question reminds us that the Three Chinese Characteristics do not exist apart but must be understood as three parts of a single insight—the socialist road is created by the application of socialist ideology through socialist institutions. Coordination rather than separation are The key to the relationship of State and Party, then, should be coordination rather than separation; and harmonious society principles suggest that it is more preferable to make improvements based on the existing framework rather than drastically altering the entire system.” So—the Constitution is the Communist Party line!
7. On democracy, four related questions. (1) What do you think about the intra-party democracy within China Communist Party? (2) How do you assess the evolution of the democratic system within China Communist Party? (3) What is the difference between your real democracy and the intra-party democracy within China Communist Party? (4) What kind of democracy China really needs?
This is a good question. I do not believe that there is a single fixed form of “Real” democracy; legitimate democracy does not necessarily have to conform strictly to Western-style democracy, though it must adhere to universal principles contextually applied. Intra-party democracy is real democracy, and it is a means of expanding the assertion of political power by the people through membership on the CCP. Thus there is no conflict between the idea of strengthening the democratic impulse within the CCP and the ideal of bringing all people within the CCP. The answer to this question was nicely framed by Xi Jinping recently in the formulation of the Five Advantages. He said:
党内民主是党的生命,其实质是按照党章的规定在党内生活中实现党员人人平等, 并且共同参与讨论、决定和管理党内事务。各级党组织要认真落实党章 和党内规章赋予 党员的知情权、参与权、选举权和监督权等各项民主权利,使广大党员在党内生活中真正 发挥主体作用。要积极营造党内民主讨论的环境和健康宽松 的氛围,倡导党员讲真话、 反映真实情况,要求领导干部倾听真话、了解真实情况,在广开言路中集中智慧,在民主 讨论中形成共识。
Intra-party democracy is the lifeline of the party, and its essence is to realize equality among party members, let party members to collectively participate in the discussion and decision-making processes, and manage the party in accordance with the provisions of the party constitution. Party organizations at all levels should conscientiously implement the democratic rights of information, participation, the right to vote, and the right to supervise and discipline to all party members in accordance to the party constitution, so that all party members may play their role in the core functioning of the party. We must actively create a healthy and lively atmosphere for facilitating democratic discussions within the party, encourage party members to speak the truth, to reflect the real situation, and require all party leaders to diligently listen to the ingenuous inputs from the party members and fully understand the real situation. We shall collect knowledge through diverse viewpoints, and form consensus through democratic discussions.
And central to democratic ideals in China is the concept of democratic centralism—a concept that is not well understood in the West, though one that is similar in some respects to the way that corporate democracy works—internal discussion and external unity. Thus Xi Jinping noted: “我们要结合新的实际发挥好这个优势,把切实推进党 内民主、促进党内和谐与维护 党的纪律、增进党的团结有机统一起来,充分发挥各级党组织和广大党员的积极性创造 性,努力在党内造成又有集中又有民主、又有纪 律又有自由、又有统一意志又有个人心 情舒畅、生动活泼的政治局面” (To do this, we must organically combine our efforts to push for democracy within the party, to promote party harmony, maintain party discipline, and enhance party unity. We must fully utilize the enthusiasm and creativity at all levels of Party organizations and members, and make efforts promote a dynamic intra-party political environment that combines the elements of both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity and individual will). China needs the kind of democracy within which the people feel fully represented and fairly treated. There are many roads to that objective of democratic representation. China has chosen on that appears to suit its current conditions. But the success of that choice will not depend on competitions between ideological systems. Instead it will depend on the discipline of the CCP itself to continue to move from theory to praxis. It is not enough to recite appropriate ideology—correct action is as important as correct thought—and the people are better able to judge the strength of CCP discipline and commitment to Party democracy by observing proper action more than by the recitation of proper ideology. Again, this is a position already taken by CCP leaders. Xi Jinping has said: “要充分发挥党密切联系群众的优势,最重要的就是必须坚持党的根本宗旨,贯彻党的群众 路线,使党的一切工作充分体现人民群众的意志、利益和要求,从作风上保持和发展党的先进性 和纯洁性” (To fully utilize the Party’s advantage in connecting with the masses, the most important is the need to adhere to our party’s basic principles, thoroughly implement party’s general policies for the masses, so that all the works of the Party may reflect the will and interest of the people. We shall maintain and develop the progressiveness and pureness of the party through our work ethic and style.)
In my article Party, People, Government, and State: On Constitutional Values and the Legitimacy of the Chinese State-Party Rule of Law System I put it this way:
Taking Chinese theory at face value it becomes clear that at least since the time of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese Communist Party has sought to attain a more refined institutionalization within the political order. With that institutionalization has come a reliance on those mechanisms that constrain assertions of personal power through rule of law concepts. Rule of law provides an expression of collective governance. That collective space, in turn, serves as the site for democratic citizenship. That site is the Party itself, as an autonomous community, a community operating within the overall framework of the Constitution and its values system. That community itself serves as a representative and proxy for the nation in two respects—it is the site where political values are elaborated and protected and it serves as the body of individuals charged with the task of such elaboration and protection within both the political order and in its state institutions. It is in this sense that one can better understand the modern meaning of that old Marxist notion of Party as vanguard, and the way it has evolved from the old Soviet era notions— the Party itself is vanguard/guardian of fundamental substantive values of the political state. It is in this sense as well that one can understand Party membership as the functional equivalent of political citizenship. The holders of political citizenship—Party members—then serve within the Party as the forces for social cohesion, and the deployment of values based rule of law substantive values, and outside the Party in a fiduciary capacity to all people in the political community who are holders of social and economic rights, but who lack political rights. Political citizenship, then, though limited, is open to those who would adhere to and further the political and rule of law values of the Party within the governance structures of the state set up for that purpose. Rule of law notions within the Party must then be applied to make such political citizenship available to all in exchange for adherence to the Party “line” (it substantive political values on which the state was founded). This is in-line with the ethos surrounding the Three Represents campaign. Rule of law, then, resides within the Party architecture. And it is from that Party architecture that rule of law concepts move out to the governmental, social and economic spheres.
The Party as polity, then, becomes the foundational framework within which Chinese constitutionalism is elaborated. For those who adhere to the view that political citizenship equally and horizontally dispersed among the people is a prerequisite for a values-positive constitutional state, this notion is both radically offensive and evidence of the anti-constitutional stance of the Chinese model. The creation of a hierarchy of political citizenship, with Party cadres assuming a leading role lies at the heart of what people seeking fidelity to advanced western political models would view as a critical defect of the State-Party mechanism. These defects lie at the heart of a criticism of any argument suggesting that state-Party systems like that in development in China can ever attain constitutional legitimacy. The answer, of course, is not necessarily. Party as polity notions run counter to deeply held value systems at he heart of Western and transnationalist constitutionalism. But they do not necessarily run counter to constitutional notions grounded in deep rule of law notions in which democratic governance principles are indirect rather than direct and where those vested with primary political citizenship are themselves bound to normative values that enhance, if indirectly, democratic participation and popular welfare. These values are incompatible with Western notions, to be sure, but not, for that reason alone, incompatible with constitutional notions.
State organization, then, assumes a consequentialist role. It devolves from, and reflects, Party organization and the values the Party represents as an institutionalized, rule governed, collective of the state’s political citizens. State organization, represented by the National People’s Congress system, is a legitimate site for the participation of the people—for example through elections.46 Under the paramount leadership of the Party, government can be made open to popular participation, even as participation in the political sphere is limited members of the Party and centered in Party organization. To understand Chinese constitutionalism, one has to recognize that the Chinese Constitution exists as a combination of polity and governing ideology, on the one hand, and state apparatus, on the other. The Chinese Communist Party serves as the institutionalization of the political polity and the source of its substantive values. The government established under National Constitution serves as the institutionalization of state power, within which the people may more directly participate under the guidance of the Party. The Party is the repository of political power; the government the repository of administrative power. Together they represent the whole of the Chinese constitutional order.
Constitutional analysis, then, ought to be grounded on both the National Constitution and the CCP Constitution, and its elaboration/application of rule of law ideals within its value system as part of the constitutional ordering that serves as the foundation for the elaboration of state power under the national constitution. This structuring of power relationships between political collective and the governmental organizations meant to institutionalize state power (within that collective) have significant values effects on the way in which Party, state and individuals relate. These include the reflection of the party- state construct (1) in a division of the character of citizenship between economic and social citizenship, claimed by all persons, and political citizenship, which can be exercised through the Party, (2) in an understanding of political organization in which the state power and its institutions are subordinate to political authority, (3) in an institutionalization of political authority within a collective that serves as the source and conduit of constitutional values to be applied by the holders of state authority, and (4) in a system in which Party elaboration of rule of law values is contingent on state and party self discipline.
The excerpt is long but is meant to make highlight an important dimension of democracy and Chinese constitutionalism that is sometimes overlooked. That dimension is the Party dimension. If the CCP is the vanguard Party in China, if it is the repository of political authority, and if it is the embodiment of socialist democratic values and habits, then democracy can only proceed as the CCP fulfills its vanguard role—not just in theory but also in fact. It is in this sense that Xi Jinping’s call for greater intra-Party democracy may be usefully understood. But democracy must be understood as both participation in decision making and in the adherence of members to the Party line (in the political sphere) and the laws (in the administrative and constitutional sphere). It is in this sense that Xi Jinping’s sensible reference to democratic centralism can be understood, not merely in its historical Leninist sense but also in its modern sense as a foundation of rule of law with Chinese characteristics. That was a point I was trying to make in my article A Constitutional Court for China Within the Chinese Communist Party?: Scientific Development and a Reconsideration of the Institutional Role of the CCP. Rules must be obeyed. The law must be applied fairly and consistently to everyone no matter what their position. That applies equally to the CCP and the Party line. At the same time, the people outside the Party can participate in the development and maintenance of the administrative structures of the state precisely because these affect them directly and because such participation provides the Party with a significant input about the sentiments, needs and desires of the people. To cultivate political responsiveness requires facts, and participation in the operation for the administrative function might serve as a useful source of facts for political decision making and overall guidance.