Sunday, September 30, 2007

"The Scientific Concept of Development," The Rule of Law and the Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party

The public organ of the Chinese Communist Party recently announced what had been rumored for some time--proposed amendments to the Chinese Communist Party Constitution. Communist Party of China to Amend Part Constitution, People's Daily Online, Sept. 17, 2007. The amendment is expected to be adopted at the 17th National Congress scheduled on October 15, 2007 "The amendment should be made "under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thoughts of 'Three Represents,' and to reflect the major strategic thoughts the CPC Central Committee has set forth since the 16th CPC national congress was held (in 2002), such as the scientific concept of development," said the meeting." Communist Party of China to Amend Part Constitution, , supra.

These amendments will formalize Hu Jintao's stamp on Party governance, in a manner similar to that of his predecessor and the incorporation of the "three represents" (sange daibiao) theory into the normative structure of Communist Party governance. See Larry Catá Backer, The Rule of Law, The Chinese Communist Party, and Ideological Campaigns: Sange Daibiao (the “Three Represents”), Socialist Rule of Law, and Modern Chinese Constitutionalism, 16(1) Journal of Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems 29 (2006).

How does "scientific development" align with the current state of the development of the Chinese Communist Party line?

That alignment shows most strongly in the characterization of "scientific development". Hu Jintao is being more circumspect than his predecessor, Jiang Zemin. The amendments are careful not to refer to the concept of scientific development as rising to the level of "Thought" (as in Mao Zedong Thought, or "Theory" (as in Deng Xiaoping Theory). Instead, the scientific concept of development is accorded no higher place than that of sange daibiao. Sange Daibiao is references as "important thought" while the scientific concept of development is labelled "major strategic thought." Yet one important difference between the two may be telling--Hu Jintao, unlike his predecessor has been very careful to present this new ideological development of Chinese constitutional thought firmly within an institutionalist framework (rather than as a reflection, as had been traditional, of personal effort). Thus, the scientific concept of development appears as the work of the CPC Central Committee.

His predecessor, thought to be more "academic," reached out to the merchants who were fueling China's rapid economic growth. He made it possible to extend, at least as a theoretical matter, Party member ship to merchants. The price they paid was simple--embrace the ideological limits of Chinese Marxist Leninist Mao Zedong Deng Xiaoping , in return for which Party membership and extended prosperity for all would be more likely. Hu Jintao has broadened this approach to reach deeper into Chinese society. The principles of scientific development, unveiled in 2003, are meant to stress the importance of deep progress to sustain the economic revolution in China (that is to try to keep it truer to its political roots in Marxist Leninist Mao Zedong Thought (and especially Deng Xiaoping Theory). "It stresses people-centered development that is comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable." Communist Party of China to Amend Part Constitution, , supra.

Scientific development flows naturally from the principles of the Three Represents--especially with respect to development. "The "three represents" important thought has enriched the ideology concerning the harmonious development of socialist material civilization, political civilization and spiritual civilization." "Three represents": guiding ideology requires long-term adherence to, News of the Communist Party of China, Sept. 23, 2004. Indeed, it might be thought to have been implicit in that campaign. Thus the Chinese Communist Party was careful to describe it in terms that resonate with prior developments: "It refers to coordinated development between urban and rural areas, among different regions, between economic and social development, between the development of man and nature, and between domestic development and opening up to the outside world." Communist Party of China to Amend Part Constitution, , supra.

This relationship is well understood even at the level of popularizing the ideas of the campaign to rank and file Party Members. The stress is on forward movement and pragmatism geared toward the principal object of Party and State apparatus--deep popular development.

"All the Party members are required to stick to the policies of reform and opening up, advance scientific development, promote social harmony and strive together for new victories in the process of building a well-off society in an all-round way, the meeting said. The meeting also called on all Party members to understand the new requirement of the country's development and the new expectation of the people to draw guidelines and policies adapted to the times and the people."
Communist Party of China to Amend Part Constitution, , supra.

The Chinese Communist Party is quite aware of the necessity for building governance capabilities. "Of the series of major strategic ideas and theoretical, innovative new achievements released since the 16th CPC National Congress, the most vital and crucial is the overall blueprint or layout for Party building with hallmarks to stress not only stepping-up of Party building in an all-round way but taking the hold of "key points" and the "motif" in the course of Party building. Namely, it is focused on the enhancement of its governing capacity, and taken the increase of Party members' advanceness as the motif." CPC's new headway with its Party building concept, News of the Communist Party of China, April 20, 2007.

Still, the progress objective requires the Party to get its conceptual house in order. But as recent commentary has suggested, Party building is still subject to intense competition among factions within the Party. Some of it is part of the formal framework of public debate. For that purpose, it seems, the Party has entertained at least a limited public debate over the form of future reform. See, e.g., the discussion in Joseph E. Lin, Central Party School Scholar Discusses Limited Party-Government Separation, China Brief VII(17):1-2 (Sept. 19, 2007). On the other hand, Willy Lam, for example, has suggested the nature of some of the factional fighting, which conflate personal influence and political agenda. Willy Lam, Limited Reforms: Status Quo at the 17th Party Congress, China Brief VII(17):6-7 (Sept. 19, 2007). He notes the conservatism of the theory of scientific development, its placement (as the third of the "four insistences" campaign, the relation of that campaign to Hu's efforts to solidify his and his faction's hold on the governing machinery of the Party, and (from my perspective) the fairly audacious efforts to overlay Deng Xiaoping's Four Cardinal Principles with the interpretive trope of the four insistences. See Willy Lam, Limited Reforms: Status Quo at the 17th Party Congress, supra.Lam's points are well taken, though I might be inclined to suggest hat the caution in Hu's moves, from a certain perspective more cautious and institutional than similar moves by his predecessors, suggests at least a (very) limited headway towards institutional "rule of law" within the Party. As I have suggested before, Larry Catá Backer, The Rule of Law, The Chinese Communist Party, and Ideological Campaigns, supra, the cultivation of an intra party democracy is a necessary key to political progress within China. To the extent that, as Lam suggest, Hu pushes forward on that front, there may also be progress on a broader basis. I am less inclined to believe in the sort of "western style" possibilities of the "thought liberation" portion of the "four insistences." Such liberation must be understood as possible only within the normative framework of Chinese political theory--Marxist Leninist, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, and the important thought of the Three Represents, to which some or all of the four insistences might be added. To de-contextualize thought liberation, is to set the reforms up to failure from an incorrect starting perspective. In the context of Chinese constitutional norm development, it seems that the third and fourth of the four insistences (scientific concept of development, social harmony and prosperity) are likely to be far more important than the first two (thought liberation and reform and open door policy).

Thus, to the extent that "the scientific concept of development" serves as a formal platform for legitimacy to govern all social sectors, the CCP may continue to serve in fact as well as in name as the "party in power" of the apparatus of the Chinese state. But this will require continuous efforts to absorb the leading elements of Chinese society, and to assimilate them to the political values culture of the CPC, as well as to articulate those values in a way that accords with the aggregate interests of all sectors. For that purpose, Hu Jintao's scientific concept of development is well positioned to serve as a basis for governance. The trick will be to see if the Party's bureaucracy is as adept in developing its praxis as the intellectual organs of the Parry are in recognizing problems and shaping theoretical approaches to its solution. It is easy enough to herd intellectuals, and to frame programs. The Chinese political apparatus has become quite successful at it. But success is marked by operations at the level of contact with the governed--from rural peasants to important industrialists, and the foreign community whose involvement is not to be lightly dismissed. If the party cannot practice what it preaches, it will lose its mandate. The highest levels of the Party understand this: "They include, among others, unfolding activities to educate the CPC members in retaining their advanced character, pushing ahead the building or development of the study-type political party, going in for the inner-party democratic construction, developing inner-party democracy, improving the CPC members' conduct and building a clear government, still bettering the Party's leading and governing methods, and further improving the inner-Party supervision." CPC's new headway with its Party building concept, supra. But whether this understanding can be naturalized among its lowest level cadres is another matter.

Stay tuned.

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