The Rule of Law and the Rule of Virtue

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China II Updated: 2021-12-24

The Rule of Law and the Rule of Virtue*


December 9, 2016


Law is a system of rules that we must comply with at all times; virtue is the foundation of society that should never be allowed to dissipate. In this new era, we should implement the rule of law as the fundamental strategy for governing the country, and law-based exercise of state power as the basic approach to governance. To achieve these, we need to integrate the rule of law with the rule of virtue so that they complement and reinforce each other in promoting the modernization of our national governance system and capacity.

Law is a set of virtues in writing; virtue represents the law in one's inner world. Both function to regulate people's conduct and social relations and maintain social order, yet each plays a different role in national governance. Law ensures social stability while virtue nourishes the mind. Effective law enforcement depends on the good practice of virtue while virtue must work within legal restraints. The rule of law and the rule of virtue are inseparable and must be balanced and coordinated for better national governance.

Since the adoption of reform and opening up, we have summarized our experience and lessons learned in building a law-based socialist country, and decided to make the rule of law our Party's fundamental strategy in leading the people to govern our country, and law-based exercise of state power our Party's basic approach to governance, blazing a path of Chinese socialist rule of law. This path is marked by the integration of the rule of law with the rule of virtue, placing equal importance on both. Choosing this path is the result of a thorough review of lessons learned from the past, and a clear understanding of the laws of governance.

We should reinforce ethical support for the rule of law. To integrate the rule of law with the rule of virtue, we need to give play to the role of ethics and enhance the ethical standards of the whole of society, laying a sound foundation for promoting the rule of law in all respects. The rule of law should be reflected in our ethical framework so that ethics may provide more nourishment to the development of the law. We should make sure that they are connected and coordinated and reinforce each other. Ethical education should be carried out with a view to fostering the public's faith in the legal system and enhancing their understanding of the rule of law and rule consciousness. We should guide the public to develop their consciousness to fulfill legal obligations and responsibilities towards society and family, developing a culture of respecting and following the rule of law.

Ethics should also be included in the development of the rule of law, which provides strong institutional support for disseminating ethical concepts. Laws and regulations must establish clear ethical guidelines to promote virtue and righteousness. Socialist ethical standards and core values should be embodied throughout the legislation, law enforcement and judicial process so that socialist rule of law is equipped with a sound legal system and a sensible governance system. Well-developed ethical standards that have been widely recognized and can be applied to the whole of society should be developed into laws and regulations in a timely manner in order to strengthen the public's pursuit of virtue. We must enforce the law strictly and advocate the virtuous and the good, and punish the false and the evil. We should administer justice impartially and every judgment ruled in court should demonstrate this spirit.

Legal means should be used to solve serious ethical problems. Law marks the bottom line of ethics and serves as the guarantee for ethics. Therefore, we must improve legislation by including well-defined sanctions against unethical behavior. We must take legal actions against unethical deeds that are of grave concern to the public. To address the pressing issue of honesty, we should hasten to build a kind of honesty record system covering the whole society, and establish mechanisms for rewarding law-abiding and honest behavior and punishing illegal and dishonest behavior to deter and prevent people from falling into dishonesty. We must intensify law enforcement efforts to punish illegal profit-seeking and counterfeiting, and bring those unethical law breakers to justice.

We should raise public awareness of the rule of law and ethical consciousness. Only by establishing the public's faith in the legal system can the law function properly; only by improving the ethical standards of the whole society can ethics be observed. Enhancing publicity and education on the rule of law will help foster public awareness of the concept and inspire faith in and respect for the Constitution and law; enhancing public ethics will help promote traditional Chinese virtues and raise the ethical and moral standards of the public. We should remain committed to strengthening public legal awareness and law observance, laying the groundwork for the rule of law and helping all members of society become advocates and defenders of socialist rule of law who voluntarily observe this principle. By continuing public ethical programs and activities for promoting public ethical progress, we work to increase the public's consciousness of putting the core socialist values into practice, foster virtue in society, and encourage citizens to practice socialist ethics and advocate virtue.

Officials must play a key role in implementing the rule of law and the rule of virtue. They should serve as the main organizers and driving forces of comprehensive law-based governance and active advocates and role models of enhancing public ethics. As officials' exemplary role in studying and observing the law is key to realizing the rule of law, they should study the law on a regular basis and set rules for such activities. Moral cultivation, as a basis for building a good reputation and winning the public's trust, is a crucial factor contributing to the development of officials. They must take the lead in enhancing ethics and practicing the core socialist values. Furthermore, they should follow the Party spirit, observe high ethical standards, and set good examples of caring for family members, providing suitable ethical education for their children, and pursuing a wholesome lifestyle. Officials must maintain the noble character and political integrity of Communists, and, through their concrete actions, motivate the public to pursue virtue, and respect and observe the law.


* Main points of the speech at the 37th group study session of the Political Bureau of the 18th CPC Central Committee.

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