Constitutional Safeguards for Chinese Socialism in the New Era*
January 19, 2018
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, I have emphasized on many occasions that comprehensively implementing the Constitution is the primary and basic task for governing the country in accordance with the law and building China into a socialist country under the rule of law. We place the implementation of the Constitution at a prominent position in comprehensive law-based governance, and have taken effective measures to strengthen oversight of the process of implementation to ensure that it complies with the terms of the Constitution, and to uphold the authority of the Constitution and the law. In 2014, to implement the decisions of the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, the NPC Standing Committee designated December 4 as China's Constitution Day. Since then we have celebrated four Constitution Days, which we have used to promote the Constitution throughout society.
In 2015, the NPC Standing Committee decided that all those elected or appointed to public office by people's congresses at all levels or by the standing committees of people's congresses at and above county level, and all those appointed to public office by people's governments, courts and procuratorates at all levels, must publicly pledge allegiance to the Constitution on assuming office. The goal is to inspire civil servants to observe, safeguard, and give their allegiance to the Constitution. That same year, in accordance with the Constitution, the NPC Standing Committee adopted the decision to grant pardons to certain categories of prisoner, for which I signed the order. This was the first such occasion in China since the beginning of reform and opening up in 1978, and was therefore of great political and legal significance. In 2016, the NPC Standing Committee, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws, took prompt and proper actions to deal with the election fraud in Liaoning Province, working resolutely to uphold the authority and sanctity of the system of people's congresses. Also in 2016, exercising the power granted by the Constitution and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the NPC Standing Committee issued a convincing interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law, making clear the resolution of the central authorities in implementing the principle of "one country, two systems" and their firm stance in opposing "Hong Kong independence".
In 2017, the NPC Standing Committee adopted the National Anthem Law of the People's Republic of China, which, together with the National Flag Law and the National Emblem Law, institutionalized these national symbols as stipulated by the Constitution. Recently, the NPC Standing Committee ratified an agreement on establishing a one-stop checkpoint at the West Kowloon terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link between Hong Kong and the mainland, confirming that the arrangement complies with both the Constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong.
We are improving the system for documenting and reviewing regulations, rules, judicial interpretations, and other normative documents. We have established mechanisms for coordination between Party committees, people's congresses, governments, and the armed forces, and stepped up work on the process for documentation and review. We have ensured that all normative documents are filed for record and examined, and mistakes, if any, are rectified.
"Laws should be made based on the developments of the times, and rituals should be instituted to meet specific needs."1 One of the important considerations of the CPC Central Committee in proposing revisions to the Constitution is the need to continue reform of the national supervision system as a major measure for the political reform launched and promoted by the Central Committee. It requires us to make significant adjustments and improvements to the top-level design of our state institutions, which in turn necessitates revisions to the Constitution.
After pilot reform programs had been proposed by the Central Committee, the NPC Standing Committee decided in 2016 that they would first be piloted in Beijing and the two provinces of Shanxi and Zhejiang, and it decided in 2017 that the reform would be extended to the rest of the country. Meanwhile, the NPC Standing Committee was actively preparing for and driving forward national legislation. Currently we are advancing legislation on revisions to the Constitution and national supervision, and the drafts will be submitted in accordance with statutory procedures to the 13th NPC for deliberation. Given the progress in reforming the supervision system, we have properly coordinated endeavors to continue reform and promote the rule of law, and met the requirement that all major reform measures must be law-based, thereby highlighting the Party's governing principle that it must act within the confines of the Constitution and the law.
The Constitution embodies the common will and aspiration of the CPC and the people and is the highest expression of state will. "The law is what the state relies on to gain popular trust."2 The Constitution is what the state relies on to gain the greatest popular trust. To make laws, we must emphasize the spirit of scientific inquiry and fully understand and consciously apply this truth. In Karl Marx's words, "The legislator … should regard himself as a naturalist. He does not make the laws, he does not invent them, he only formulates them, expressing in conscious, positive laws the inner laws of spiritual relations."3 Formulating and revising the Constitution is the most important political and legislative activity in all countries, and it must be conducted in a serious and scientific manner. When presiding over the drafting of the first Constitution of the PRC in 1954, Mao Zedong stated, "Creating a constitution is a matter of science."4 Elsewhere he observed, "The Constitution was drafted prudently, and every single article or term was worded with deliberation."5 This should also apply to the current revisions to the Constitution.
The Central Committee's proposed revisions are based on thorough consideration and comprehensive analysis. They serve three goals, subject to the conditions of maintaining the continuity, consistency, and authority of the Constitution. The first is to better embody the will of the people. The second is to better reflect the strengths of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The third is to better extend the Party's capacity in long-term governance, in implementing comprehensive law-based governance, and in modernizing China's system and capacity for governance, so as to provide the constitutional guarantee for upholding and developing Chinese socialism in the new era.
Based on opinions solicited within the Party and beyond, we can see that there is a strong consensus on the revisions to the Constitution, and the proposal enjoys universal support among Party members. We believe that the general public will share this view. We can therefore conclude that the Central Committee's proposal to revise the Constitution is absolutely right and necessary. It is of great significance in ensuring that the Constitution is always aligned as closely as possible with our national conditions and the demands of the times.
* Part of the speech at the second full assembly of the Second Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee.
1 Strategies of the States (Zhan Guo Ce).
2 Wu Jing: Governance of the Zhenguan Period (Zhen Guan Zheng Yao).
3 Karl Marx: "The Divorce Bill", Karl Marx & Frederick Engels: Collected Works, Vol. 1, Eng. ed., Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1979, p. 308.
4 Mao Zedong: "On the Draft Constitution of the People's Republic of China", Collected Works of Mao Zedong, Vol. VI, Chin. ed., People's Publishing House, Beijing, 1999, p. 330.
5 An excerpt from the speech made by Mao Zedong when presiding over a meeting of the Central People's Government Council on September 14, 1954. See Chronicle of Mao Zedong (1949-1976), Vol. II, Chin. ed., Central Party Literature Publishing House, Beijing, 2013, p. 281.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)