One of the major problems I’ve noticed with our approach to discussions about China is a failure to understand the Chinese political system. This failure manifests in our seeming inability to understand the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and the Government of China. Many westerners appear to make the false assumption that the government in China is distinct from the communist party. Put more distinctly, there is a clear line between party leadership and elected officials in the United States. A difference that doesn’t exist in China under the CCP. For simplicity, I will use the British system of government to establish a point of reference Westerners can use to understand the government of China.
The Chinese Communist Party must be viewed as equivalent to the Crown in the British Constitution. This means power comes from the Crown rather than the people. The British Government is called “Her Majesty’s Government” and likewise we must call the government of China the “The Party’s Government.” Since the source of legitimacy in China is the communist party like the Crown in Britain.
Western critics of the Chinese government make a critical mistake when it comes to China since legitimacy is derived from the “Party.” Critics of the UK government don’t criticize the Crown they criticize the “Ministers of the Crown.” This means a criticism of the party is impermissible since it undermines the basic legitimacy of the current Chinese state. Any universal statement criticizing the “Chinese government” or “Chinese Communist Party” undermines the legitimacy of the state. This allows foreign critics to be dismissed as anti-China elements determined to destroy the Chinese state.
The Chinese Communist Party works to advance the interests of the people according to its founding principles. These principles form the foundation of the modern Chinese nation-state and aren’t open to foreign or internal criticism. The actions of certain Government ministers do not uphold the principles of the party and are subject to debate/censure in China. Criticisms involving the government of China should focus on the actions of specific ministers or ministries. Since universal condemnations of the CCP and government of China can be dismissed as undermining the basic legitimacy of the Chinese state. Effectual criticism of the People’s Republic of China must be grounded in criticism of specific ministers who fail to uphold “socialist core values.”
Kellogg, Thomas E. “Constitutionalism with Chinese Characteristics? Constitutional Development and Civil Litigation in China.” OUP Academic. Oxford University Press, March 16, 2009. https://academic.oup.com/icon/article/7/2/215/758644.
PRC, People’s Congress. “Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.” The National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China. People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, March 14, 2004. http://www.npc.gov.cn/zgrdw/englishnpc/Constitution/node_2825.htm.
Zhang, Qianfan. “Constitution without Constitutionalism? The Paths of Constitutional Development in China.” OUP Academic. Oxford University Press, October 1, 2010. https://academic.oup.com/icon/article/8/4/950/667092.