Friday, November 17, 2017

Chinese Constitutionalism: The References to Constitutions in the Reports of the Chinese Communist Party Congresses--A Preliminary Historical View

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)

A question that emerged during the course of the recently concluded Round Table on the Implications of the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress (here, here and here) the speakers raised a very interesting issue that might merit some further initial discussion. We wondered, collectively, about the extent and character of the evolution of CPC thinking, and the CPC Basic Line, with respect to Socialist Rule of Law and Socialist Constitutionalism. The question arose in the context of a discussion around the question of the extent wo which – the Work Report delivered by Xi Jinping and the resulting final Resolution of the 19th Congress reflected a downshifting of the importance of the state constitution and constitutionalism in general from the Basic Line of the CPC itself. As interesting was a follow up question around the effects of any such downshift on the relation between the state and the political constitutions of China.

It appeared worth considering whether principles of constitutionalism for the “New Era” may be extracted from the sum of Xi Jinping’s Report to the 19th Congress. To that end, I produced a preliminary report and assessment of Chinese Constitutionalism: The Emerging Idea and Practice of Constitutional Governance in the 19th CPC Congress Report.

Our colleague Flora Sapio has now investigated the issue over time.  She has prepared a study of the references to the CPC Constitution, the State Constitution, and hybrid references (following the framework adopted in Chinese Constitutionalism) from the 8th CPC Congress in 1956 to the 19th CPC Congress in 2017. That study follows.  

Professor Sapio will post on the character of these references in another post.  For the moment, the most interesting aspect of the study is the way that before the 13th CPC Congress in 1987, one could count only one reference to the state constitution and one hybrid reference.  In contrast, between 1969 and 1987 the focus was on the CPC Constitution, with multiple references. References to the State Constitution grew thereafter, especially during the 13th through 15th CPC Congresses. But during that period references to the CPC Constitution did not decline (e.g., there was no reversal of emphasis between the CPC and state constitutions), and more importantly hybrid references (e.g., references to the state constitution within the context of the deployment of CPC leadership responsibilities and tasks) also increased with the exception of the 2002 16th CPC Congress when there were no references to the CPCP Constitution. Indeed the one CPC Congress Report that stands out is the 12th CPC Congress in which no references to either constitution appears. Most interesting, at least initially, is that it appears that the extent of the focus on constitution and constitutionalism in the 19th CPC Congresses was last seen at in the 13th and 14th CPC Congresses, the end of the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. But the references to constitution and constitutionalism in the 19th CPC Congress Report substantially exceeded references in any prior Report since the 8th CPC Congress in 1956. 

Stay tuned, more to come!

For those who desire further study of the original sources, here's the links

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