Saturday, March 07, 2015

On China's New Ideological Line--The Four Comprehensives in the Shadow of the Three Represents (Or Refining Socialist Modernization in a Rule of Law Vanguard Party State)

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2015)

China Digital Times recently reported (Feb. 25, 2015):
Shortly after becoming General Secretary of the CCP in late 2012, Xi Jinping began promoting the “Chinese Dream,” a vaguely defined slogan to represent his leadership aspirations and the political ideology of his administration. Xi Jinping has now unveiled a list to be added to the cache of numbered catchphrases used by Party leaders to denote their political philosophies: the “Four Comprehensives.” T
The Four Comprehensives focus the present administration's policy choices (within the constraints of the CCP's General Program) within four major projects (projects that have been developed since the administration of Deng Xiaoping):
1. Comprehensively archive (build/ construct and complete the construction) a moderately prosperous society
2. Comprehensively deepen reform
3. Comprehensively govern the nation according to law
4 Comprehensively strictly govern the Party
The Four Comprehensives are built within the shadow of the Three Represents and the principles of scientific development. Their shadow is a long and powerful one. This post makes an initial effort to contextualize Xi Jinging's first full blown expression of the policy (politics) of his administration. My thanks ot Shan Gao, part of the team at the Coalition for Peace and Ethics, for his contribution to this post.

The announcement of the Four Comprehensives provoked wide coverage and efforts at interpretation from the usual suspects in the media, including the New York Times, the South China Morning Post.  Thier analysis was noticed by the CCP hierachy in Beijing.   There was some speculation (erroneous from my perspective) on the consequence of the announcement of the Four Comprehensives as either a replacement of or an attack on Sange DaiBiao (or its author Jiang Zemin and his apparatus in Shanghai). The CCP media responded to the speculation with the publication of a report that interviewed scholar Shi zhihong (the participate drafter of 17th and 18th CPC party report), who did not give direct answer on the “replacement.”  There were other commentaries as well (e.g., HERE).

There is a strong and vigorous interest from the new leadership that consider efficient and legal governance must be installed. But there is also string irony.  "Nearly five years ago Xi himself, then vice president, gave a speech at the central party school decrying the use of political jargon that walled the ruling party off from the country's more plain-spoken citizens." (China trumpets Xi's 'Four Comprehensives' theory, The Times of India (Feb. 25, 2015)). The bottom line: Governance, of party and state, are the bedrock of Chinese Dream, which defined by this administration as “achieving a moderate prosperous society” that requires comprehensive reform; they are the priority that Vanguard considered to tackle down in order to prevent masses being systematically exploit by unethical and illegal self-dealing conducts by the corrupted officials and such culture.

There is a strong resonance between the Four Comprehensives and the Three Represents.  If the Four Comprehensives speak to economic policy (moderately prosperous society),  administrative policy (deepen reform); institutional policy (govern the nation according to law); and political policy (CCP governance), the Three Represents speaks to the context in which these policies must be carried out.   Recall that the Three Representatives states that the CCP:
1. It represents the development trends of advanced productive forces.
2. It represents the orientations of an advanced culture.
3. It represents the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people of China.
In effect, the Four Comprehensives van be understood as an explanation of the focus of implementation for the Three Represents in the current situation of China, fathful to the vanguard obligations of the CCP under its General Program. 

Within a theoretical discussion, the Three Representatives was a well-developed theory within a broad system that one can put China’s any historical stage into it. Thus, we can safely say Four Comprehensive is a scientific development of the three representatives with a clear orientation on how to enforce certain agenda. There is no conflicts here and Three Representatives has structured so well that it is broad enough to embrace many reform ideology. I highlight Four Comprehensive because it illustrates the way that the devil is in the details. The Four Comprehensive is not structured as broadly as Sange Daibiao. On the contrary while it is abstract, the Four Comprehensives are substantially more concrete, as a specification of policy direction that are at the core of the program of the current administration.

Shan Gao notes:


Plain view of the Four Comprehensive, one hardly spot novelty because there is one small but critical change that redefine the agenda of reform. Many translator has failed to spot this due to elusiveness of party and Chinese language. Party has asserted a moderately prosperous society for very long time but never loudly proclaim archive (jiancheng 建成) which means construct and complete the construction. Party proclaimed constructing prosperous society since 80s. The last time when party proclaim something “archive” was the late 50s when party decide “China complete socialist transition from new democratic revolution.”

Surely we cannot put archive in “Four Comprehensive” at the same level as the historical change in the 50s because without proper probe of large quantity of info this is merely speculation based on language. But the real meaning of archive in relation with comprehensive is highly relevant to our study. “Archive” suggests a new chapter of reform that require vigorous reforms to graduate China into the stage of moderate prosperous society. Such vigorous reform of course is a comprehensive one.

Comprehensive one

Number 3 and 4 with my highlight on comprehensive in fact explained what needs to be comprehensive reform. The number 2 is too vague that it became very difficult to prevent a sounding analysis fall into pure speculation. It maybe economy reform or it could also be ideology reform we don’t know. But number 3 and 4 is the key.

An efficient governance of state and party is center of comprehensive reform that serve as the bedrock of “archive” moderate prosperous society. Modern skyscrapers, multibillion dollars new airports and high-speed train are deceiving veil that confront our definition of prosperous society. However, many people see, hear and realize empty buildings needs entrepreneur to fill in; big airport is running inefficiently, high-speed train concealed despicable corruptions. Many people understand without a guiding ideology that highlights the importance of governance or efficient governance, these material achievement will crumbles and never have a future of a true moderate prosperous society. Four comprehensive has been designated to highlight our social governing issues, and to prevent our material achievement became a temporary cardboard as a theater set that could last for one show. It designated to tackle down governing issues, starting with the state and party, to make a long lasting socialist state.

Number 3 and number 4 correspond to new leadership’s anti-corruption campaign and the 4th plenary session of 18th CPC main theme: rule the state according to law. When one put “Four Comprehensive” into the historical evolution of party agenda, one could realize how striking this is: this is the first time, rule the state according to law and restrict party governance has been put in such highlight. The signs could not have been more clear, Feb 2nd of 2015, in central party school provincial leader workshop, Xi proclaimed “Must put the ruling state according to law within the context of four comprehensive strategy, deep understanding the interrelation between YI FA ZHI GUO and other three comprehensive…[1]” On Feb 26th of 2015, the Supreme Court issued the Five Year Reform Outlines (2014-2018) that will give a complete overhaul of China’s judicial system that designated for issues from ideology of identifying politics and laws, to basic state judicial hierarchy system. The central premise is to establish a trustworthy, independent, justice socialist judicial system to satisfying masses’ demand for justice[2].

In the summer of 2013, we have a very peculiar time that Constitution and Constitutionalism became a controversy, and liberal discussion was overshadowed. The Four Comprehensive is not a case to conclude the controversy is end but it definitely indicate there is a strong and vigorous interest that consider efficient and legal governance must be installed for the sake of individual justice, for the benefits of business and trade, and for the vanguard party to lead Chinese “archive” prosperous society.



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