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Upholding, Improving, and Developing the Chinese Socialist State System and Legal System

Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2020-03-20

The 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC is only a few days away. Today, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee is conducting a group study session on the topic of "The Formation and Development of New China's State System and Legal System." The purpose of this session is to review the process through which the CPC has led the people in developing the state system and legal system over the last 70 years, summarize our achievements and experiences, and boost confidence in our path, theory, system, and culture as we maintain our commitment to following the path pioneered by the Party and the people.

The Political Bureau has decided that the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee is to be held in October, and will focus on certain major issues concerning our efforts to uphold and improve the Chinese socialist system and modernize China's governance system and capacity. This group study session is a chance for us to go over these issues in depth.

There is an old Chinese saying that in order to govern the country and ensure order among the people, all relevant systems must be improved. Over the 70 years since the founding of the PRC, our Party has led the people in constant trials through which the Chinese socialist state system and legal system have gradually taken shape. This process has provided fundamental guarantees for the progress of contemporary China and important lessons for us to draw upon as we promote the development of our state and legal systems in the new era. 

First, the Chinese socialist state and legal systems have been formed through long-term practical exploration, and represent great innovations in the history of human institutions. With the advent of modern times, the Chinese people were faced with the historic question of what kind of state system they should establish. After the Opium War, the system of feudal autocracy, which had lasted for more than 2,000 years, was already hollowed out from decay and unable to cope with increasingly grave political and national crises. Countless patriots devoted themselves to searching for a way to change the future of the Chinese nation, attempting social revolution, engaging in technological, industrial, institutional, and cultural trials, and experimenting with various institutional models such as constitutional monarchy, the parliamentary system, the multiparty system, and the presidential system. However, all of their efforts ended in failure. 

Since its founding, the CPC has been committed to building a new society in which the people act as masters of the country. It has outlined a vision for the future state system and led the people in pursuing this vision. During the Agrarian Revolution, our Party established the Chinese Soviet Republic in the Central Soviet Area of Jiangxi, and began initial attempts to develop a state system and legal system. During the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, our Party set up a center of anti-Japanese democratic political power that was based around Yan'an and represented by the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region, and established a border region government. Upholding the "three thirds system" in which CPC members, left progressives, and middle elements each took a third of the posts, the consultative council served as the highest organ of power, and legislative, administrative, and judicial bodies at various levels of the governments in the region were also established.

After the founding of the PRC, our Party creatively applied the Marxist theory of the state, and worked tirelessly to build a socialist state system, gradually establishing and consolidating China's state structure, system of state power, the fundamental political system, basic political system, basic economic system, and important systems in various fields. The Chinese socialist system and socialist legal system have thus been improved on a continuous basis.

Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, we have comprehensively deepened reform by improving the Party's leadership systems and mechanisms, strengthening institutions through which the people exercise their role as masters of the country, amending the Constitution, advancing the extensive, multi-level, and institutionalized development of socialist consultative democracy, furthering reforms related to Party and government institutions, our economic system, our judicial system, our environmental governance system, and national defense and the armed forces, and establishing the national supervisory system. On this basis, the Chinese socialist system has become increasingly mature and well-defined, and the Chinese socialist legal system has been continuously improved, which have in turn played a major role in facilitating historic achievements and changes in the cause of the Party and the state.

As experience has proven, our Party has integrated the basic tenets of Marxism with China's realities to establish a new type of state system, which has ensured that the hundreds of millions of Chinese people act as masters of this great and ancient country in the East, and endowed the Chinese socialist system with marked superiority and strong vitality. We have thus enabled our country to bring about the miracle of rapid economic development and long-term social stability, provided developing countries with the option of a new path toward modernization, and contributed Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to humanity's search for better social systems. 

Second, it has been proven through practice the Chinese socialist state system and legal system are sound systems with marked advantages. They are rooted in our deep historical and cultural traditions accumulated over more than 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, while also drawing upon the institutional achievements of all humanity, and have been tested through long-term practice. 

In the early days of the PRC, Mao Zedong said confidently: "All facts prove that this system of ours, the people's democratic dictatorship, is vastly superior to the political systems of the capitalist countries. Under this system, the people of our country are able to tap their inexhaustible strength. And such strength is invincible before any enemy." In the early days of reform and opening up, Deng Xiaoping pointed out: "Our Party and people established a socialist system after long years of bloody struggle. Although our socialist system is still imperfect and has suffered disruption, still it is much better than the capitalist system based on the law of the jungle and the principle of getting ahead at the expense of others. Our system will improve more and more with the passage of time. By absorbing the progressive elements of other countries, it will become the best in the world. Capitalism can never achieve this." 

The Chinese socialist state system and legal system have demonstrated great strengths in practice, the most important of which are as follows. The first is upholding CPC leadership. It is thanks to the leadership of the Party that our country has been able to pool national resources behind major undertakings and advance various initiatives in a unified and effective manner over the past 70 years. On this basis, our country has been able to successfully address major risks and challenges and overcome countless difficulties and obstacles as we have kept moving forward in the right direction. The second is guaranteeing the people's role as masters of the country. The name of our country and the names of our state organs at all levels start with "the people's," which indicates the basic orientation of China's socialist government. China's state system is deeply rooted in the people, and is capable of effectively reflecting their will, guaranteeing their rights and interests, and stimulating their creativity. The third is upholding comprehensive law-based governance. Our efforts to uphold law-based governance and build a law-based country, government, and society in an integrated manner have played an important role in unleashing and enhancing the vigor of society, promoting social fairness and justice, maintaining social harmony and stability, and ensuring the long-term stability of the Party and the state. The fourth is implementing democratic centralism. Democratic centralism is the basic principle underpinning the organization and operation of our state organs, and a prominent feature of our state system. Under the leadership of the Party, all state organs form a unified whole, carrying out their own rationally defined functions while closely cooperating with one another, and fully promoting democracy while effectively practicing centralism. This has allowed our state organs to avoid problems such as conducting discussions but not making decisions, making decisions but not taking action, or taking action but not achieving real results, and ensured that they do not lose efficiency or hold each other back.

In order to judge whether a social system is rational and advanced, we must consider whether or not it conforms to national conditions, works effectively, and has the support of the people. The Chinese socialist state system and legal system form a set of institutions that work and work effectively and efficiently.

The world today is facing changes of a magnitude unseen in a century. Meanwhile, competition between countries, which is ultimately competition between their state systems, is becoming increasingly fierce. China's unparalleled growth is, to a great extent, attributable to the marked superiority and strong vitality of our state system and legal system. This is the basis of our confidence in our path, theory, system, and culture. 

Third, we must not only see that the Chinese socialist state system and legal system are effectively upheld and implemented, but also take constant steps to develop and improve them. As early as 1949, Mao Zedong said: "The CPC has existed for 28 years, and we need another two years to complete our objective of nationwide revolution. This means that we will spend a total of 30 years ‘laying a foundation.' But ‘building a house' is a task that will take several more decades." In 1992, Deng Xiaoping pointed out: "It will probably take another 30 years for us to develop a more mature and well-defined system in every field." In the report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC, I proposed a two-stage strategic plan for the period from 2020 to the middle of this century. Our goals in institution building under this plan are to further improve institutions in all fields and basically achieve the modernization of national governance system and capacity by 2035, and to achieve the modernization of national governance system and capacity by the middle of this century.

As we uphold and consolidate systems of fundamental importance that have already been established and tested through practice, we must also continue to bolster institutional innovation based on our national conditions, and accelerate the development of systems that are urgently needed for national governance and necessary for meeting the people's growing needs for a better life. We need to bring together useful experiences and effective methods that we have acquired through practice in a timely manner, and elevate those that are mature enough to the institutional and legal level. While we actively draw upon the institutional achievements of others, we must never abandon the foundations of our systems or allow them to weaken. 

As an old saying goes, "Good laws with good intentions, if poorly implemented, could lead to bad governance." Institutions can only come to life through effective implementation. Nowadays, some people lack respect for institutions, refusing to abide by them or even changing them at will; some do everything possible to exploit loopholes and circumvent institutions. Others are afraid of, and unwilling to abide by, institutions, and do everything they can to escape institutional restrictions and regulation. We must therefore enhance our capacity to implement institutions, and strengthen oversight in this regard, making concrete efforts to ensure that our institutional strengths are used effectively in governance. CPC committees and governments at all levels as well as officials must raise their awareness of institutions and become adept at promoting various undertakings in line with institutions. CPC members and officials should set an example in implementing institutional goals, lead all members of society in raising awareness of institutions, and work purposefully to safeguard the authority of institutions.

We need to strengthen theoretical research on the Chinese socialist state system and legal system, draw on the successful experience gained in China's institutional development over the past 70 years, and develop academic and theoretical frameworks and a political discourse for China's institutional development theory in order to provide theoretical support for boosting confidence in our system. We need to enhance publicity and education, particularly among the youth, and help the people fully realize that we have already embarked on the path to success in building the Chinese socialist system, and that as long as we continue moving forward on this path, we will definitely be able to achieve the modernization of our national governance system and capacity. During celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, we should take the opportunity to introduce China's system to the world, so as to enhance its influence and appeal and make it better understood and recognized in the international community. 

This speech was delivered at the 17th group study session of the Political Bureau of the 19th CPC Central Committee on September 24, 2019.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 23, 2019)