Friday, October 17, 2014

How China’s Leaders Will Rule on the Law | ChinaFile

How China’s Leaders Will Rule on the Law | ChinaFile:
by Carl Minzner (Fordham Law School)
 "Last week, as the world watched the student demonstrations in Hong Kong, China’s Politburo announced the dates for the Communist Party’s annual plenary session would be from October 20-23. As in previous years, top leaders will gather in Beijing to set out a broad policy framework that will guide the work of Party and government authorities over the coming year.
This year’s theme? Ruling China according to law (依法治国yifa zhiguo). This might seem an unlikely choice given the recent trajectory of Chinese politics. At the top of the system, a politicized anti-corruption purge has roiled the ranks of the élite, toppling previously untouchable officials like former security czar Zhou Yongkang. A whiff of a cult of personality now surrounds China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, with major social science grants directed to academics who plan to study his speeches.
In society at large, as Brookings’ David Shambaugh has noted, “repression in China today is at its most severe point since the aftermath of 1989.” Mainland political dissidents have been muzzled through both formal arrests and entirely off-the-books “disappearances.” And over the past year, state authorities have increasingly resorted to televised public confessions by social media celebrities, foreign corporate investigators, and alleged terrorists—rather than statutes and trials—to send signals to society at large.
 The choice of theme for the plenum has nothing to do with implementing the rule of law as an independent check on Party power. Xi Jinping has ruled this out. Like his predecessors, he remains committed to one-party rule. He has looked at Tiananmen Square, he has looked at the Arab Spring, and he has drawn his conclusion: weaken the political control of the Communist Party and you jeopardize the entire edifice. Chinese leaders have ramped up their repression of a wide range of civil society organizations and legal activists, including figures such as Xu Zhiyong and Pu Zhiqiang.
 But while top Chinese Party leaders may not be interested in building legal institutions to limit their own power, they are interested in invoking the concept of law to pursue other ends. At least three separate, but overlapping, trends are leading Chinese authorities to emphasize law at this time. First, Xi Jinping appears to be trying to swing back towards a somewhat more institutionalized form of Party rule.
The last two years have been very disruptive to the Chinese bureaucracy. Since acceding to the top post in 2012, Xi has consolidated his power through both a sweeping anti-corruption effort that has removed many of his political rivals and a populist “mass line” campaign that has pushed cadres to go out and learn from ordinary citizens. Such efforts have shaken the Party-state apparatus. In coal-rich Shanxi, almost half of the 13-person Party provincial Standing Committee is currently under investigation for corruption. In conversations, mid-level Chinese bureaucrats report overwhelming workloads and a pervasive sense of career uncertainty as supervisors and associates are hauled before Party disciplinary inspection committees.
Cadre morale has fallen. A tough official austerity drive has meant the loss of perks such as official vehicles, housing, and the ability to give and receive luxury goods, gift cards, and even mooncakes. Perceiving official careers as carrying higher political risk and lower economic rewards, recent college graduates are shunning the civil service examination for the first time in decades. In Zhejiang province, the number of applicants declined 37% in the past year, from 360,000 in 2013 to 227,000 in 2014. Declines in other provinces range between 10 and 30%."×××××××read more at link above

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