China’s Constitution amendments for ‘longlasting security of the Party and country’

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On 11th March 2018, the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Chinese legislature amended the 33-page constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) literally making Xi Jinping president for the life and incorporating most of his vision for the governance of China. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) Constitution was enacted in 1954. The current amendments have been carried out in the Constitution adopted in 1982; previously the Constitution was amended in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004. The amendments essentially reflect the tremendous changes China has undergone since revolution, construction and reform stages. Most of the amendments have been carried out in the last 40 years of reform, for example between 1988 and 1999 these included the inclusion of ‘socialist market economy’ in place of ‘planned economy’, reform of land use rights, legalisation of the private economy, Deng Xiaoping’s theory of building socialism with Chinese characteristics etc. The 2004 amendment included the private property protection provision as well as Jiang Zemin’s theory of ‘Three Represents’ without putting his name, same goes for Hu Jintao, when ‘Scientific Outlook’ gets added this time. Let’s examine what amendments that have been carried out in 2018, for convenience, I have marked them in red.

The 1982 constitution has the table of contents, preamble, and 4 chapters. Chapter 1 is on general principles; chapter 2 on the fundamental rights and duties of citizens; chapter 3 on the structure of the state, which is the most elaborate with 7 sections, and finally chapter 4 related to the national flag, the national anthem, the national emblem and the capital. The 2018 amendments add a section under chapter 3 in the contents thus making the number of sections as 8. The new section The Supervisory Commission has been inserted as section 7 above The People’s Courts and the People’s Procuratorates, obviously making it more powerful. The sixth paragraph in the preamble: “Both the victory of China’s new-democratic revolution …culture and democracy” has been amended. Some of the new additions in specific lines are:

The basic task of the nation is to concentrate its efforts on socialist modernization along the road of Chinese-style socialism. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important Theory of “Three Represents,” scientific outlook 科学发展观, and Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era 习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思 the Chinese people of all nationalities will continue to adhere to the people’s democratic dictatorship, follow the socialist road, persist in reform and opening-up, steadily improve socialist institutions, develop a socialist market economy, advance socialist democracy, improve the socialist rule of law instead of legal system,implement the new development concept 贯彻新发展理念 and work hard and self-reliantly to modernize industry, agriculture, national defence and science and technology step by step, promote the coordinated development of the material, political, spiritual civilizations, social civilization社会文明、ecological civilization生态文明 and to turn China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful and realize the great cause of national rejuvenation 民主文明和谐美丽的社会主义现代化强国,实现中华民族伟大复兴. Another major change in the second last paragraph, a new line reflecting Xi’s ideas has been inserted to: China adheres to an independent foreign policy as well as to the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence, peaceful development path, mutual benefits and win-win strategy of opening up 坚持和平发展道路,坚持互利共赢开放战略 in developing diplomatic relations and economic and cultural exchanges with other countries, and promote and build the communities of shared interest 推动构建人类命运共同体.  Apart from these major changes in the preamble, there are other minor changes, for example reform period has been added to the stages of revolution and construction, indicating that there would be a demarcation between the 40 years of reforms and the ‘new era’ under Xi Jinping.

In Chapter 1, a new line has been inserted in the Article 1 as ‘Leadership of the Communist Party of China is the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics’ 中国共产党领导是中国特色社会主义最本质的特征. In Article 24 the advocacy of socialist core values 倡导社会主义核心价值观 has been added to other civic virtues of love for the motherland, for the people, for labour, for science and for socialism etc. Article 27 adds on assuming office any government functionary must publically administer constitutional oath in accordance with the law 国家工作人员就职时应当依照法律规定公开进行宪法宣誓. Chapter 2 has no amendments. Chapter 3 under Article 62 at number 7, the NPC is also exercising the functions and power of electing the director of the National Supervisory Commission 选举国家监察委员会主任 has been added. The same has been added in Article 63 and 67 and elaborated under Section 7 of the same chapter. The establishment of the Supervisory Commission is a new state organ that will give it sweeping powers to supervise over the malpractices related to corruption and other misconduct not only within the Party but across the entire government machinery. Fighting the ‘tigers and flies’ during the last five years has been extremely successful. Recent figures released by China’s state media, say that in the last five years, 1.4 million party officials have been investigated for corruption. It’s not that China is setting up such a commission all of a sudden, pilot work was going on in some areas including Beijing. Once the organ is established across provinces, municipalities and counties, various overlapping functions of other supervisory agencies would be done away with, thus bringing these functions under the ambit of one authority which would be more effective and efficient at the same time. Article 100 under Section 5 has an addition relating to formulating laws by provincial governments and reporting the same to higher levels.

The most talked about and debated, however, is Article 79 under section 2 on the President of the People’s Republic of China of Chapter 3. The third paragraph thus has been changed to “The term of office of the President and Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China is the same as that of the National People’s Congress.  and they shall serve no more than two consecutive terms stands deleted连续不得超两届.  In the words of Xi Jinping, to amend the part of the Constitution is a major decision made by the CPC Central Committee from the overall and strategic height of upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era. It is the blueprint which he has made for realising the two centenaries of China that the amendments in all the sections have been carried out. Nevertheless, the post of president and vice president in China is a titular one, they do not control the party, army and neither have any say in constituting the State Council. Given the structure of the Party and state in China, it is the general secretary of the CPC who wields real power, and moreover, the Party constitution does not restrict and limit the general secretary or the chairman of the military commission to hold office for more than ten years. However, the amendments and enshrining the thought and doing away with the tenure does guarantee that the path, theory and the system as advocated by the present leadership is maintained for a certain period of time, so as the bi centenary goals of making China in to a moderately prosperous society, realising the socialist modernisation, and making China a developed society are met with.