The Chinese Debate on Constitutionalism: Texts and Analyses (II)

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Over the last week, I have selected and translated a number of texts relating to the constitutionalism debate, which I will analyse further in depth in the following posts of this series, as I did with Yang Xiaoqing’s article on constitutional governance. I have, however, already uploaded the translations of the articles themselves, as they seem to be quite topical. They are (in reverse chronological order):

The Controversy on the Preamble to the Constitution and Its Effects (Zhang Qianfan, Yanhuang Chunqiu, 10 June)

In this article, Zhang Qianfan makes a thinly veiled challenge to the preamble of China’s 1982 Constitution, which includes references to the leading position of the CCP and the guiding position of Marxism-Leninism and Mao-Zedong Thought. He argues that China’s constitutional preamble should be shorter, and mainly contain statements on the subjects and objectives of the constitution, as well as basic values. 

The “Chinese Dream” and the Choice of the Path of Democratic Politics (Yu Zhong, Red Flag Manuscript, 9 June)

The author of this article defends – in a relatively nuanced manner – the Chinese Dream against naïve and idealist notions of constitutional governance. It is claimed that the Chinese Dream is higher than the dream of constitutionalism, a clear response to the Southern Weekend New Year article (see below), and has been engendered through China’s rich and long history.

Providing a Powerful Theoretical Basis for Realizing the Chinese Dream (Liu Qibao, Qiushi, 1 June)

Liu Qibao, the replacement of Liu Yunshan at the head of the Propaganda Department after the latter was promoted to the Standing Committee, made a speech at a work conference on philosophy and social science, in which he outlined the research agenda in these sectors for the coming years. It is particularly interesting as it provides a list of all the causes the Party Centre seems to think it needs to justify:

We must revolve around the general positioning of “five positions, one whole” of the undertaking of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, strengthen research to promote scientific development and the transformation of economic development methods, strengthen research to analyse and explain the issue that development is unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable, strengthen research on stable growth, controlling inflation and preventing risks, promote real, qualitative, effective and sustainable development, incessantly pioneer civilizational development paths for production development, life prosperity and a good ecology. We must revolve around building institutions and structures that are systemically complete, with scientific standards and effective operations, earnestly launch research on top-level reform design and general planning, launch research on the systemic nature, comprehensive nature and coordinated nature of reform, launch research on reform unimportant areas and crucial segments, promote the incessant deepening of reform, stimulate institutions on all sides to become even more mature and standardized. We must revolve around guaranteeing that the people live and work in peace and happiness, that society is stable and orderly, that the country knows a long period of tranquillity, and incessantly deepen research on strengthening and innovating social management, deepen research on guaranteeing and improving people’s livelihoods, deepen research relating to issues directly affecting the masses’ interests, to disambiguate misunderstandings, promote work and stimulate the construction of a Socialist harmonious society. We must revolve around promoting the formation of an international environment that is beneficial to our country’s reform, development and stability, vigorously research the rules of the interactions of the two big situations, the international and the domestic, research the future trends of the adjustments of the present global structure, research the basic situation of the power change and chess game between great powers, in order to safeguard the national interest and national security.


We must revolve around this deployment, deeply research the new challenges and new requirements of strengthening the construction of the Party’s governing ability, advanced nature and purity. We must especially integrate the mass line educational practice project that will be launched soon and has pragmatism, honesty and being for the people as the main content, deeply research the characteristics and rules of mass work under new circumstances, research institutions and measure to raise the ability to do mass work well and preserve the flesh-and-blood relationship of the Party and the masses, research effective channels to resolve the formalist, bureaucratist, hedonist and extravagant styles that the people strongly react against, promote the deep development of educational practice activities, strive to construct a study-type, service-type and innovative Marxist governing Party.

Clearly Understanding the Essence of “Constitutional Governance” (Zhengzhi Xue, People’s Daily, 29 May)

This article mostly rehashes the points made in Yang Xiaoqing’s article, analyzed earlier. It claims that constitutionalism is an insidious, Trojan horse of a concept, which will drive China to ruin if followed, as the term refers to bourgeois norms of governance. It calls for the overthrow of the CCP and Socialism, and China must not fall into this “discourse trap”.

Long-Standing Mistakes in Understanding “A Century of Constitutional Governance” (Guo Shiyou, Yanhuang Chunqiu, 9 May)

In this article, Guo Shiyou argues that one reason constitutionalism has not been realized in China, is that confusion exists about its historical development. He analyses the path of constitutionalism during the Late Qing and early republican periods, concluding that it is not necessary to fear political ruin when engaging in political reform, as circumstances now are completely incomparable with those of a century ago.

The Chinese Dream, the Dream of Constitutional Governance (Southern Weekend, unpublished)

Constitutional Governance is the Consensus for Political Structural Reform (Yanhuang Chunqiu, 4 January)

These are the two New Year’s messages that were infamously censored. In Southern Weekend’s case, the text was replaced by a much more politically neutral text, while the Yanhuang Chunqiu site was blocked. They both claim for constitutionalism among similar lines: constitutionalism is necessary to end arbitrary government and corruption, and ensure the Chinese Dream reaches everyone. Yanhuang Chunqiu does so by providing a legal analysis of some clauses in the Constitution that have not been implemented, while Southern Weekend makes a much more emotional call, revolving around the theme of dreaming, based on the historical trajectory towards constitutionalism.


2 thoughts on “The Chinese Debate on Constitutionalism: Texts and Analyses (II)

    […] created structurally, but of individual failings of morality. In the last few months as well, a debate on constitutionalism and political reform has emerged, in which the Party is called upon to implement the Constitution and protect […]

    […] v liniích stanovených novou vládou. I když původní – skutečně probíhající – „diskuze o konstitucionalizmu“ byla v podstatě smetena ze stolu, strana se dále snaží zbavovat extravagantních, nebo […]

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