What's new in the 2018 amendment to China’s Constitution?

What's new in the 2018 amendment to China’s Constitution?

On 19 January 2018, a proposal was approved by the Chinese Communist Party Congress to amend China’s Constitution. This proposal is to be discussed at the 13th National People's Congress in March. What are the potential changes to China’s Constitution?

Although the proposal for the 2018 amendment to China’s Constitution has not been published, it is possible to identify the scope of potential changes to China’s Constitution by analysing the communiqué about the 2018 amendment. According to the communiqué, the 2018 amendment aims to include ‘major theoretical ideas, principles and policies’, especially Xi Jinping’s thinking on socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era that were produced at the 19th Communist Party Congress. These outcomes could be found in a 66-page report, entitled ‘Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’, which was delivered by Xi Jinping on 18 October 2017. Here I will discuss just two ideas in the report that might be included in the 2018 amendment.

National supervision system

The idea of a national supervision system was introduced in the Pilot Program for Reforming the National Supervision Mechanism in Beijing Municipality, Shanxi Province and Zhejiang Province at the end of 2016. This system aims to replace the use of Shuang’gui which is a mechanism that permits the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party to investigate members of the Party who are suspected of violations of discipline such as corruption. It is noteworthy that Shuang’gui, which is based on an intra-Party disciplinary measure, is separate from ordinary Chinese law enforcement processes. To legalise the Shuang’gui system, a draft law about the national supervision system was proposed at the end of 2017. Unlike the Shuang’gui system which only applies to members of the Party, this draft law provides the supervisory organs with the power to investigate all duty-related violations or crimes through various forms including detention. This could be inconsistent with Article 37 of the current Constitution which only provides a ‘people’s procuratorate’ or a ‘people’s court’ with the power to arrest Chinese citizens. This provision further states that ‘unlawful detention or deprivation or restriction of citizens’ freedom of the person by other means is prohibited’. Thus, to equip the supervisory organs with the power of detention, the 2018 amendment could modify Article 37 of China’s Constitution.

New type of international relations

One important concept of Xi Jingping’s thinking on foreign policy with Chinese characteristics is to foster ‘a new type of international relations’. The essence of this concept, as explained by China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, is to replace the old approach of zero-sum games with win-win cooperation. A good example of this kind of cooperation is China's Belt and Road Initiative. Moreover, the new type of international relations might also suggest that China could further liberalise its economy. For instance, Xi's Economic Adviser Liu He delivered a speech at Davos in 2018 which emphasized China’s efforts to broaden the access to its financial markets in the past year. In this sense, Xi Jingping’s thinking on foreign policy with Chinese characteristics appears to show China’s stance towards multilateralism which should be applauded in the face of a growing backlash against globalisation.


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