By Cai Xia
As the 20th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress draws near, Xi Jinping’s re-election at the 20th Congress has become the focus of much attention at home and abroad, incurring increasing waves of opposition. Naturally, the matter of Xi’s secretive, swift and cunning amendment of China’s constitution in 2018 has again become a hot topic of discussion. The reason for this amendment is to pave the way for his re-election to the post of CCP general secretary at the 20th National Congress, i.e. to satisfy one man’s lust for power at the expense of pushing the entire CCP and China into the abyss of disaster. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the illegality of Xi’s constitutional amendment and its potentially disastrous consequences for China.
1) Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment has completely bankrupted his political credibility.
One of the CCP’s major strategic initiatives made after beginning its policy of reform an opening up in 1978 was to amend the Constitution, which led to the birth of the 1982 Constitution. One of the fundamental differences between the Constitution of 1982 and the Constitution of 1975 was that it made the abolition of the lifetime system for leading cadres a fundamental principle, and clearly established term limits for senior state leaders.
Since the CCP took power in 1949, it had not set any term limits for cadres at any level, except for the party rule that stipulates that cadres should leave the party for rest and recuperation, while all benefits should remain unchanged during this period. In fact, what the CCP established was the Red Communist Empire rather than the People’s Republic of China, and after 1949 Mao Zedong remained the supreme power holder in China until his death in 1976. In the institutional environment of one-party dictatorship, where there is neither internal supervision nor democratic rule of law, the de facto lifetime tenure of leading cadres handed the supreme power of the state to Mao without any checks or limits. For more than 20 years after 1949, the country was in a constant state of political turmoil and unrest. The rule of man caused huge human disasters, resulting in the unjust death or purging of tens of millions of people, including Deng Xiaoping and a large number of veteran cadres, and the persecution of hundreds of millions of people for their political entanglements, entailing a multitude of harsh human-rights violations.
After crushing the Gang of Four after Mao’s death, the CCP had to carry out reform and opening to catch up with the rapid development of the world, in order to save the collapsed Chinese economy and re-establish the ruling legitimacy of the CCP regime. The large number of older people who entered leadership positions at all levels countrywide after 1949 by merely having fought in the revolution were undoubtedly not up to the new task of reform and construction, both in terms of age and cultural and intellectual framework. The onerous and urgent task of saving the country’s economy at that time neglected the need to truly cleanse problems accumulated during Mao Zedong’s rule. (As an aside, Deng Xiaoping later stopped the attempt to completely purge Mao, creating a huge obstacle to China’s political transformation, which will be discussed below.??? Deng raised the issue of abolishing lifetime leadership from the perspective of building a future leadership team and training the leader’s successor.
In September 1979 at the National Organizational Work Conference of the CCP, Hu Yaobang conveyed Deng Xiaoping’s views on organizational work, proposing to strengthen the building of the leadership team, train and select young and middle-aged leading cadres, and reform the cadre system itself as the most urgent task at the moment. In November 1979 Deng Xiaoping argued that a retirement system for cadres must be established .
Power has a tremendous allure for people, especially arbitrary power under one-party dictatorship and lack of democratic rule of law supervision and control! To get the old Chinese Communist Party cadres, who were used to occupying leadership positions for many years, to voluntarily give up their power required a great deal of mobilization and persuasion within the Communist Party, including the need for the center to take the lead.
In January 1980 Deng Xiaoping said, “People who have made significant contributions and are highly respected in the country can be transferred to secondary positions. Any problems that arise from this ought to be resolved by following the cadre-retirement system in accordance with national regulations. It is not possible to arrange for all retirees to be consultants. ” In February, Deng also added, “For the older comrades in the Standing Committee of the Central Committee, including me, my general tendency is to slowly remove ourselves ……, this is a comprehensive decision” .
On May 31, 1980, Deng Xiaoping made it clear that “the issue of abolishing the lifelong system of leading cadres and the lifelong system for leaders must be resolved while our generation is still alive” .
On August 18, 1980, Deng Xiaoping emphasized at an expanded meeting of the Politburo that this meeting was mainly to discuss the reform of the leadership system for both the Party and the state. Deng pointed out that “this is a major strategic measure to maintain the continuity and stability of the proper leadership of the Party and the government” .
Deng further pointed out that if the shortcomings of the current system were not decisively reformed, some of the serious problems that had arisen in the past might reappear in the future . He proposed that the Central Committee “will propose amendments to the Constitution to the Third Session of the Fifth National People’s Congress” .
Theoretically, the two most basic things that any republic must have are an electoral system and term limits. An imperial dictatorship has neither of these constraints, so that once on the throne of imperial power, it is occupied for life. There are only a few situations in which power is handed over while the emperor lives: first, when the court is killed in a coup and deposed; second, when revolution overthrows the throne; third, when a foreign enemy invades and overthrows the emperor; and fourth, when he announces his abdication. The 1982 amending of the Constitution, which clearly stipulated the term limits of state leaders, is in line with the basic meaning of the People’s Republic. Thus, whether or not to set term limits for holding the highest positions of state power is essentially a matter of the nature of the state and an indispensable element of the Constitution. The recent amending of the Constitution in 2018 by Xi Jinping to abolish term limits for the president and vice president not only eliminated the basic pillars of the 1982 Constitution of 1982, but sent China back to the imperial system which had ended 100 years ago. This was a fundamental subversion of the Chinese political system.
In 1980, the CCP proposed to the National People’s Congress that it amend the Constitution, and included in the proposal the reform of the cadre system to abolish lifetime tenure, not only because of the age of current cadres, but more fundamentally and importantly, because this was a consensus of the whole Party and nation, after the bitter lessons learned from experience by the CCP and the entire nation. It is for this reason that Deng Xiaoping’s proposal of “abolishing the lifetime system for leading cadres” became one of the basic guiding ideas in the formulation of the Constitution of 1982, and was embodied as one of its basic principles by clearly stipulating the time limit for state leaders to serve. This reform proposed by Deng Xiaoping won the hearts of the people, and was highly supported by the whole Communist Party and the Chinese public, whether left, center or right. It became Deng’s most important political legacy.
As a result, the appropriate articles were explicitly added to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
Article 66 of the Constitution provides that the term of office for members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress shall be the same as that for the entire Congress, and it shall exercise its powers until a new Standing Committee is elected at the next one.
The chairman and vice-chairman may not serve more than two consecutive terms.
Article 79 of the Constitution stipulates the term limit of the President of the People’s Republic of China: that is, the President and Vice Presidents of the People’s Republic of China shall serve for the same term as the National People’s Congress, and shall not serve for more than two consecutive terms.
Similarly, Article 87 of the Constitution clearly stipulates that the Premier, Vice Premier and State Councillors shall not serve more than two consecutive terms.
The Constitution is the fundamental law of the country and has the highest authority under the rule of law. Because the Constitution is the foundation of the nation, specific amendments to its provisions must not contradict or change the fundamental principles established through the Constitution itself, which is a basic rule recognized by countries around the world that must be observed in amending their constitutions. In this way, the Constitution can become the fundamental guarantee for the long-term stability of the country. Therefore, amendment of the Constitution directly involves major questions of governance and stability, and in the process there can be no ambiguity or imprudence. These principles obviously preclude amendment of the Constitution merely to satisfy the desire for power of one party or person, which would certainly cause the organizations and individuals who did so to be infamous in the history books. It is for this reason that Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment to abolish the presidential term limit in 2018 has caused him to lose the hearts and minds of the CCP and the Chinese public overall, and has completely bankrupted his political credibility. But because of his oppressive rule of terror, it is difficult to express publicly opposition to Xi’s forced constitutional amendment, both within the CCP and in China overall. Thus the entire party and society can only remain silent.
2) The 2018 constitutional amendment completely overturned China’s progress toward the rule of law after reform and opening up.
In democratic countries governed by the rule of law, constitution-making and constitutional amendment are the most significant legislative processes, and this process in its entirety is carried out in strict accordance with specified procedures. In contrast, amending China’s constitutional is political first, with politicians controlling the entire process. In China, the Constitution is frequently amended to meet the needs of the Communist Party’s authoritarian rule, and the statutory provisions and procedures that must be followed to amend the Constitution have become mere adornments. As a result, the principles of citizen rights, civil rights, and democratic openness enunciated in the Constitution all depend on the political needs of the CCP when it amends it, and reveal obvious differences in their actual implementation. In any case there are, after all, certain statutory principles that are recognized and accepted worldwide, thus forming an internationally recognized and indispensable statutory process for constitution-making and revision. Such processes can at least provide an objective basis for assessing the legality of constitutional amendments.
To a certain extent, China’s constitutional provisions and constitutional-amendment procedures are nominally in line with international practice, but under the CCP’s one-party dictatorship, whether or not the Constitution is actually adhered to depends entirely on the rule of man at the top of the CCP leadership. The “lawlessness” under the Mao period brought great, profound human disaster to China. After the subsequent launch of reform and openness, the CCP made some efforts to promote constitutional governance and the rule of law, the outstanding result of which in forming the current Constitution was to remove the extreme leftist features of the 1975 and 1978 Constitutions. Without endangering the CCP’s one-party rule, the CCP had tried to gradually promote the basic notion of democracy and the rule of law and gradually implement the spirit of the new 1982 Constitution in the subsequent amendment process by Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
- The Chinese Constitution and related laws regarding constitutional amendments
Article 2 of the Constitution: All power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people. The organs through which the people exercise state power are the National People’s Congress and the local people’s congresses at all levels.
Article 57 of the Constitution: The National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China is the highest organ of state power.
Article 58 of the Constitution: The National People’s Congress and the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress exercise the legislative power of the State.
Article 62 of the Constitution: The National People’s Congress exercises the following powers: (1) to amend the Constitution; (2) to supervise the implementation of the Constitution.
Article 64 of the Constitution: Amendments to the Constitution shall be proposed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) or by more than one-fifth of the deputies of the NPC, and shall be adopted by the NPC by a majority of at least two-thirds of all the deputies.
Understood from the perspective of amending the Constitution, Articles 2, 57, 58 and 62 of the Constitution make it clear that the legal power to do so belongs to the NPC; this legal power comes from the people, is entrusted by the people, and the NPC is the authority that will carry out the work of constitutional amendment.
At the same time, Article 64 of the Constitution clarifies the legal procedures for constitution-making. First, the legal authority to propose a bill comes from either the Standing Committee of the NPC, or more than one-fifth of the deputies of the NPC. Second, the legal voting procedure for approving the passage of bills is specified — all the deputies of the NPC examine the proposed amendments, and the NPC passes them by a two-thirds majority of all the deputies.
The National People’s Congress passed its Legislative Law in 2000. Although the Legislative Law does not explicitly provide specific statutory procedures for constitution-making and constitutional amendment, the basic jurisprudential spirit of the Legislative Law is consistent with that contained in the statutory procedure for constitution-making and constitutional amendment. In a certain sense, the Legislative Law is a detailed framework for Articles 57, 58 and 62 of the Constitution at the operational level.
Article 5 of the Legislative Law provides that legislation shall reflect the will of the people, promote socialist democracy, adhere to an open process, and guarantee the participation of the people in legislative activities through a variety of channels.
Article 16 of the Legislative Law provides that: the Standing Committee will consider the law in accordance with the preceding paragraph, shall seek the views of the deputies of the National People’s Congress through a variety of forms and provide relevant feedback, specified committees and working bodies of the Standing Committee will conduct legislative research and invite the relevant National People’s Congress deputies to participate.
- The basic framework of the constitutional-amendment process in 1982 under Hu Jintao
Theoretically speaking, as long as China still uses the name of the People’s Republic of China and as long as the CCP still carries the banner of democracy, it cannot fail to recognize that the Constitution is a law made by the people, that the Constitution is the state’s commitment to the rights and interests of the people, that no one and no organization has a privileged position beyond and above the Constitution, and that all violations of the Constitution and laws must be seriously investigated and appropriately punished. Mao Zedong’s cult of personality, his personal dictatorship and lawlessness brought profound disaster to the CCP and the Chinese people. It was this experience that led Deng Xiaoping to emphasize the building of a democratic legal system in the late 1970s. In 1979, at the sixth meeting of the Standing Committee of the Fifth National People’s Congress (NPC), it was decided to establish a Legal Affairs Commission to assist the NPC Standing Committee in strengthening the legal system. At that time, the Legal Affairs Commission was composed of 80 people, with Peng Zhen as its director. It was a representative and authoritative legislative working body of unprecedented scale and high standard. In a certain sense, this Legal Committee played a critical role in exploring and paving the way for the subsequent establishment of the Constitutional Revision Commission, and for this body and its secretariat to carry out its work.
A look at the process of the creation of the “1982 Constitution.”
According to the recollection of Yang Jingyu, chairman of the Legal Committee of the 10th NPC, on August 30, 1980, the CCP Central Committee solemnly proposed to the Bureau of the Third Session of the Standing Committee of the Fifth NPC to amend the Constitution and establish a Constitutional Revision Commission. On September 10, 1980, the Third Session of the Fifth NPC passed a resolution agreeing to the CCP Central Committee’s proposal to amend the Constitution and the Constitutional Revision Commission member list. (The committee had 103 members). Ye Jianying became the director and decided how the Constitutional Revision Committee would preside over the revision of the Constitution. This committee set up a secretariat as a working team responsible for the specific work of amending the Constitution. The secretariat was chaired by Hu Qiaomu until July 1981, after which it was directly chaired by Peng Zhen.
It took two years and three months from the official establishment of the Constitutional Revision Committee in September 1980 to the adoption of the Constitution of 1982 at the Fifth Session of the Fifth NPC on December 4, 1982. The whole process was divided into three stages: the first stage proposed a set of constitutional amendments (August 1980 – April 1982); the second stage was committee-wide deliberation (May – August 1982); the third stage was NPC sessions to scrutinize the committee’s output, and then passage (November 26 – December 4, 1982).
From this brief review of the process of forming the “1982 Constitution,” we can see distinctive hallmarks: first, the Standing Committee of the NPC, as the legal authority for putting forward proposed amendments to the Constitution, performed the duty of presiding over the work of doing so; second, the process of constitutional amendment focused on promoting the development of democracy in China, with the draft amendments being made entirely public seven months before their final adoption, and universal participation in deliberation over constitutional revision lasting four months.
Revisiting the process of constitutional revision in 2004 under Hu Jintao:
After the 16th Congress of the CCP in 2002, a proposal to amend the Constitution of 1982 was put forward by academia, democracy advocates and people from other groups. Following the spirit and principles of the Constitution and with reference to the Legislative Law, at the first meeting of the Standing Committee of the 10th NPC on March 19, 2003, Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the NPC, announced the need to revise the current Constitution. On March 27, 2003, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee studied and carried out the work of revising the Constitution after setting up a constitutional-revision group to conduct research and consult. At that time, the CCP Central Committee did not first present a proposal, but let local communities put forward specific opinions, on the basis of which the text of the proposed constitutional revision was formed and then put forward to solicit opinions and suggestions from local communities and people in every walk of life. In October 2003, the Third Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of the CCP deliberated and adopted the “Proposal of the CCP Central Committee on Amending Parts of the Constitution.” On December 22, 2003, the proposal was submitted to the Standing Committee of the NPC, and official Chinese media made it public on the same day. Subsequently, the Standing Committee of the NPC adopted the Constitutional Revision (Draft) and submitted it to the NPC. On March 14, 2003, the second session of the 10th NPC finally adopted the draft revised constitution.
Looking back at the process of constitutional amendment in 2004, it can be seen that:
(1) The proposal and initiation of the constitutional revision was first announced by Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the NPC; thereafter, the CCP Central Committee set up a constitutional-revision group to study and consult on the revision.
(2) The CCP set up a constitution-revision group to study and consult but did not first outline the proposal itself, instead collecting opinions from all sectors of society to form a proposed text.
(3) The CCP Central Committee submitted its proposal to the Standing Committee of the NPC three months in advance and made the full text of the proposal available to the entire society.
(4) The revised constitution was adopted by the NPC in March 2004. The whole process of constitutional revision took one year.
- Xi Jinping’s deceitful 2018 constitutional-amendment process
However, in the 2018 constitutional amendment, Xi Jinping completely replaced the rule of law in the amendment process with the “absolute leadership” of the CCP, usurped the legal power of the NPC under the cloak of “political correctness,” and manipulated the constitutional amendment “stealthily, swiftly and cunningly” using rogue methods. The whole process was a political scandal, completely lacking transparency.
According to the statement of NPC Vice Chairman Wang Chen , we can see that the entire process of constitutional amendment was under Xi’s control.
On September 29, 2017, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping presided over a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee and decided to launch the constitutional-amendment process. Xi manipulated the entire process of constitutional amendment, citing the “absolute leadership” of the Party Central Committee. The CCP Central Committee set up a working body for constitutional amendment – the “Constitutional Revision Group,” which was headed by “Comrade Zhang Dejiang, with Comrades Li Zhanshu and Wang Huning as deputy heads, and the Party Central Committee, the NPC, relevant units of the State Council, the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and other relevant bodies of the responsible comrades participating.” Please note: The NPC was merely one of the participating units, not the working body presiding over the amendment process.
Wang Chen said, “Amendment of the constitution …… must be carried out under the centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee, and “[A]dhere to the centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee throughout the entire process of constitutional amendment.” Wang Chen particularly emphasized “Work under the leadership of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee.” Zhang Dejiang’s activities during the constitutional revision were not in his capacity as chairman of the NPC, but as a “comrade” within the CCP, and “in accordance with the arrangements of the Party Central Committee.”
Among the phrases Wang Chen used in explaining the process of amending the constitution were “in accordance with the deployment of the Party Central Committee to amend the constitution,” “entrusted by the Party Central Committee, the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee convened a forum for people outside the Party,” “in accordance with the decision of the Party Central Committee, the General Office of the Central Committee issued a notice,” “Xi Jinping presided over a forum of non-party members to listen to… opinions and suggestions in person,” “according to the arrangement of the Party Central Committee, Comrade Zhang Dejiang presided over four forums,” “for each opinion and proposal, the Party Central Committee has tasked the constitutional-revision team to engage in careful study and consideration, “and “after consultation, all regions and departments and parties firmly support the Party Central Committee on the decision to amend the Constitution.”
However, to realize Xi Jinping’s intention to amend the Constitution to abolish the term limit for the office of State President, the delegates of the NPC and the Standing Committee of the NPC still could not be bypassed in any way. Thus on January 29-30, 2018 at the 32nd meeting of the NPC Standing Committee, Li Zhanshu made a presentation to the NPC Standing Committee on behalf of the CCP, serving up Xi Jinping’s manipulative concoction – “Proposal of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Amending Parts of the Constitution.” This was in fact not the will of the entire CCP, but solely the product of Xi Jinping’s lust for power. Li Zhanshu’s proposal was submitted to the NPC Standing Committee only 35 days before the NPC session, and it is not known whether Li’s proposal included the most significant change, the elimination of a term limit for the office of president.
Theoretically, the NPC is the organ for public opinion, and the highest state authority. An NPC Standing Committee’s discussion of the CCP’s proposal to amend the constitution is, to be precise, a deliberation. A “deliberation” in the name of the NPC should contain several layers of scrutiny, of checking, balancing, supervising and rejecting the content of the proposal, and should provide check and balances for the CCP itself, including when considering amending the constitution. However, in reality, the NPC under one-party dictatorship cannot do that. When Wang Chen explained to NPC deputies the NPC Standing Committee’s discussion of the “Central Committee’s proposal to amend the Constitution,” he used three consecutive “unanimous” statements: “unanimously expressed firm support,” “unanimously agreed with the CCP Central Committee,” and “unanimous view that the CCP central government’s proposal to amend the constitution is mature.” This shows that the NPC Standing Committee is truly nothing but a rubber stamp.
In the process of producing the 1982 Constitution, the then NPC-established Constitution Revision Committee actually presided over and carried out the work of amending the Constitution, effectively conducting legislative research before a national discussion was held. However, Wang Chen’s proposal does not indicate that the NPC Standing Committee and the Legal Working Committee did any “legislative research” in the 2018 amending of the Constitution. On the contrary, the Standing Committee of the NPC merely formally adhered to the statutory procedures: 1) it prepared the “Draft Amendment to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China” modeled on the proposal of the CCP Central Committee to amend the Constitution, that is, it packaged in statutory form the proposal of the CCP Central Committee to amend the Constitution; 2) it prepared the Motion of the Standing Committee of the NPC on “Submitting for Consideration the Draft Amendment to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.” To use an analogy, a tray was merely added to bring the rice already cooked by the CCP Central Committee to the NPC deputies for them to swallow.
The NPC Standing Committee failed to announce the full text of the CCP Central Committee’s proposal to amend the Constitution to the whole society three months prior. It was not until eight days before the NPC meeting that the NPC deputies, more than 90 million CPC members and more than one billion people across the country learned from hearsay that Xi Jinping was going to abolish his term limit as state President. This shows that the NPC deputies were feeble and played no role in the process, and only at the last minute when the legal procedure for voting on the amendment was needed were the NPC deputies put on stage to act as puppets and perform the scandalous drama of overwhelmingly passing it.
During the 2018 NPC session, the NPC deputies were always under the shadow of terror and oppression. Many NPC deputies either fled quickly when faced with journalists’ interviews or perfunctorily gave canned, insincere answers; 2958 of the the 2,964 NPC deputies who voted in this atmosphere voted in favor, with only 2 votes against, 3 abstentions, and 1 invalid vote. This was very reminiscent of the situation when the plenary session of the CCP Central Committee voted to expel Liu Shaoqi from the party during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, when only Chen Shaomin refused to raise her hand: no others NPC deputies who dared to express their true voting intentions.
The most obvious sign of the threat of terror was the entry of military guards into the NPC chambers, a symbolic gun barrel escorting the amended Constitution and a scene that stunned the world. At that time, the NPC Hall was silent, all deputies held their breath and did not move a muscle, and could only hear the thumping sound of the guards’ boots echoing through the venue, each step shaking the hearts of the people. This sort of scene also took place 100 years ago, in the then-new Soviet Union’s Kremlin Constitutional Assembly, in early January 1918, when Leninist army soldiers used guns with bayonets to drive the then-multiparty Russian Constitutional Assembly delegates out of the meeting.
In the process of amending the 1982 Constitution, the full text of the draft amendment was submitted to the people for discussion, a stage that lasted four months; in the 2004 amendment, the Standing Committee of the NPC released the full text of the constitutional amendment to the whole society three months in advance; the 2018 amendment under Xi Jinping’s manipulation did not adhere to the basic principles of democracy, openness and rule of law in the least, rather using rogue subterfuge to “amend the constitution in a stealthy, swift and cunning manner.” A New York Times article revealed that Xi Jinping first proposed amending the Constitution at a Politburo meeting on Sept. 29, 2017. “A retired official quoted a senior serving official as saying that Xi did not immediately propose removing term limits at that time. To avoid the perception that he had ordered the change, Xi had provincial and municipal leaders loyal to him quietly promote the idea.” And in this Politburo meeting, the removal of former Central Politburo member Sun Zhengcai in the name of anti-corruption effectively abolished the unwritten practice of grooming successors within the CCP on the one hand, and on the other issued a warning to senior party officials. 
It was not until December, 2017 that Xi Jinping first announced to the public that he wished to make certain changes to the Constitution, but did not reveal the specific content of the changes. On February 25, 2018, Xinhua News Agency issued an English-language report announcing that one of the major changes to the Constitution was the abolition of the presidential term limit, causing widespread shock at home and abroad and discontent at the highest levels of CCP leadership, which instructed Xinhua to investigate this premature release. Chinese authorities characterized the incident as a serious political blunder, with the editor and others responsible allegedly being removed from their posts and punished, and the Xinhua News Agency’s leadership ordered to write a self-criticism. Radio France reported that “according to what we have learned, the country’s leadership ‘feels guilty as a thief,’ ‘does not want to bring further media attention or speculation to this matter, and therefore unreasonably punished media staff,’ also reporting ‘that [political leaders] react so…is also a manifestation of their guilty conscience and lack of self-confidence.’”
The news of the amendment to the constitution to abolish the term limit for the Presidency channels was earthshaking, and spread with lightning speed throughout Beijing and all over China. The resulting storm immediately led to a raging debate in China, with many people inside and outside the CCP strongly opposing it. European and American media reported that the former editor-in-chief of ‘“The Freezing Point,” a subsidiary publication of the official China Youth Daily, urgently called on NPC deputies to veto the proposed constitutional amendment. At the same time, a Chinese businesswoman wrote an open letter to the NPC deputies in Beijing. These two thus both publicly protested the perverse proposal to amend the constitution in this way. However, subsequently both the former editor-in-chief of “The Freezing Point” and the businesswoman have been given “long-term special care” by the police.
3) Xi Jinping’s amendment to the Constitution seriously violates and undermines the provisions of China!s Constitution, institutions and regulations
- Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment is a serious violation of the Party constitution and guidelines and inner-Party institutions.
When the CCP promulgated “Certain Guidelines on Political Life within the Party” in 1980 and formulated the new Party Constitution in 1982, major principles such as opposing the cult of personality, abolishing the lifetime-tenure system and never allowing party members to have special privileges of any kind were specifically written into the Party Constitution and guidelines. Later, although there were subsequently several revisions to the Party Constitution, including the “Several Guidelines on Political Life within the Party under the New Situation” introduced in 2016, these extremely important fundamental principles listed below have not been changed:.
— The CCP’s 1980 “Guidelines on Political Life within the Party” say that “The principle that … everyone is equal before Party discipline and national law must be upheld. No special Party members who are not subject to Party discipline and national law or who are above the Party organization are ever allowed in the Party.”
—The 2016 CCP “Guidelines on Political Life within the Party under the New Situation” was similarly written with the following clear and distinct statement: “Insist that all are equal before Party discipline, that there are no privileges in observing discipline, that there are no exceptions in enforcing discipline, and that no special organizations or special party members not subject to discipline are ever allowed to exist within the Party.”
— Article 38 of the CCP Constitution: the positions of leading cadres at all levels of the Party, whether democratically elected or appointed by leading institutions, are not for life and these cadres can be changed or removed. And additional wording follows: “Cadres whose age and health are not suitable for continued employment should retire or leave in accordance with the provisions of the state.”
The wording of Article 38 of the Party Constitution is crucial: the phrase “all levels” covers the highest leadership level of the Party, and the word “all” includes all leadership positions inside and outside the Party. These two words indicate that Article 38 of the Party Constitution includes all people in the Party, without exception. Moreover, Article 38 specifically states “age and state of health” as conditions to retire or leave the Party in accordance with the provisions of the State.
On the abolition of lifelong tenure for senior leadership positions, in addition to the explicit Article 38 of the Party Constitution, several arrangements have developed unofficially within the CCP in practice: one is “Xiao Gui Cao Fei (follow precedent).” Jiang Zemin delayed his retirement from the chairmanship of the Military Commission for two years, the model established by Deng Xiaoping, which was tacitly accepted by the CCP. A similar principle is “customary practice” – any senior leadership should follow the “if one is 67 or less one can continue to serve, if one reaches 68 one must retire” rule, accepted and endorsed by the whole party
In addition, this principle was formalized while Hu Jintao was president. The CCP itself, in its identity as a political party, at that time promulgated the “Interim Provisions on the Term of Office of Party and Government Leaders.” The rule also indicates term limits, and complies with the Constitution. Because the Constitution sets clear term limits for state leaders, the “Interim Provisions on the Term of Office System for Leading Party and Government Cadres” Article 2 clearly covers, among others, full-time leadership at the “the CCP Central Committee, the NPC Standing Committee, the State Council, the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.”
The Constitution makes clear that no president may serve more than two terms of office, and Article 3 of the CCP’s “Interim Provisions on the Term of Office of Leading Party and Government Cadres” stipulates that the term of office of leading party and government officials shall be five years each.
Article 6 of that same document stipulates that leading Party and government cadres in the same position for two consecutive terms shall no longer be recommended, nominated or appointed to the same position.
Article 7 then stipulates that leading Party and government cadres who have stayed in the same leadership position for 15 years will no longer be recommended, nominated or appointed to the same level of leadership position within the scope listed in Article 2.”
The reform of the CCP cadre system has been going on for 30 years, from Deng Xiaoping’s proposal to abolish lifetime tenure and establish instead a mandatory-retirement system, to the smooth handover among Jiang, Hu and Xi as the last three CCP general secretaries. Two handovers of ultimate power within the CCP over the past 30 years have basically been peaceful and orderly, and are expected to gradually evolve into an institutionalized power transfer, which is good for maintaining continuous political security, and stability within the CCP. However, Xi Jinping’s 2018 constitutional amendment, which in fact provides an opening for the restoration of the lifetime leadership system, is a major political regression for the CCP.
By definition, according to Article 38 of the Party Constitution and the “Interim Provisions on the Tenure System for Party and Government Leading Cadres”, Xi should have adhered to the national retirement rules, complied with the Party-nomination age limit, and surrendered the CCP’s highest leadership position at the 20th National Congress. Whether Xi Jinping himself admits it or not, his 2018 constitutional amendment is not only illegitimate from the perspective of the nation’s constitutional law, but also a serious violation and breach of the CCP’s own party constitution and regulations.
- Xi Jinping’s proposal to amend the constitution in the name of the CCP Central Committee is under significant suspicion of intra-party procedural illegality
From the perspective of procedural legality, there are reasons to challenge the CCP Central Committee’s proposal to amend the constitution issued on February 25, 2018.
Let us start by analyzing the disturbing subtleties added between the January 19 Communiqué of the Second Plenary Session of the CCP Central Committee, the January 26 Proposal of the CCP Central Committee to Amend the Constitution, the sudden announcement of the proposal to amend the Constitution on February 25, and the convening of the Third Plenary Session of the CCP Central Committee on February 26.
January 19, 2018: “the Communiqué of the Second Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP” was issued by the CCP Central Committee, announcing that the Plenary Session had considered and adopted the “Proposal of the CCP Central Committee on Amending Parts of the Constitution.” In particular, the five sentences in black bold type in the Communique indicate that these issues were the content of the proposal to amend the Constitution:
(1) To write Xi Jinping Thought into the Constitution.
(2) Emphasizing that the leadership of the CCP is the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and strengthening the leadership of the CCP in all fields of work is to be written into the Constitution.
(3) Inclusion of the “Five-in-One” overall layout (a framework first raised in 2012 by Hu Jintao, involving further construction of the economy, governance, culture, society and “ecological civilization”) and the “New Development Concept” in the Constitution.
(4) To include in the Constitution the building of a community of human destiny.
(5) The National Supervision System will be changed, and the new National Supervisory Commission will be written into the Constitution.
Note that the crux of the constitutional amendment in 2018 lies in the abolition of the term limit for the country’s president, which is the most significant and fundamental change, but there was no trace of it yet in the January 19 communiqué.
On the afternoon of Feb 25, the CCP suddenly announced the full text of the proposed constitutional amendment, a process that seemed bizarre. At 3:55 p.m. that afternoon, Xinhua News Agency released a newsletter in English with the headline “CCP proposes change on Chinese president’s term in Constitution.” The release of the English-language message caused a tempest. Two hours later, Xinhua News Agency released the Chinese version of the full text of the proposed amendment, which was dated Jan 26 instead of Jan 19, and the phrase “no more than two consecutive terms of office” for the president and vice president which was omitted from the description of the proposed amendment dated Jan 26. Immediately, there was a public outcry in China and abroad, indeed the announcement shocked the world!
Over next three days, February 26-28, the CCP’s Third Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee was held. As a rule, each meeting of the Third Plenary Session of each CCP Central Committee, which sits for five years, is held between September and November of the same year. However, this time the Third Plenary Session was held just after the Second Plenary Session on Jan. 19, 2018, the two just 38 days apart. A day before the Third Plenary Session opened, the CCP Central Committee released the full text of the January 26 proposal to amend the Constitution.
On March 2, 2018, the CCP Central Committee issued the communiqué of the decisions taken at the Third Plenary Session. Surprisingly, the communiqué did not mention a single word about the proposed constitutional amendments, and even the words “term of office of the president” were missing, just as in the communiqué of the Second Plenary Session of the CCP. Subsequently, the Chinese media received verbal instructions to “not prominently report” the abolition of the presidential term limit. Moreover, on March 1, the “People’s Public Security” newspaper reported that “public security police officers nationwide firmly support the proposal to amend some parts of the Constitution,” but the most important provision of the constitutional amendment, the abolition of this term limit, was not mentioned at all, and even the word “president” was completely missing.
There are at least the following doubts that can be raised about the above situation.
(1) The Communique of the Second Plenary Session of the Central Committee announced the adoption of the “Proposal of the CCP Central Committee on Amending Parts of the Constitution” on January 19, while the full text of the “Proposal of the CCP Central Committee on Amending Parts of the Constitution” published by Xinhua News Agency on February 25 was dated January 26. Are these two proposals for amending the Constitution with the same title and different dates the same document? Why was the full text of the Second Plenary Session of the Central Committee not released to the public a week or so after its closing date, as is the norm? Or was it even not adopted at the Second Plenum because of the wide divergence of views?
(2) At which plenary session of the CCP Central Committee was the proposal to amend the Constitution, signed in the name of the CCP Central Committee on January 26, discussed and adopted? Why was it released a day before the opening of the Third Plenary Session of the CCP Central Committee on February 25?
(3) Since Xinhua News was authorized by the CCP Central Committee to issue it, why was the English announcement issued by Xinhua positioned as a serious political blunder, the editor involved was dismissed and disciplined, and why did the leaders of Xinhua News wrote a self-criticism?
These doubts were noted by prominent European and American mainstream media at the time. The New York Times reported, “Reuters cited two unnamed sources as saying the central committee failed to reach a consensus at its January meeting and convened its next meeting earlier than usual.” Also according to Radio France International, “An audio analysis widely circulated in social circles said the proposal to amend the constitution to eliminate the term limit for the office of president should not have been passed at the second plenum because of the controversy over it. Xi Jinping and his cronies then operated underground in the period after the Second Plenum, and published the proposed constitutional amendment directly in the name of the CCP Central Committee two days before the Third Plenum. Therefore, this proposal to amend the constitution is suspected of being issued falsely under the name of the Central Committee, the highest authority of the CCP.” Overseas scholar Mr. Hu Ping commented that “this is a preemptive move to force the Third Plenary Session of the Central Committee to be a rubber stamp.” I think that the draft of the proposed constitutional amendment was launched one day before the Third Plenary Session, in essence, because it was not intended to be discussed by the Third Plenary Session of the Central Committee, but to be forced to be swallowed like dog shit in the name of the Central Committee of the CCP under the aforementioned atmosphere of oppression and terror.
From the above analysis and reports, it is easy to understand why Xi Jinping and others took the release of Xinhua’s English newsletter as a “serious political mistake” and punished the relevant personnel of Xinhua News. Xi Jinping and his top associates have a guilty conscience and do not want the media to pay attention to or speculate on this matter, so they unreasonably punish media people because that “they do so…is also a sign that they suffer from a guilty conscience and lack self-confidence.”
It is clear that Xi Jinping knows that satisfying his selfish desire to remain in power is bound to be opposed by the entire Party and the public, so he can only play devious tricks and act in a devious manner. The way his proposal to amend the constitution was revealed is so deplorable that it is self-evident that his amendment has no legitimacy.
Of course, if he is not re-elected as CCP general secretary, there is still a path for Xi Jinping to exploit the loopholes of the Party constitution and the Party system: this is to amend the Party constitution to reinstate the position of “Party Chairman” at the top of the Party, reducing the current general secretary of the Party to someone who merely presides over the daily work of the central secretariat. The “general secretary” then becomes the equivalent of the secretary general of a local provincial committee. However, such an amendment to the Party constitution, on the one hand, would cause an extremely significant change in the organizational and power structures of the Party, and on the other hand is a substantial violation of the basic tenet of the CCP constitution: collective leadership is the highest principle of Party leadership.
According to the most basic principles of organization, the committee system emphasizes that all members are equal in status and power, and the general secretary is only the person who implements the rules of the meeting, so the committee system is a flat structure; however, the “chairman” implies a vertical structure with the chairman having higher status and more power than all members. As the Chinese proverb says: “a family can have a thousand members, but only one person is in charge.”
Mao Zedong and Hua Guofeng as “Party chairmen” were people who violated the principle of democratic centralism within the Party. Mao Zedong’s “Party Chairman” position gave Mao Zedong legal supremacy over the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee (Politburo), with one person having the final say for all decisions, leading to a vicious culture of personal worship up and down the party. Mao Zedong’s mistakes were unable to be corrected by the whole Party, which had to wait until after his death to set things right by taking extraordinary action. Hua Guofeng’s Party chairmanship was a continuation of the Party’s position under special circumstances at that time. Later, Hua Guofeng resigned from the this position, which was good for Hua Guofeng himself and for the CCP’s nominal return to collective leadership at the time. To reinstate the old Party Chairman post now would do the CCP only harm and no good.
At the same time, amending the CCP’s Party constitution is as an important event as amending the constitution of the country, and is an extremely serious matter both in terms of strictly maintaining the consistency of the fundamental principles of the Party constitution and in terms of strictly following legal procedures. If the top CCP Standing Committee and Politburo members are still responsible to the CCP, it is urgent to discuss the issue of amending the Party Constitution in a serious and prudent and public manner. It is not difficult to imagine that since Xi Jinping has succeeded in amending the Constitution with his secretive, swift and cunning rogue approach, the CCP itself should also be prepared for Xi Jinping to repeat this approach in amending the Party constitution.
4) Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment traps the CCP in a death spiral
Xi Jinping’s secretive and cunning constitutional amendment in 2018 will bring enormous destruction to the CCP.
First, Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment directly leads to growing intra-party conflict.
Xi Jinping’s secretive and cunning method of amending the constitution will not only break the fragile balance of factions within the party that has been maintained for years, but also lead to the intensification of power struggles within the CCP. Everyone at the top is in danger, the middle and lower levels are full of doubts and uncertainties, and the lowest-level cadres feel more and more at a loss. It is becoming ever-more obvious that the heart of the Party’s efforts to balance power are more and more in disarray, and the CCP’s organization is increasingly dysfunctional, becoming more and more costly and inefficient to operate, and even partly paralyzed. As things stand, this will all persist if not worsen for quite awhile.
Second, Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment has destroyed CCP rules and broken the CCP’s bottom line, subverting and destroying the normal institutional path for resolving internal disputes.
Xi Jinping’s use of concealment, high-handedness, dishonesty, and procedural violations to amend the constitution, characterized by subterfuge throughout, has not only highlighted the essence of the CCP as a non-modern political party, but also as a political criminal gang , which has also led to internal power struggles without basic guardrails and bottom lines.
There has always been intra-party fighting in the CCP, and under Mao Zedong the decade of the Cultural Revolution was extremely bloody. This prompted Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun and other senior Party officials to learn a lesson and establish an internal system to regulate, balance and moderate internal strife. After Deng Xiaoping, despite the differences and contradictions between Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, nevertheless all factions abided by the written and unwritten rules of the CCP and had a sense of self-restraint based on not violating the bottom line of party rules. This generally kept the CCP relatively stable and peaceful and gave party cadres the basic conditions to carry out their work.
However, Xi Jinping’s domineering style, which is not bound by any institutional rules, has dramatically turned away fro Deng Xiaoping’s path, broken the party’s rules that were gradually formed during the Jiang-Hu period, and in their place has substituted vicious struggle to resolve party conflicts. This has not only reinforced the trend of purging the good and strengthening the bad within the CCP, thus enabling a group of sycophantic officials who resembled “Lai Juncheng and Zhou Xing” (two Chinese imperial officials known for cruelty and dishonesty) to climb to high positions through doing evil, which has caused great harm to the backbone of the CCP at all levels. It has also ended, at least for now, the possibility of transforming the CCP toward a democratic, civilized and modern political party, which was once possible after reform and openness began. Xi has instead quickly sent the Party back toward to its barbaric past of cult of personality, dependency on one man, and use of gangster tactics.
Third, Xi Jinping has utilized all available resources as tools to put the CCP in an extremely dangerous situation.
In the past ten years, Xi Jinping’s political achievements have been negligible, and all the major events that Xi “personally decided, carried out and commanded” can be said to have failed in every case. Lack of achievement without question means there is no reason to stay in office. In 2020, when the Wuhan virus became the scourge of first Chinese and then people around the world, Xi Jinping was accused by the public, and China was held responsible by the world as the source of the Wuhan virus and its global spread. In 2022, when the world gradually reopened and returned to normal life, China continued to be trapped by Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy that destroyed urban life, the economy and many individual lives, Even now, Xi Jinping still insists on zero-Covid as his highest priority. For the CCP, if the economy collapses, its rule will be threatened. Saving the economy is not only necessary for the survival of China’s more than one billion people, but also in the fundamental interest of the CCP.
Since the CCP’s April 29 Politburo meeting, Li Keqiang has vigorously focused on the economy, while Xi Jinping has emphasized no wavering on zero-Covid. The Xi-Li differences are so public — from struggles over public opinion to policy confrontations to personnel changes and in other various arenas — that the contest has become extremely intense.
Objectively speaking, Premier Li Keqiang’s all-out effort to boost the economy is not a divergence from Xi Jinping, but has been forced by the dangerous trend of China’s economic decline. Anyone with any sense in the CCP understands that the reason why the CCP’s one-party dictatorship is still going on despite its many past sins is that, apart from its longstanding use of brainwashing propaganda in a closed information environment, the key has been that the development of the market economy since reform and opening up has significantly improved the living conditions of the Chinese people, with many urban and rural residents moving from poverty to prosperity, and some of them even achieving affluence. This outcome has propped up the CCP’s rule. The people accept that the CCP’s economic “achievements” are what they have gotten in exchange for their relative recognition and acceptance of the CCP’s rule and its system. In a sense, Li Keqiang’s rescue of the economy is to preserve the overall situation of the CCP; if Xi Jinping does not waver in his determination for zero-Covid, China’s economy will continue to deteriorate. In this regard, the disagreement between Xi and Li is essentially a battle between the interests of the CCP and Xi’s personal power.
Whether it is Li Keqiang’s focus on the implementation of economic policies or Xi Jinping’s insistence on zero-Covid, both require cadres below to implement them. The same applies to Xi’s group. If cadres who support him do not seize positions of power in advance, it is difficult to be confident that Xi Jinping will be securely re-elected to his throne at the 20th National Congress. This is why he recently made a high-profile announcement to start a new round of his periodic anti-corruption campaigns, again a selective one. On the one hand, he did this to intimidate and warn the whole party. On the other hand, it will expunge party dissidents to help him gain ground. This new campaign is bound to purge numerous people. As a result, the political contest on the eve of the 20th National Congress is bound to involve not only cadres at all levels of the CCP, but also many cadres at the crossroads of an uncertain fate. Once CCP cadres are involved in power struggles, a significant number of them will be used as pawns and might at any time instantly become prisoners. Since 2022, more than 20 provincial and ministerial officials have been investigated and punished, and Professor Wu Guoguang, a Chinese Canadian scholar, expects that by July or August, a member of the Politburo will likely fall. With the approach of the 20th National Congress, personnel changes at the top of the CCP are occurring frequently. A former CCP insider, Mr. Cheng Xiaonong, commented that Xi Jinping controls the military, and can thus be said to be the one holding the gun, while other Central Standing Committee members’ only weapon is paper. The probability is that Xi Jinping will use the gun to intimidate the paper-wielding Standing Committee members to ensure his re-election.
Recently, Xi Jinping signed an order declaring an outline of military operations under non-war conditions. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection also issued a document stipulating that the children of the families of top and middle-ranking officials are not allowed to run businesses and companies. The defense minister suddenly raised tensions in the Taiwan Strait in a high-profile manner. Wang Xiaohong, a protégé of Xi’s, was appointed as China’s public-security minister,. And so on. This all indicates that Xi Jinping has mobilized all available resources as a tool to be used to secure his re-election. In short, Xi Jinping’s never-ending anti-corruption campaign, i.e plunging the knife in to treat the wound, this sort of one-man revolution, and a series of other self-inflicted injuries in recent years have held a gun to the heads of more than 4 million cadres and 90 million party members, keeping them hostage in the endless and brutal infighting within the party. Party officials cannot live in peace, cadres are trembling with fear, and the extreme anxiety of “not knowing what will happen tomorrow” now envelops the Party. In the past decade, there have been many suicides and forced suicides of CCP officials, almost the worst period of unnatural deaths of cadres in the party’s 100-year history. This has sapped all the Party’s vitality, which once shone, often very brightly, under Deng, Jiang, and Hu. Now the Party has been left to languish in its waning days as it struggles to stay alive. The darkness and cruelty within the CCP has reached such a point that many people are looking forward to its disintegration, which is the only way to free 90 million Party members and more than 4 million cadres.
Fourth, Xi Jinping’s illegal constitutional amendment will likely plunge the CCP and Chinese society into another bloody catastrophe amid future political transformation.
Xi’s constitutional amendment in 2018 is completely contrary to the spirit of modern constitutionalism, and has in fact torn up the “contract” between the CCP and the Chinese people, shattering the country’s political expectations for China’s future and making them feel more and more endangered. This will likely block the road to peaceful political transformation in China, plunge the CCP and mainland China into considerable political turmoil, and possibly plunge all of Chinese society into another bloody disaster.
Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment to abolish the term limit for the office of president is tantamount to sending China back to the imperial system of more than 100 years ago. In any republican system, there is no such thing as an unelected, unrestricted term of office. The removal of the words “the president and the vice president of the state shall not serve more than two terms” essentially changes the nature of China’s statehood, so that even nominal devotion to any “People’s Republic” is no more. This is a naked imperial restoration, a historical regression. One hundred years ago, Zhang Xun attempted to restore the deposed emperor Pu Yi, but his attempt failed after 12 days. Yuan Shikai, who became the strongman ruler of China after Pu Yu’s abdication in 1912 within a year, eventually declared himself the emperor, but he repudiated the title after only 81 days, These attempts failed due to the strong opposition of all of Chinese society, and ended in disgrace. Yuan Shikai died shortly after amid the public’s utter contempt. One hundred years later, we can see the souls of Zhang Xun and Yuan Shikai in Xi Jinping body’s. How long can Xi Jinping last if he stubbornly insists on his own enthronement?
The Constitution is a country’s highest authority, and involves the rights of each citizen. Any fundamental changes to the Constitution must be deliberated over by the public, and better yet put to a public vote. This is the common practice of countries around the world. However, Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment to abolish term limits for the president was not only not discussed by the public, but its enactment involved deceiving it until eight days before the NPC meeting. Such a constitutional amendment directly destroys the supreme authority of the Constitution in the hearts of Chinese people, which is tantamount to destroying the communication and cooperation platform enabling all political forces to have the opportunity to negotiate peacefully on any future political transformation of China. This is now the most crucial issue in determining whether China will be able to achieve achieve peaceful political transformation in the future.
Prior to 1949 the CCP waved the banner of freedom, democracy and national independence, and thus attracted both passionate intellectual youth and the Chinese underclass to join their revolution. Mao Zedong even vowed during the Yan’an period, the time in the 1930s and 1940s when Chinese forces controlled only that area of China, that he would follow the example of the United States and build a new China where the people would be the masters of their own house. However, after the CCP established its power in 1949, it committed many monstrous deeds and owes a massive debt of blood to the Chinese people. For example, the “One Transformation Three Change” Movement, the Anti-Rightist Movement, the “Four Cleanups” Movement, and the ten years of the Cultural Revolution suppressed and killed millions of elites and regular citizens from all walks of life; at least 30-40 million Chinese were starved to death in the three years of famine from 1959 to 1961; after reform and opening up, the shooting of students and citizens on June 4, 1989 forced many democrats to go into exile overseas, etc. Similarly, the CCP has suppressed and persecuted religious believers, arrested, detained and brutalized ethnic minorities, and even carried out disguised genocide and other massive human-rights persecutions of minority ethnic groups and religious believers. Since Xi Jinping came to power, there has been a dramatic retrograde shift to the left via unprecedented levels of high-tech surveillance and violent repression. These have worsened substantially in both in ethnic-minority regions and the the mainland more broadly. This has made the relationship between the CCP and the Chinese people extremely tense, even turning deep public grievances into actual hatred. Once China reaches the stage of political transformation, the question of whether bloodshed can be avoided or, failing that, minimized in the process of the falling and even dissolution of the CCP will be unavoidable.
Constitutional democracy has been a trend in the modern era, and is strong in the hearts of people around the world. Sooner or later, China will have its day of constitutional civil transformation. In retrospect, the democratic transition in Spain after the death of General Franco in 1975 and that in the former East German after 1989 both came about without massive bloodshed and social turmoil, instead occurring with relative moderation. And so these two transformations have many useful lessons that can be absorbed, two unusually important ones in particular.
First, the bottom line is that there should be no mass killings, or bloodshed of any kind. The leaders of the political forces that dominated Spain’s political transformation proposed that Spaniards never again fight a civil war and shed blood over political differences. The top leader of the then-ruling East German party, the United Socialist Party of Germany, refrained from ordering the army to open fire in the face of the October 9, 1989 demonstration of the East German people, avoiding mass bloodshed. This provided favorable conditions for the subsequent stepping down of the United Socialist Party and the smooth merging of the two German states.
Second, after a rewriting of the constitution, with it as the supreme law of the land, all political forces in society must commit themselves to the peaceful transformation of the country on a constitutional platform and within the constitutional framework.
In any future political transformation of China, the peaceful resolution of two major issues will be crucial. First, the political reckoning for the CCP’s accumulated sins of totalitarian rule since 1949 must be carried out on the basis of restoring historical truth and sanctioning the CCP’s chief malefactors and criminals, who have committed many crimes, in accordance with the law, thus avoiding any the spontaneous and bloody retaliation by a society without law. Second, the peaceful handling of ethnic and religious conflicts is essential, so as to reduce and ideally avoid the violent conflicts that will otherwise arise. If these two major issues are handled well, the peaceful transformation of China’s politics will be possible. If not, China will lose any hope of moving peacefully toward constitutional democracy, and this will trap our descendants in a violent disaster.
To solve the above two major problems, it is necessary to establish and firmly uphold the supreme authority of the Constitution in the country, so that the Constitution has strong, authoritative power to regulate and restrain the political activities of all parties
Xi Jinping’s rogue constitutional amendment has completely destroyed the authority of the Constitution by turning it into a tool to serve his own ambitions and to be toyed with at will by him. With thousands of years of Chinese authoritarian tradition, both the CCP and society generally lack a sense of the rule of law and human rights. Xi Jinping’s rise to power has caused the CCP to take a sharp left turn. Xi Jinping’s speeches, CCP meetings and documents, and especially the wolf-warrior diplomacy of the CCP Foreign Ministry all have a strong overtone of gangsterism and viciousness in the language used. There is a top-down effect — the rhetoric from the top has encouraged government officials at all levels to become increasingly violent and hostile, and it has become commonplace to beat and otherwise violently abuse people, which in turn has had a powerful impact on social habits. The government and the people are viciously provoked by each other. They have become uncivilized, not conscious of the rule of law, and easy to stir up and make vicious. This further stokes public anger. All these tactics will doubly backfire on the CCP itself in any future political transformation, and are likely to trigger a great deal of instinctive desire for violent revenge, quite possibly leading to violent action. If the supreme authority of the Constitution is not recognized by the CCP and all parties in society, then what will be the common denominator for all political forces in China’s future political transformation? If there is no constitutional decree that all parties agree on to effectively restrain their behavior, once society falls into a state of anarchy, the most likely victims will be not only the more than 4 million cadres of the CCP at all levels and their families (at least 10 million people), but also the relatively wealthy middle class along with private entrepreneurs and the common people who will be inadvertently drawn into any conflict by random factors beyond their control. Many innocent people will be killed or suffer tremendous harm.
In sum, Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment in the spring of 2018 opened the Pandora’s box of constitutional abrogation — rendering the will of the powerful unconstrained, allowing the will of an individual’s lust for power to manipulate the Constitution according to his personal ambitions, and sweeping away its authority. The Constitution is supposed to be a country’s foundation. When this is destroyed, the rights of the people will not be guaranteed in the slightest, the will of the powerful inevitably will become uncontrollable, and the resulting catastrophes will further push more than a billion people toward a catastrophic abyss. Therefore, we should not pretend that Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment is not important. We must expose his devious act of constitutional destruction for what it is and seriously pursue his legal responsibility for these acts.
This article first appeared in Yi Bao Chinese Version on 6/26/2022.