'China's Political Situation Has Never Been So Dangerous'

By Wei Pu
2013-07-18
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china-migrant-education-nov-2012.jpg Chinese migrant parents brandish copies of the constitution in an education office in Beijing, demanding that their children be allowed to take an exam, Nov. 29, 2012.
AFP

May 2013 should go down in the annals of history. An article ... set a strange wind blowing in theoretical circles in China. It came to be known as the "May anti-constitutional reaction."

The source of this anti-constitutional trend can be traced to National People's Congress (NPC) law professor Yang Xiaoqing ... who said that the constitutional concept of government is proper only to capitalism, and isn't universal, nor is it suitable for socialism.

This was followed up by articles in the People's Daily, Global Times and the Liberation Army Daily, which said, one after the other, that Western political thought is unsuited to China, and that constitutionalism is aimed at subverting the China dream and denying the Chinese path to development.

These Cultural Revolution poster-style articles drew severe criticisms from a number of constitutional scholars.

They said Yang Xiaoqing's logic was confused ... was no better than a child's essay ... and ran counter to common sense.

The truth is that it was very rare even to see the word "constitutional" in Chinese political discourse. Even the Global Times admits that the word "constitutional" made a sudden entrance into public usage, and was outside China's political mainstream.

So why did the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party suddenly see fit to get involved in this area of debate?

In accordance with the Global Times' argument, they have decided that the constitutional question isn't a theoretical one, but a political idea, which they can't afford to leave to liberals to debate.

At a legal level, a more deeply worrying move is their aim to abolish the 1982 Constitution, and return to the old system.

Leftist lean

According to law professor Gao Quanxi, the anti-constitutional countercurrent's direction is left, and back to 1975 ... and the demonization of "bourgeois" constitutional law.

This would lead to something truly terrible, because it would be tantamount to abolishing China's biggest point of commonality and negating the existing constitution. In a society where there is no longer any basis for cooperation, only chaos can reign.

The sharp left turn of [president] Xi Jinping has ... greatly inspired the extreme left, creating synergy with leftist forces within the system, with echoes in governance, even at the highest levels, as it tries to further its political gains. This ultra-leftist political force is potentially lethal to political progress in China.

There are signs that China's political situation has never been so dangerous.

Two destinies, two future prospects, currently lie before China. One kind of future is a return to the old system, the regressive leftist line of the Cultural Revolution, power by the pressure to maintain one-party rule, even if in a militaristic, fascist manner. Such an outcome would be bound to derail mainstream civilized society in China.

Another possible future is to find a way to supervise the government, constrain [Party] officials, institutionalize regulatory mechanisms to protect human rights, and to create a pluralistic civilization with restored social vitality and national cohesion.

Whether China is governed constitutionally or not, in the end, is related to the question of these two futures. To reject the constitutional future of China can only end in fascism; without constitutionalism, the China dream can only be a fascist dream.

Wei Pu is a U.S.-based economist and a regular contributor to RFA's Cantonese Service.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

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