The building of the rule of law in China started with the adoption of the 1954 Constitution, the first since the founding of the nation in 1949. The Constitution laid the legal foundation for the country to establish a socialist system and established the people's congress system as China's fundamental political system. However, the authority of laws and its importance for governance weren't fully respected until the beginning of the reform and opening up in the 1970s.
The communiqué of the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee held in 1978 emphasized the importance of strengthening the socialist legal system and said that there must be laws for people to follow, and that these laws must be observed, their enforcement must be strict and lawbreakers must be dealt with.
In September 1997, the report adopted at the 15th CPC National Congress stated that "governing the country according to the law and making it a socialist country ruled by the law." In 1999, this dictate was written into the Constitution. When the rule of law historically became the primary topic for the just concluded Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, it symbolized that the rule of law had reached a new stage in China.
How to truly achieve the rule of law?
First of all, the decision-makers need to have a clear understanding of the new characteristics of the rule of law, discover effective approaches and hold firm basic principles. Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, recently suggested promoting the rule of law, law-based governance and law-based administration together and building a law-based country, law-based government and law-based society at the same time. This means that the rule of law will be implemented in accordance with China's situation as the emphasis moves from the establishment of a complete legal system to the rule of law and the efforts are made on legislation, law enforcement, judicial procedures, law-abiding education and legal supervision.
The authority of the Constitution and laws should be established and defended. The Constitution is the fundamental document that defines the basic principles to which our society must conform. The primary task of comprehensively promoting the rule of law is to comprehensively implement the Constitution. Efforts are needed to improve the supervision mechanism and procedure for the Constitution's implementation and enhancing the full implementation of the Constitution to a new level. A system must be established to ensure that all citizens are loyal to, abide by, defend and apply the Constitution and laws.
Legislation needs to be improved and the reform should be guided by the rule of law. Although a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics is already in place, further improving the system will be a long-term endeavor. Law-drafting techniques should be improved and the country's development and major reforms will be also law-based.
The essence of law-based administration is to put administrative power under the supervision of the law. It has a three-fold meaning: first, administrative power must be obtained legally; second, the execution of administrative power must be law-based; third, those breaking laws while executing administrative power must be punished. Therefore, a list of government powers must be adopted to define what the government can do. Meanwhile, reforms on law enforcement systems will be deepened so that laws can be enforced fairly and in accordance with standardized procedures.
Judicial reforms, an important part of the political system reforms, hold the key to establishing the rule of law in China. Comprehensively promoting the rule of law in China requires further deepening reform of the judicial system, solving deep-rooted problems hindering justice, enhancing judicial authority and defending justice so that the people are satisfied with every court verdict.
The Party's law-based governance is the key to establishing the rule of law in a socialist society. Toward this end, the Party should execute its leadership in accordance with the principles of the rule of law. Legal procedures should be followed to turn the Party's propositions into the will of the state. Organs of state power, administrative organs, people's courts and procuratorates must work independently according to the Constitution and laws.
A law-respecting culture should be also nurtured. This will require the effort of the whole of society. Publicity campaigns should be conducted so that people will take the initiative to study, abide by and use laws, and sincerely trust and respect the rule of law.
Moreover, government departments of all levels must regard the ability to act according to laws and abide by laws as an important gauge for appraising officials.
(These excerpts are from an article published on China.org.cn)
The author is associate professor at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee
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