New Day for China’s Constitution
China’s Constitution is the symbol of national unification and ethnic unity. It serves as a set of general guidelines for administering state affairs and ensuring national security. It also gives full expression to the will of the Party and the people. Moreover, it is a crystallization of the collective wisdom of the Chinese people.
The last paragraph of the Preamble of China’s Constitution reads: “This Constitution, in legal form, affirms the achievements of the struggles of the Chinese people of all nationalities and defines the basic system and basic tasks of the state; it is the fundamental law of the state and has supreme legal authority.” The reason a country’s constitution enjoys supreme legal authority is that it contains the major functions of affirming and defining. It affirms the existing democratic facts with the fundamental law. It also defines the future, the dreams and hope of the country and the people, and the protection of human rights. China’s Constitution also testifies to those two functions.
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) announced that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. According to changes in guiding ideology, fundamental tasks and institutional achievements, the second plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee adopted a proposal on amending the Constitution.
The plenary session noted that Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and is a form of Marxism for contemporary China and the 21st century. The Thought should be a guiding ideology that must be upheld in the long term by the CPC and the country. Writing a guiding ideology named after a leader into the Constitution is a Chinese characteristic-as it was with Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory in the Preamble. If Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is written into the Constitution, it will become the guide to action and fundamental rules, with supreme legal authority.
The leadership of the CPC constitutes the most essential attribute of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the greatest strength in this system. This major move is the culmination of China's historical experience and scientific interpretation of truth. The Constitution adopted in 1982 solidified the leadership of the CPC into a constitutional norm with the people’s exercising their power to revise the Constitution. It should be expected that the Party’s overall leadership in all areas will become more effective when the Constitution is revised.
Building China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful by the middle of the century and achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation are the fundamental tasks of the country. Generations of Chinese people have persistently sought answers to such questions: what kind of socialism should the country uphold and develop, and how to achieve it? This work converges in the Constitution, which presents the fundamental tasks for the country. If the goals of building a harmonious and beautiful country, from the Party’s Constitution, are written into the country’s Constitution, they can serve as guide to the whole nation as it becomes a strong country.
China’s reform of the national supervision system is a major structural political reform that has a direct impact on the big picture. It is a major strategy that will strengthen self-supervision of the Party and the government. To make sure that major reforms have a legal basis, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) has approved pilot reforms in Beijing, Zhejiang Province and Shanxi Province, which then rolled out throughout the nation. The standing committee considers drafting the law on national supervision the top priority of the new NPC, which is expected to be enacted this law. If the nature, status, structure, term, functions, and power of the supervision committee are added in the Constitution, it will create a solid constitutional foundation for the stipulation of the law on national supervision and the creation of the supervising power. As a result, the major reform will have legal and constitutional basis.
The plenary session also vowed to strengthen major institutions related to the Constitution. After the 18th CPC National Congress, the NPC approved an amendment of the Legislation Law of the People’s Republic of China, which authorized people’s congresses at municipal level with the power of legislation on certain issues. The NPC also decided to implement regulations requiring a pledge of allegiance to the Constitution. If these adjustments are written into the Constitution, they will play a key role in developing and improving socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Laurence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard, commented that “the framers of the Constitution wisely spoke in general language and left succeeding generations the task of applying that language to the unceasingly changing environment in which they would live.” China’s rule of law has entered a new era, so the new path, new theory and new institutions need reaffirmation and rephrasing in the Constitution.
The author is dean of the Law School of China University of Political Science and Law.