Mutual Trust through Communication, Cooperation through Win-Win (Speech, Lu Wei, 2 December 2014)
Liu Yunshan: Safeguard Cybersecurity, Build a Strong Network Country (Speech, Liu Yunshan, 24 November 2014)
A Network Shared Together, A Space Governed Together (Speech, Lu Wei, 23 June 2014)
Internet Society of China Proposal Letter on Resisting Online Rumours (Internet Society of China, April 2012)
CCP Central Committee Instructions concerning the Rectification Movement (Central Committee, April 1957)
On 6 February, the Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization and China Mobile jointly organized a nationwide conference for cyber and information security, at which China Telecom, China Mobile, People’s Daily Online, Xinhua Online, Qihoo 360 and other such Internet and information technology firms committed to new list of proposals concerning reforming the online environment. These documents mostly have symbolic value, but demonstrate the continuing pressure on enterprises to “identify with” (rentong 认同) the State’s objectives.
Since the 18th Party Congress, and especially since the establishment of the Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization, the Centre has put forward a series of major policies and strategic deployments concerning cybersecurity and informatization work, greatly inspiring internet and information technology enterprises as well as sectoral organizations nationwide. Everyone deeply feels major responsibilities, and shall dare to undertake work, act vigorously, give rein to their own superiorities, and truly make even greater contributions to safeguarding our country’s cyber and information security. To this end, the Chinese Cyberspace Security Association, together with all Internet and information technology enterprises and sectoral organizations publish the following proposal: Read the rest of this entry »
This Qiushi (Seeking Truth) editorial on Dialectical Materialism was published first on 15 February.
Study and Use Dialectical Materialism, Strengthen and Coordinate our Abilities to Move the “Four Comprehensives” forward.
Not long ago, General Secretary Xi Jinping made an important speech at the 20th collective study session of the Politburo, stressing that dialectical materialism is the worldview and methodology of Chinese Communist Party members, that our Party must unite and lead the people in moving the comprehensive construction of a moderately prosperous society, the comprehensive deepening of reform, comprehensively governing the country according to the law and comprehensively governing the Party strictly forward in a coordinated manner, realize the “Two Centenaries” struggle objective, and realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, that we must incessantly receive the nourishment and wisdom of Marxist philosophy, even more consciously uphold and use the worldview and methodology of dialectical materialism, strengthen our abilities in dialectical thinking and strategic thinking, strive to raise our skill in resolving fundamental problems in our country’s reform and development, and develop a Chinese Marxism for the 21st Century. Giving high regard to studying and grasping the worldview and methodology of Marxism, is an excellent tradition that our Party has consistently maintained through the Chinese revolution, construction and reform periods. The important speech of General Secretary Xi Jinping has pointed out the direction for our preparations to respond with a magnificent struggle that has many new historical characteristics, for the coordination of moving the “Four Comprehensives” forward and spare no effort for the realization of the Chinese Dream.
To persist in starting from our basic national circumstances and starting from objective reality from beginning to end to formulate policies and move work forward, we must earnestly study and grasp the basic tenets of dialectical materialism concerning the world being unified in matter, and that matter decided consciousness. The relationship between spirit and matter is a fundamental philosophical question, and is a fundamental question in real work. All of humankinds’ activities are inseparable from the two aspects of spirit and matter. Only dialectical materialism scientifically resolves the relationship between spirit and matter, has demonstrated that the world is unified in matter, and objective existence decides subjective consciousness. Because of this, in real work, we must ensure everything starts from reality, and truth must be sought from facts. The biggest objective reality in contemporary China is that our country still is, and for a long time will remain, in the primary stage of Socialism, this is the fundamental objective point for us to understand the present, plan the future, formulate policy and move our undertaking forward, we cannot become separated from this basic point. The reason that the theory, line, principles and policies that our Party has put forward and implemented in the present stage are correct is because they have taken our country’s current social existence as basis. At present, we must both consider that the fundamental national circumstance of the primary stage of Socialism has not changed, and must also consider that our country’s economic and social development has brought new characteristics in every phase. We must correctly grasp the unity of this sort of “non-change” and “change”, we must neither mark a boat to seek a sword [an old Chinese proverb], neither can we help the plants grow by pulling on the sprouts, we must persist in starting from our country’s fundamental national circumstances and development requirements from beginning to end. When we put forward we must correctly grasp and actively adapt to the new normal in economic development, this is a judgement responding to the changes in the international and domestic environment, and of a dialectical analysis of the characteristics of our country’s economic development stage. Correctly grasping the new changes and new characteristics of our country’s different development stages, ensuring that the subjective world conforms better to objective reality, and deciding on work policies according to reality are work methods that we must closely keep in mind.
To forcefully strengthen the construction of the Socialist core value system and strengthen our country’s soft power, we must earnestly study and grasp the tenets of dialectical materialism concerning the counter effect of consciousness on matter. Dialectical materialism, under the precondition that it affirms that matter decides consciousness, also admits that consciousness displays a huge dynamic effect on understanding and changing the world, which demands that we respect the integration of objective laws and giving rein to subjective initiative. “People must have a bit of spirit.” General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that: “dialectical materialism is not a denial of the counter effect of consciousness on matter, but it believes that this sort of counter effect sometimes can be extremely huge. Our Party has put ideological construction in the first place in Party building from beginning to end, and has stressed that ‘revolutionary ideals are higher than heaven’, the reason for this is that spirit changes matter and matter changes spirit dialectically.” To realize the Chinese Dream, we must carry forward a Chinese spirit. Realizing the Chinese Dream demands that we not only strengthen in material terms, but also that we expand spiritually. From ancient times to the present, any large country’s development process has been a process of rising power in economic quantities, military power and other such hard power factors, as well as a rise in value systems, ideology, culture and other such soft power. For a nation, for a country, the most long lasting and the most profound force is a core value system commonly recognized by all of society. We must not slacken education about ideals and conviction, the construction of ideology and morality, and ideological work, forcefully foster and carry forward the Socialist core value system, and use a Chinese spirit that is rich in the flavour of the times to concentrate China’s forces.
To incessantly strengthen our consciousness about problems and strengthen our ability to vigorously respond to and resolve contradictions we run into during our progress in moving the “Four Comprehensives” forward, we must earnestly study and grasp the fundamental principles of dialectical materialism concerning material contradictions. Some leading cadres, when they run into problems or contradictions, often want to avoid or dodge the matter, one important reason for this is that they do not understand that material contradictions are the inherent drivers to promote material development. The general characteristics of dialectical materialism are connection and development, it is a theory concerning universal connection and comprehensive development. The law of the unity of opposites is the essence and core of dialectical materialism, it takes the objective universality of contradictions as preconditions, and understands that the driver of development lies in the unity of opposites of both sides of material contradictions. The problem is the manner in which material contradictions manifest themselves. Stressing that we must strengthen a consciousness of problems, persist in a problem orientation, means recognizing the universality and objectivity of contradictions, and means that we must be good at making the understanding and dissolution of contradictions into a breakthrough point to open up work situations. Problems are the voices of the times. Our Party has led the people in the revolution, construction and reform, and has always done so for the sake of resolving China’s real problems. The correct attitude for dealing with contradictions should be directly facing contradictions, and using the complementary characteristics of contradictions to promote material development through the process of resolving contradictions. At present, the Centre puts forward the accelerated transformation of economic development, adjusting economic structures, reducing excess production capacity, strengthening the construction of an ecological civilization and other such tasks, all of these are aimed at a number of profound contradictions that affect a broad area and are strongly coupled, they are for the sake of incessantly guiding action according to circumstances, they directly face and resolve contradictions. General Secretary Xi Jinping has pointed out that: “in the face of complex circumstances and onerous tasks, we must first and foremost look at the entire picture, and ensure we have a detailed knowledge of all sorts of contradictions, at the same time, we must also resolve main contradictions and the main aspects of contradictions with priority, in order to drive the resolution of other contradictions.” This demands that we not only understand contradictions and view them correctly, we must also be good at finding the main contradictions out of a mass of contradictions, look for the main aspects of contradictions on both sides of every contradiction, and persist in the dialectical unity of the “dialectical points theory” and the “focus point theory”. Only if we are good at grasping the “focus point” of “dialectical points”, grasp the focus point to lead the ordinary, both pay attention to general planning and pay attention to leading “the cow by the nose”, and moving forward with the comprehensive construction of a moderately prosperous society, the comprehensive deepening of reform, comprehensively governing the country according to the law and comprehensively governing the Party strictly in a coordinated manner, will we be able to even better build Socialism with Chinese characteristics.
To strengthen our ability for dialectical thinking and raise our skill in mastering complex situation and dealing with complex issues, we must earnestly study and grasp the fundamental methods of dialectical materialism concerning material dialectics. “Handling affairs according to dialectics” is a celebrated remark of Comrade Deng Xiaoping, which was greatly admired by Comrade Mao Zedong. To consciously handle affairs according to material dialectics, the most important matter is that we must make the entire process of material activity into a dialectical development and grasp it in this manner, look at problems by studying them in a comprehensive and dialectical manner, and oppose metaphysical thinking methods. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that: “The more our undertaking develops in breadth and depth, the more we must incessantly strengthen our ability for dialectical thought.” At present, the relationships between all sorts of interests in our country’s society is becoming extremely complex, there are more problems that on their own can affect the whole situation, and it is especially necessary to “recommend handling matters according to dialectics”, be good at dealing with the relationship between partial matters and the complete situation, the present and the long-term, focus concerns and non-focus concerns, seek profit and avoid harms in weighing pros and cons, and make the most beneficial strategic choices. To comprehensively deepen reform, we must give prominence to the systematic nature, integrated nature and coordinated nature of reform, and ensure that the fruits of reform and extended to the whole body of the people in greater numbers and even more fairly. Handling affairs according to dialectics demands that our observation of circumstances and work must overcome subjective wilfulness, we cannot be like blind men groping an elephant, look at the sky from the bottom of the well, pull up sprouts to help them grow, fit everything into a Procrustean bed, or draw feet on a snake. To raise our ability for dialectical thinking, we must be objective rather than subjective, develop rather than remain static, be comprehensive rather than biased, be systemic rather than fragmented, and be universally contacted rather than look at matters in isolation, when we analyse and resolve problems, we must correctly grasp objective reality, truly grasp laws, and appropriately deal with all sorts of major relationships.
To persist in practicing the first viewpoint, and incessantly move forward theoretical innovation on a practical basis, we must earnestly study and grasp the tenets of dialectical materialism concerning understanding and practicing dialectical relations. Dialectical materialism makes practice into a basis for understanding, it makes dialectics into a theory of reflection, and so establishes a dynamic theory of reflection. The practical viewpoint is the primary and basic viewpoint of dialectical materialist epistemology. It stresses that understanding is the dynamic reflection of the objective on the subjective on a practical basis; from perceptual knowledge to rational knowledge, and from rational knowledge to practice, are two big leaps in the process of understanding. Theory must be connected to reality, theory must be unified with practice. For us to move work in all areas forward, we cannot rely on “bookism”, we must rely on deriving true knowledge from practice. At the same time, we must give high regard to the role of theory, strengthen self-confidence about theory and a strategic ability to concentrate, correct theories that have been obtained through repeated practice and comparison must be firmly and unwaveringly upheld. The unity of theory and practice is realized in incessant development. We must, on the basis of the changes of the times and development in practice, under the leadership of the Party Centre with Comrade Xi Jinping as General Secretary, incessantly deepen our understanding, incessantly summarize experiences, incessantly realize the beneficial interaction of theoretical innovation and practical innovation, and coordinate moving forward with the “Four Comprehensives” and developing a 21st Century Chinese Marxism through this sort of unity and interaction.
A few days ago, the Capital Internet Association organised an online gala to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year. As part of the proceedings, the choir of the Cyberspace Administration of China performed a song glorifying China’s Internet. You can watch the video here, the lyrics are the following:
“The Spirit of Online Information”
Keeping loyal watch in this sky for days and months
Working hard for the mission of the sunrise East
Innovation embraces brightness every day
It is felt in hearts like a bundle of honest sunlight
A force that unites all living things in their growth
Devoted to making the global village into the most beautiful scene
In this world, a hundred streams faithfully seek the ocean
Take up the measure of Chinese civilization
Five thousand years of sediments illuminate innovative thought
Honesty is the undulating ripple of a nation
We unite in the centre of heaven and earth
And devote our faith to the Yellow River and Yangze that flow for ten thousand leagues
Strong cybercountry, the Internet is in all glorious dreams
Strong cybercountry, from the faraway cosmos to the home that we muss
Strong cybercountry, tell the world the Chinese dream is letting China rise
Strong cybercountry, a country that I represent in the world.
Guiding Opinions concerning Promoting the Healthy Development of Online Literature (SAPPRFT, December 2014)
Earlier today, the Cyberspace Administration of China published new rules concerning usernames, user portrait pictures and brief introductions on blogs, microblogs and other social media and posting services. The gist of the new rules is very simple:
– Usernames, user portraits and their introductions may not contain unlawful or harmful content. Specifically, the document identifies nine categories of prohibited content, which are derived directly from the typical list used for all media products and services. They include content violating national security, leaks of state secrets and harming the national interest, as well as defamation and ethnic discrimination.
– Internet enterprises are responsible for vetting all account registrations, and may not register accounts that contain problematic content. They must also sanction use of false information in registering accounts.
– Internet users must commit to the Seven Baselines.
– A limited real-name system is implemented: the use of anonymous nicknames and user handles is still permitted, but real-name information must be provided to the Internet service provider.
These rules further escalate the ongoing crackdown against public participation that started with the targeting of Big Vs in the first half of 2013. Their most visible aspect is the mandatory real-name registration system. Efforts towards establishing such a system go back years, sometimes through soft soft measures such as self-regulatory conventions, sometimes through hard regulation. For a long time, these efforts were honoured more in the breach than in the observance. However, a few weeks ago, Global Times reported that verified identity information is held for more than 80 per cent of WeChat accounts, and more than 90 per cent of accounts on other online platforms. Online platforms have been strongly incentivised to collect real-name information, for instance through a Supreme People’s Court document that imposed liability on companies that do not submit such information in cases of defamation.
Hitherto, however, real-name registration and other account registration requirements were fragmented, they were present in documents regulating very specific and well-defined areas of online business. These new rules, however, provide an integrated set of norms for all online information circulation services for which account registration is required (with the exception, perhaps, of e-mail). Furthermore, until the CAC was given control of all online content in the Summer of 2014, social media services were largely regulated by the MIIT, which is much less a censorship body than a technology-oriented department. The CAC, however, has demonstrated over the past months that the maintenance of social order online is its chief priority, and has backed up rhetoric with increasingly strict actions, such as the very public censure of Netease days ago. These new rules must be seen in that light.
What is the purpose of these new rules, and particularly the real-name registration requirement? First, real-name registration creates a deterrent effect not unlike Bentham’s Panopticon. In the eyes of the leadership, the fact that people known they may be watched at all times should discourage those who would seek to use the Internet for nefarious ends. Second, identifiability is the core of any effort to regulate online behaviour. Lawrence Lessig calls this regulability: the ability of governments to learn who did what from where. A collateral benefit to the government is that these rules limit zombie accounts and the sort of pay-per-audience that had become infamous on Weibo.
The prohibition of impersonating accounts is connected with a broader crackdown on satire, humour and other kinds of “mischief” (egao) committed on line. Not that long ago, SAPPRFT prohibited punnery in television programmes. In other words, in a political environment where the leadership seeks to define a pure version of the language that is not up for interpretation or humorous subversion, it is not surprising that parodies of celebrities and (official) bodies is prohibited.
The Politburo held a study session on 23 January, dedicated to understanding the importance of dialectical materialism in Party work, at which Xi Jinping gave a speech. The following Xinhua report summarises that speech, and provides interesting theoretical background to the recent pushes into higher education rectification and think tank building.
The CCP Politburo held its 20th collective study session on the afternoon of 23 January on the topic of the basic principles and methodology of dialectical materialism. When chairing the study session, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that dialectical materialism is the worldview and methodology of Chinese Communist Party members, if our Party seeks to unite and lead the people in moving forward the construction of a moderately prosperous society, the comprehensive deepening of reform, comprehensively governing the country according to the law, comprehensively strictly govern the Party, realized the “Two Centuries” struggle objective, and realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, it must incessantly receive the nourishment of Marxist philosophical wisdom, ever more consciously persist in and use the worldview and methodology of dialectical materialism, strengthen its ability for dialectical thinking and strategic thinking, and strive to raise its skill in resolving the fundamental problems in our country’s reform and development. Read the rest of this entry »
CCP General Office and State Council General Office Opinions concerning Strengthening the Construction of New Types of Think Tanks with Chinese Characteristics
In order to deeply implement the spirit of the 18th Party Congress and the 3rd and 4th Plenums of the 18th Party Congress, strengthen the construction of new types of think tanks with Chinese characteristics and establish and complete a policymaking consultancy system, the following Opinion is formulated.
I, Major significance
(1) New kinds of think tanks with Chinese characteristics are an important support for scientific, democratic and lawful policymaking by the Party and the government. A policymaking consultancy system is an important content of the construction of our country’s Socialist democratic politics. Our Party has always given high regard to policymaking consultancy wok. Since reform and opening up, our country’s think tank construction undertaking has developed rapidly, providing powerful intelligence support to Party and government policymaking. At present, the comprehensive construction of a moderately prosperous society has entered a decisive stage, analysing and explaining difficult questions of reform, development and stability and responding to global issues is complex and difficult without precedent, this urgently requires the completion of a policymaking support system with Chinese characteristics, the forceful strengthening of think tank construction, the support of scientific policymaking through scientific consulting, and the guidance of scientific development through scientific policymaking. Read the rest of this entry »
“Opinions concerning Further Strengthening and Improving Propaganda and Ideology Work in Higher Education Under New Circumstances”
The “Opinion concerning Further Strengthening and Improving Propaganda and Ideology Work in Higher Education Under New Circumstances”, published today, is the latest of a series of documents aimed at imposing stricter political discipline and control in China’s academia. The original document has not been published. The following is a translation of Xinhua’s summary.
The Central Committee General Office and the State Council General Office have recently issued the “Opinions concerning Further Strengthening and Improving Propaganda and Ideology Work in Higher Education Under New Circumstances”. The “Opinion” emphatically points out that ideological work is an extremely important work of our Party and our country, higher education is a forward battlefield in ideological work, and shoulders the important tasks of studying, researching and propagating Marxism, fostering and carrying forward the Socialist core value system, and providing talent guarantees and intelligent support for the realization of the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Doing higher education propaganda and ideology work well and strengthening the construction of the higher education ideological battlefields are strategic projects, steadfast projects and projects of casting souls, they relate to Party leadership over higher education, relate to the comprehensive implementation of the Party’s educational policies, relate to successors for the undertaking of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, and have an extremely important and profound significance for consolidating the guiding position of Marxism in the ideological area and consolidating a common ideological basis for the united struggle of the entire Party, the entire country and all the people.
The “Opinion” consists of seven parts: I, Strengthening and improving higher education propaganda and ideology work is a major and urgent strategic task; II, guiding ideology, basic principles and main tasks; III, realistically promoting the entry of the theoretical system of Socialism with Chinese characteristics into textbooks, classrooms and minds; IV, Forcefully raising the ideological and political quality of higher education teaching teams; V, incessantly expanding higher education mainstream ideology and public opinion; VI, Striving to strengthen management of the higher education propaganda and ideology battlefield; VII, Realistically strengthening Party leadership over higher education propaganda and ideology work. Read the rest of this entry »
On 5 January, the Propaganda Department organised a conference for directors of local propaganda departments nationwide. Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan and Liu Qibao both gave speeches outlining propaganda priorities for 2015. Furthermore, it seems that the Cyberspace Administration of China organised a parallel meeting for propaganda online. There have been only intermittent references to this, which in a number of cases were removed from the Internet rapidly.
The following summary of the propaganda speeches was published on Xinhua’s website:
On 5 January, the Nationwide Propaganda Department Directors’ Conference was convened in Beijing. CCP Politburo Standing Committee Member and Central Secretariat Secretary Liu Yunshan attended and gave a speech. He stressed it was necessary to comply with the new demands of the development of the Party’s and State’s undertaking, firmly do propaganda and ideology work well, and provide powerful ideological and public opinion support for the comprehensive construction of a moderately prosperous society, comprehensively deepening reform, comprehensively govern the country according to the law, and comprehensively and strictly govern the Party.
Liu Yunshan pointed out that, to do propaganda and ideology work well, the most fundamental matter is using Socialism with Chinese characteristics to bring together an ideological consensus. We must persist in continuing to deeply study and implement the spirit of the series of important speeches by General Secretary Xi Jinping, work hard to understand the essence of this spirit, work hard to let it enter minds and hearts, and ensure that we study it so we can believe, use and practice it. Study to believe it means we must persist in ideals and convictions, and building firm spiritual supports; study to use it means we must persist in problem orientation, and use the spirit of the speeches to guide the resolution of real problems; study to practice it means we must internalize it in our hearts and externalize it in our practice, shaping strong forces for the promotion of the development of our undertaking and the realization of the Chinese Dream. Liu Yunshan stressed that propaganda and ideology work serves the bigger picture, it must closely revolve around the strategic “four comprehensives” deployment, grasp the correct public orientation guidance, strengthen propaganda and elucidation, create a beneficial environment, and promote the implementation of the Centre’s policy decisions. We must deeply move forward the construction of the Socialist cure value system, focus on model examples, focus on changing people through culture, focus on structures and standards, and incessantly consolidate the ideological and moral basis of the united struggle of the people of all ethnicities. We must persist in the creative orientation of putting people at the centre, stimulate writers to even more firmly take root among the people and take root in real life, and create ever more literary and artistic works that are imbued with real affairs and move people’s hearts, it is especially necessary to enhance the quality of works, stress social effect and prevent only looking at box office, only looking at viewing rates and only looking at clicks. We must fix our eyes on enhancing national cultural soft power, actively and colourfully tell China’s story well, strengthen the construction of international communication power, promote synergy with cultural marching out measures, and strive to create a good international public opinion environment. Liu Yunshan stressed that, to do propaganda and ideology work well, we must persist in Party management of propaganda and Party management of ideology, realistically grasp the leadership power and initiative in work. All levels’ Party Committees must bear general responsibility for ideological work, carry out the work to grasp the correct orientation and deploy guidance, strengthen supervision and inspection, grasp team construction, etc.; Party Committee secretaries must bear the first responsibility, take the lead in carrying professional responsibilities to the utmost; corresponding department s and work units must, in integration with their individual functions, make the responsibility they must bear more detailed, real and concrete.
CCP Politburo Member and Central Propaganda Department Director Liu Qibao chaired the Conference and provided work deployments, he stressed we must grasp the correct orientation, persist in value leadership, tell China’s story well, strengthen management according to the law, and strive for innovation and progress. We must deeply study, propagate and implement the spirit of the series of important speeches by General Secretary Xi Jinping, and deepen study, propaganda and education about Socialism with Chinese characteristics and the Chinese Dream; we must strengthen the Party Committees’ responsibility system in leading ideological work, and closely grasp the leadership power and the initiative in the ideological area; we must move forward the concretization and systematization of study, education and practice of the Socialist core value system, and strive to establish common value pursuits in all of society; we must improve public opinion guidance capacities and levels, consolidate and expand a positive, healthy and upward mainstream public opinion; stimulate literature and art workers to go deeply into life to let creation flourish, grasp the implementation of cultural structural reform tasks, truly, vividly and lively tell China’s story, improve national cultural soft power; strengthen grass-roots propaganda, ideology and cultural work, and promote the effective implementation of all tasks.
CCP Politburo Member and State Council Vice-Premier Liu Yandong attended the conference.
Beijing Municipality Self-Discipline Convention on Internet Application Programmes and Public Information Services (Beijing Capital Internet Society, November 2014)
In days of greater political brouhaha, “to go and see Marx” used to be a slang expression among Chinese Communists, to refer to death. More recently, a considerable number of commentators have pronounced the expiry of Marxism itself. China’s reform path, they claim, is the result of political pragmatism and the rejection of doctrinaire ideology. Continued references to socialism are often explained as the combination of a quaint holdover of past discourse and the necessity to refer in code to authoritarianism—without using that word.
There is some merit to that argument. It certainly is no longer the case that any government measure or proposal has to be justified by citing Marx, Engels, or Mao. Classical socialist discourse on class struggle has disappeared, while the presence of Rollses and Rolexes on the streets of Beijing seems to belie a serious commitment to class struggle. Indeed, it might even be argued that—to a certain extent—the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was never as seriously attached to Marxism as its Soviet counterpart was. In its formative period, it was an underground organization operating in the countryside and, after the Long March, in the bleak mountains around Yan’an. Material conditions were harsh, to the extent that the Party’s radio station had to cease broadcasting after a valve in the transmitter failed and spares were not available. Few of Marx’s original works were available in translation there, and it seems that many of the leadership’s insights at that time were derived from Soviet-produced training materials, including the infamous Short Course, Stalin’s authoritative textbook on Communist Party rule.
Continue reading on ChinaFile.
The Decision to the recent Fourth Plenum raised more questions than it solved. A few weeks ago, we organised a roundtable discussion in Oxford, to explore the implications of the plenum on future scenarios for reform in the legal system, and for broader questions of political stability. Adam Knight, a final year Chinese Studies student, wrote the following round-up.
The outcomes of the fourth plenum have left many observers with a sense of frustration – such high level political documents tend to throw up more questions than answers. Indeed, it was with this disclaimer that Rogier Creemers kicked off a roundtable post-match analysis on the fourth plenum in the newly-opened China Centre at the University of Oxford.
Dr Creemers was joined by a host of other China legal experts and an audience containing a range of combined experience, from interdisciplinary academic peers down to lowly undergraduates such as myself. Here, I attempt to bring together some of the key theses to have emerged from that discussion and reflect upon some of the biggest questions thrown up by the fourth plenum.
On an initial read through of the communiqué published off the back of the plenary session – Creemers’ translation of which is provided on this very blog – certain romanticised but generic phrases jump off the page and, to an extent, mask what some have interpreted to be a greater commitment to judicial professionalism and independence, due process, and increased legal scrutiny. Phrases such as “the law is an important tool for governing the country”, “fairness is the lifeline of the rule of law”, or “authority of the law springs from its endorsement in the people’s hearts.” But what do these rather sweeping statements mean in practice?
Perhaps the clearest observation to emerge from the many insightful comments made during our discussion was that the outcomes of the fourth plenum are unlikely to lead to any loosening of Party control. On the contrary, the fourth plenum promises a continued emphasis on the leadership of the Party over the state. In the words of the original communiqué; “leadership of the Party is the most essential characteristic of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the most fundamental guarantee for Socialist rule of law…We must strengthen and improve Party leadership over rule of law work.” Put simply, rule of law in the Western sense of the concept is regarded as either unsuitable or unimportant within a Chinese context by the country’s leaders. Why is this? Beyond the obvious ideological conflicts, panel member Mayling Birney of LSE sought to frame the blatant relegation of true rule of law as an example of prioritisation typical in Chinese politics. Birney argues that a ‘third way’ exists between rule of law and rule of man, a system in which the Party is governed by priorities rather than by law, but that enlists the law to realise those priorities. This rule of mandates, as she terms it, was further reinforced by the fourth plenum as genuine rule of law continues to be trumped by other political urgencies. Indeed, looking back over the original text of the communiqué, there is a clear ranking of priorities that consistently places Party leadership above rule of law. Even when discussing ‘professional ethics’ in the implementation of the law, the document calls for “rule of law work teams who are loyal to the Party, loyal to the country, loyal to the people, and loyal to the law”, presumably in that order.
This begs the question, why would the Communist Party hold a ‘rule of law’-themed plenary session when it seemingly has little interest in furthering the rule of law in its truest sense? To put it bluntly, what was the point of the fourth plenum? The second key theory to emerge from our roundtable discussion was that the fourth plenum was an attempt to redefine the very meaning of rule of law in China. Since the introduction of contemporary debate on the rule of law in post-reform era China, the term has, according to Eva Pils of King’s College London, been popularised to the extent that it can no longer simply be retracted from or ignored in Chinese legal discourse. Pils speculates that the focus on rule of law, in this instance, was an attempt to establish a counter definition to Western understanding of the concept. The Chinese Communist Party is looking to recapture the momentum of rule of law discourse in China by presenting an explicitly non-Western, non-liberal, non-universalist definition of the term. It hopes to occupy the ideological battlefield in a manner reminiscent of Mao’s musings at Yan’an. So how does the Chinese government define rule of law in this sense? In its own words, “the leadership of the Party and Socialist rule of law are identical, Socialist rule of law must persist in the leadership of the Party, the leadership of the party must rely on Socialist rule of law.” This binary relationship between Party and rule of law in reality emphasises the dominance of political power over legal power as well as a system in which rule of law can be much more explicitly subordinated to the power of the Party state.
With this in mind, the third take away point to come out of the discussion was that the fourth plenum does not really represent anything particularly new in practical terms, and was in fact simply a restatement of what we already know. This was certainly the view of Ewan Smith from the University of Oxford. Indeed, he argued that not only did the fourth plenum fail to deliver any kind of meaningful reform, but that it was not even supposed to. The decisions made at the plenary session represented a mere continuation of the accepted Party line without challenging its previous incarnations. If we take the rather longwinded preamble to the communiqué, typical of any Chinese political document, the rule of law, as defined above, is presented as an extension of the Party’s recent history. The text opens by establishing a narrative that begins with the third plenum of the 11th Central Committee in 1978 and seeks to portray rule of law as simply being the latest instalment in that narrative. It is precisely because of these historical precedents that Smith has doubts. He encouraged the audience to carefully distinguish between ‘announce-ables’ and ‘deliverables’ in Party speeches. His opinion is that the Party’s focus on rule of law is primarily for show, a kind of appeasement that in reality will be rarely implemented. The excitement surrounding Xi Jinping’s declarations here is little different to the enthusiasm that surrounded the first wave of ‘announce-ables’ in Hu Jintao’s presidency. As such, Smith remains unconvinced that the statements made in the communiqué will actually lead to any kind of substantial reform. The fourth plenum represents a simple restatement of what we already knew.
So where does economic growth fit into all this? Over the course of our discussion, the economy certainly proved to be one of the more popular themes. This perhaps reflects the often indistinct relationship between top-level government policy and its impact on business. China has always been held up as an exception to the commonly-held mantra that rule of law is needed for sustained economic growth. Its government has been able to consistently supress the human rights of certain portions of its population, whilst overseeing a transformation of its economy over the last few decades. This is of course coupled with flagrant infringements of intellectual property rights and a sometimes haphazard approach to commercial law. This has of course improved in many urban hubs across China, but as Creemers pointed out, the outcome of a lawsuit against a company in a smaller provincial ‘one-company town’ is still pretty predictable. It strikes me, however, that even small changes in the legal system as laid out in the fourth plenum will in theory allow business to feel more confident in speaking up on international and some domestic legal matters. This will presumably create a more stable business environment and encourage both inbound and outbound investment in China, thus fulfilling an important national strategic objective.
Unusually, China’s 1982 constitution also featured prominently in the communiqué of the fourth plenum. This was particularly unexpected as mentions of the constitution had been deleted from the records of Xi’s previous speeches. The communiqué contained lines such as “we must…ensure that every piece of legislation conforms to the spirit of the Constitution” as well as “we must first persist in governing according to the Constitution.” This stands in stark contrast to the effective blacklisting of constitutionalism as a political concept in recent years. Will this mean greater adherence to the uncharacteristically liberal aspects of the constitution, such as freedom of speech and worship? Probably not, if we are to believe the cynicism of Smith’s argument regarding ‘announce-ables’. Yet the re-inclusion of the term is noteworthy nonetheless. It will be interesting to see how the concept is dealt with in future political contexts.
So what of the big question – what does the fourth plenum mean for the future? Will it change anything? The atmosphere during the roundtable discussion was on the whole one of scepticism. However, Peng Chun from the University of Oxford did argue for a degree of optimism. While the document is by no means ideal, it does present three conceptually new dimensions that should not be overlooked. The first is the fusing of Party leadership and rule of law. In theory this implies that the Party will rule through law and that power is based on law. Secondly, the communiqué implies a commitment to the notion that every Party agent must conform to the law. The third and final cause for optimism is a reinforced relationship between the Party’s internal laws and wider national legislation. The hope is that Party rule will be consistent with the law and that future normative documents will be instituted by constitutional mechanisms. The degree to which these theoretical aspects are implemented remains to be seen. The cynicism of other panel members, however, was clear. There was a general expectation that the fourth plenum should mean legal decisions will now be slightly less arbitrary than they have sometimes been in the past. Beyond this, however, not many audience members believed that the fourth plenum would lead to anything of any true worth.
I am left with the closing thoughts of Ewan Smith in mind; while the implementation of any kind of legal reform may remain frustratingly slow in the wake of the fourth plenum, it will be impossible for the Chinese leadership to continue endlessly discussing rule of law without there being some kind of future change. Much like every other aspect of the plenary session, only time will tell how significant that change will be.
With the Wuzhen Conference, China wades into an increasingly complex Internet governance landscape.
It was an impressive international coming-out party for the newly renamed Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), and its director Lu Wei. Under its previous name of State Internet Information Office, CAC grew from a mere department of the State Council Information Office without independent management staff into a body with power now on par with that of other Party mainstays, such as the Central Propaganda Department. It also hosts the daily work of the Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization, one of the new powerful top-level coordination groups established by Xi Jinping. It is taking the lead on drafting a comprehensive national strategy for Internet development and cybersecurity. At home, Lu has gained plaudits and opprobrium for a much tougher line on online behaviour, which included both crackdowns on social media and online fraud. Internationally, Lu became the figurehead of a broader Chinese push for a greater say in the way the Internet is governed worldwide.
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