Revue de presse du 21 octobre 2014

Keywords: Fourth plenum, Chinese values, Occupy Central.


China’s Fourth Plenum “governing the country according to law”

  1. Rule of law elusive as Beijing adds topic to leaders’ agenda. // But although judicial independence is almost certainly off the table, some of the reforms being considered could be quite significant over the long-term. Legal scholars and Chinese officials say a key topic of discussion this week will be a proposal to make local courts across the country answerable to higher-level authorities rather than to local party cadres, as is currently the case. The aim is to reduce the potential for the sort of corruption and influence-peddling that exists at every level within the justice system and which has made Chinese courts some of the least trusted institutions in the country, legal scholars say. A crucial part of this reform could involve transferring responsibility for funding and personnel changes from local governments to provincial or central authorities. At present, judges usually owe their jobs and career advancement to local party officials, who wield enormous influence over any court decision and can use the system to protect or persecute almost anyone they want. Another potential item on the agenda this week is a proposal to allow collectively owned land to be sold more easily, an important element in agricultural reform that would allow greater mobility for China’s rural labour force. // Source: Financial Times
  2. The session will likely decide Zhou Yongkang’s fate but with no details // Analysts say details of how Zhou violated the law will probably not be discussed at the fourth plenum of the Central Committee. Instead, the party will stick to pre-rehearsed political rhetoric, even if Zhou is publicly ousted from the party. // Source: SCMP
  3. Global Times: China must chart own course to rule of law. // The ongoing Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will deliberate and pass the decision on major issues concerning comprehensively advancing the rule of law. Global public opinion has paid much attention to the plenum, mirroring the extraordinary significance of it. But noticeably, mainstream Western media have questioned whether the Party or the law is paramount in China. This may lead to the meeting being misread. In their analyses, the leadership of the CPC and the rule of law are contradictory. Such stereotyped political logic of the West has long affected part of China. These misperceptions must be swept away. Official documents such as the report to the 18th National Congress of the CPC and leaders’ speeches in recent years have repeatedly cast light on the combination of the CPC’s leadership, the position of the people as masters of the country and the rule of law. This emphasizes that “the Party should lead legislation, ensure law enforcement and set an example by abiding by the law.” // Source: Global Times, or Chinese original 社评:推进依法治国莫受西方舆论干扰
  4. Stanley Lubman at WSJ: Why Even Minor Legal Reforms Are Important in China // Major changes to the party’s control over the legal system have always been unlikely. They are even less likely now, following protests in Hong Kong and violence in the northwestern territory of Xinjiang. Nevertheless, there are certain steps the party-state can take with regard to law that can help it improve its legitimacy without giving up ultimate control. …Among the most important issues that is expected to be discussed at the Plenum is the question of how the selection of judges will be managed….Reform plans call for the creation of judicial selection committees to select judges in basic-level courts (counties and urban districts). The committees would include experienced judges and prosecutors, as well as lawyers, legal scholars and community representatives but would be a part of the party’s provincial-level political-legal committee. Fu and He argue that that this suggests that “the principle of ‘the Party manages cadres’ cannot be avoided,” and that the provincial people’s congresses would be “more appropriate.” …The question underlying the current reform effort is whether the mentality of local officials can be shaped to guide their adherence more closely to centrally promulgated laws and policies….To assist accomplishment of these goals, it is necessary to widen both the scope of judicial review of legislative and administrative actions and the rights of citizens and NGOs to initiate such reviews. According to Chinese sources, such possibilities have been discussed with regard to the current draft of the revised Administrative Litigation Law. Is it possible to increase the distance between law and Party bureaucracy even while officials continue to restrict public speech and action? Experimentation in the pilot programs may suggest the possibilities, but it remains to be seen if the Plenum will move law reform farther.” // Source: WSJ
  5. WSJ: ‘Rule of Law’ or ‘Rule by Law’? In China, a Preposition Makes All the Difference // “Using ‘rule of law’ is profoundly misleading, and I think intentionally misleading,” says John Delury, a China historian at Yonsei University. …While the two phrases may seem like a flip-of-the-coin for dual-language dictionary editors, they actually have very different connotations, scholars say. “Rule of law,” under which the power of political leaders is constrained by laws and regulations, is generally considered a subset of “rule by law,” says Victor Mair, a professor of Chinese language at the University of Pennsylvania. “’Rule of law’ implies fairness and predictable application,” he says. “’Rule by law’ would include, for example, rule under Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws (Nürnberger Gesetze), which were neither fair nor predictably applied.” // Source: WSJ
  6. SCMP’s Wang Xiangwei: Strengthening the rule of law will be a long journey // Following the plenum, the authorities are expected to speed up efforts to curb officials’ meddling in judicial decisions by having local courts report to more senior judicial bodies instead of to local governments, and by recruiting a greater number of legal professionals to the judiciary. The main takeaway from the meeting should be the further consolidation of “recentralising power” away from the local authorities – a process started by Xi as soon as he came to power nearly two years ago. For the pessimists, recentralisation is simply part of Xi’s plans to consolidate his power and strengthen the rule of the Communist Party. // Source: SCMP
  7. SCMP: Rule of law and rule by party can coexist, party scholar says // The rule of law does not conflict with the Communist Party’s rule because the country’s legal system was established by the ruling party, a mainland scholar says. Central Party School professor Xie Chuntao delivered the assessment yesterday as the party started its fourth plenum. … »The nation’s legal system is established under the leadership of the Communist Party, » he said. « Therefore the party should follow the legal system it has established. This is in itself an important demonstration of the party’s leadership. » // Source: SCMP
  8. Carl Minzner: How China’s Leaders Will Rule on the Law // 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 second trend is that, China’s central leaders do seem to have given the green light to a limited range of legal and judicial reforms….Third, Chinese leaders are also moving to reshape the legal landscape with Xi’s signature rhetoric—specifically, the Chinese Dream….The fusion of these trends means that one could easily imagine the fall Party plenum coming out with a comprehensive statement on “rule of law” that amounts to an authoritative endorsement of a revised authoritarian Party apparatus dressed up in Confucian garb, with some small residual space left for technical legal reforms around the margins. Source: China File          i.  A following discussion on the China File. Donald Clarke: // After all these years, the failure to legalize shuanggui (while refusing to abandon it) can’t be explained as the product of the press of urgent circumstances or mere absent-mindedness. It is instead virtually a direct statement by the Party that it sees itself as above the law and not accountable to it. Law is a tool of governance; it is not something that constrains the ultimate governors themselves. // Source: China File
  9. Rogier Cremeer’s forthcoming article on the China Journal, China’s Constitutionalism Debate: Content, Context and Implications. Source: SSRN
  10. SCMP: Little impact seen from Party leadership’s reform push as interest groups dig in // While it’s too early to judge the success of the overall programme, some analysts say the steps already taken have been trivial and incapable of kick-starting real change. …But many of Xi’s reforms have had only a minor impact. For example, the decades-old distinction between urban and rural dwellers in the household registration system, or hukou, has been removed but the gap in entitlements between the two groups of people will largely stay the same for years to come. Other much-touted changes include further easing of the one-child policy, suggested corporatisation of some government-affiliated bodies and alterations to the ranks of university presidents and top academics. Headway has been made in the groundwork for a property registry, a system that could pave the way for a property tax and shed some much-needed light on officials’ assets. // Source: SCMP


Xi Jinping calls for artists to spread ‘Chinese values’

  1. Last week at the Beijing Forum on Literature and Art, President Xi addressed a gathering of artists, writers, and performers, calling on them to use their talents in serving the nation.
  2. China Copyright and Media summarized Xi’s long speech: // Xi Jinping pointed out that promoting the flourishing and development of literature and art, in the end, requires the creation and production of excellent works that can live up to this great nation and these great times. Literature and art workers should firmly keep in mind that creation is their central task, work is the root of their being, they must engage in their creation with calm hearts and a spirit of improvement, and present the best spiritual nourishment to the people. The creation and production of excellent works must be made into a central link of our literature and art work, and we must strive to produce even more excellent works that disseminate the value views of present-day China, reflect the spirit of Chinese culture, mirror the aesthetic pursuits of Chinese people, which organically integrate ideology, artistry and enjoyability. // Source: China Copyright and Media
  3. 认真学习宣传贯彻习近平总书记在文艺工作座谈会上的重要讲话精神Source: People’s Daily
  4. Xi Jinping lauded young author Zhou Xiaoping for spreading « positive energy » during the meeting // Xi’s remarks touched a national nerve, spurring eager conversations on social media the next day. On Weibo, China’s Twitter, a search for « Forum on Art and Literature » yields 230,000 results. Many netizens directed their ire at a particular participant in the forum: author Zhou Xiaoping. Xi had specifically lauded Zhou, as well as another forum participant, Hua Qianfang, encouraging them to continue to write « works that carry positive energy. » The term « positive energy » is recent code for speech that toes the party line. Both Zhou and Hua are young Internet writers who espouse strong nationalistic ideas, making them a digital addition to the ranks of China’s « art workers, » a term the party adopted in earnest after Mao’s Yan’an talk. On Oct. 16, Reference News, one of the major news outlets for party officials, devoted an entire page to three articles written by Zhou. They were titled « Broken Dreams in the USA, » « Fly, Chinese Dreams, » and « Their Dreams and Our Flags. » // Source: Foreign Policy

i.     Zhou Xiaoping has previously accused the U.S. of using the Internet “to poison Chinese civilization” and has questioned the cancer diagnosis of former Google China CEO Kai-fu Lee.

ii.     Famous blogger Fang Zhouzi harshly criticized Zhou in an article 《方舟子打假周小平:梦里游趟美国便控诉美国罪恶》. He counters claims about American ills made in Zhou’s essay “Dream-Broken America” (梦碎美利坚), such as that the minimum wage in many U.S. cities is “between three and five dollar [an hour],” and that “even a meal at a roadside cafe costs $20-$40 per person.” Source: Wenxuecity


Updates on Hong Kong occupy protests

  1. State media links the protest to a brewing independence movement. 从“自主”看“占中”背后的“港独”阴谋 Source: People.cn
  2. CY Leung reaffirms unbending stance on elections // The Beijing-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, said Monday evening that it was unacceptable to allow his successors to be chosen in open elections, in part because doing so would risk giving poorer residents a dominant voice in politics….In an interview with a small group of journalists from American and European news media organizations, his first with foreign media since the city erupted in demonstrations, he acknowledged that many of the protesters are angry over the lack of social mobility and affordable housing in the city. But he argued that containing populist pressures was an important reason for resisting the protesters’ demands for fully open elections. …“You have to take care of all the sectors in Hong Kong as much as you can,” he said, “and if it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than HK$ 14,000 (US$1,800) a month.”…He also raised again the suspicions of his government and of Beijing that “foreign forces” had played a role in the street protests, although he declined repeatedly to identify those forces or provide any examples. “I didn’t overhear it in a teahouse, and it’s something that concerns us,” he said. “It’s something that we need to deal with.” // Source: NYT
  3. Hong Kong ‘lucky’ China has not stopped protests, says CY Leung // In his first on-the-record interview with international media since the start of protests, Mr Leung said Hong Kong had been “lucky” that Beijing had not yet felt the need to intervene in the stand-off over electoral reform.There is a thin line between what we do in Hong Kong and what [leaders in] Beijing think or might think they have to do. Now so far, Beijing has left it to the Hong Kong government to deal with the situation,” Mr Leung told the Financial Times, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in a joint interview on Monday. “I think we should try our very best . . . to stay that way. Challenging myself, challenging [the] Hong Kong government, at these difficult times, will do no one any service, will do Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy no service.” // Source: FT
  4. Hong Kong’s High Court orders protesters off roads in Mong Kok and Admiralty // The High Court yesterday ordered pro-democracy protesters to leave main roads in Admiralty and Mong Kok immediately, as top officials and student leaders explored ways to make progress in talks on political reform, due to begin today. A government source said the administration had recognised it was unrealistic to try to disperse protesters by force and expected the demonstrations that have paralysed parts of the city since late last month could continue for at least another month. // Source: SCMP
  5. New York Times: Beijing Is Directing Hong Kong Strategy, Government Insiders Say // According to interviews with six current and former Hong Kong and Chinese government officials, as well as a range of experts, it is China’s national leaders, more than Hong Kong’s, who have been directing the broad strokes of the response to the crisis. With Beijing’s needs foremost in mind, they have tried to balance a steadfast refusal to give ground on the protesters’ demands for democratic elections with the need to avoid widespread bloodshed that would further destabilize the city. …“I suspect the central government’s line to C.Y. is: No compromise on political reform, but also no bloodshed,” said Joseph Wong Wing-ping, a former senior official in Hong Kong. “The central government doesn’t like any substantial sign which may indicate or may suggest that they are willing to be a little bit soft.” Initial measures to forcibly disperse the protests, including the use of tear gas, provoked strong public revulsion in Hong Kong, so officials switched to a “wait them out” approach that has put immense pressure on the city’s police force, interspersed with occasional moves to clear street barricades….The Hong Kong and Chinese officials interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity, citing strict bans by both governments on any public discussion of Beijing’s role here. // Source: NYT
  6. Yesterday, students protesters meet city leaders to debate democracy’s future in Hong Kong // The students stuck with their demands to push for immediate changes to Hong Kong’s election law. They want the 2017 elections for the city’s highest post, the chief executive, open to a wide range of candidates. But Mrs. Lam’s offer did spark some interest. “What is the next step?” Alex Chow, 24, the secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, asked after hearing Mrs. Lam’s offer. “Do you have a time frame? Do you have a road map to see in which direction our constitutional development is going?” …The students feel that Beijing was given a misleading report by the government on the political mood here that influenced how the legislature wrote its guidelines. Mrs. Lam rejected that charge, and said the students should accept that opening the election to all of Hong Kong’s eligible voters is a significant advance. « I don’t know why you don’t consider that important progress in our quest for democracy,” she said. …Despite the animosity, students and other protesters, watching the debate on large projection screens at the main protest site near the government headquarters, were happy that the government was at least willing to talk. “This is the first time the government has spoken with protesters on an equal level,” said Teddy Yeung, a computer engineering student wearing a red bandanna. “That’s already a step forward for us.” // Source: NYT

i.     NYT called this a freewheeling debate on democracy in China. // It was a remarkably civil and scholarly discussion, all the more so given the generational divide between the sides. Each cited articles of Hong Kong’s constitution, chapter and verse, to back its points. // Source: NYT

ii.     Even more remarkable was that it was happening in Hong Kong, the former British colony only a few miles from mainland China, where such a freewheeling public political discussion has not been heard in at least a quarter century, when students occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing. That protest provoked a bloody crackdown that has reverberated through China ever since.

iii.     WSJ recapped and summarized the talks. Source: WSJ

iv.     SCMP report on the talks. Source: SCMP


  1. Carl Minzner: China is again slowly turning in on itself // But China’s reform era is over. A different — and more unstable — one is dawning. …At a deep level, China is experiencing a backlash against many of the economic, ideological and political winners of the reform era. The last three decades saw the world’s most rapid accumulation of economic wealth fuse with an unreformed authoritarian political system. The result: a generation of well-heeled “red capitalists,” furiously texting on their iPhones as chauffeur-driven Audis sped their children past migrant shantytowns to English cram schools in preparation for studies overseas. Such things might have seemed the very epitome of success to an earlier generation of Chinese leaders ruling over a country just emerging from crushing poverty and Maoist isolation. But they look very different now. To a new leader worried about maintaining one-party rule in a nation with a history of revolution, and where just 1% of the population controls one-third of the wealth, this is not just an image problem. It is a latent threat to the stability of his regime….Instead, Chinese leaders are falling back on what they know. And what they know are tactics drawn from the 1950s and ’60s — ones being used now: party rectification movements, politicized anticorruption purges, televised self-confessions by social media celebrities, foreign corporate investigators and alleged terrorists. // Source: LA Times
  1. Geremie Barmé highlights the apparent focus of Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown on officials from humble backgrounds: // It is noteworthy that all forty-eight ‘Tigers’老虎, that is high-level corrupt officials, are reportedly from ‘commoner’平民 families. Indeed most are from peasant or similarly humble origins; none are easily identified as being members of what is known as the ‘Red Second Generation’ 红二代, that is, the children of the founding Communist Party fathers and mothers of the Yan’an era and early People’s Republic or, indeed, ‘Bureaucrat Second Generation’ 官二代, that is, the children of members of the first generation of representatives/ bureaucrats selected to join the inaugural convocations of the National People’s Congress or the National People’s Political Consultative Committee, both founded in 1954 (in the Mao era a high-level cadre was above Rank Thirteen in the Twenty-four Rank Cadre System 二十四级干部制). It goes with saying that, in the murky corridors of Communist power, an impressive number of party gentry progeny, or the offspring of the Mao-era nomenclatura, have been implicated in corrupt practices, but word has it that, like the well-connected elites of other climes, they’ve enjoyed a ‘soft landing’: being discretely relocated, shunted into delicate retirement or quietly ‘redeployed’. It’s all very comfy; and it’s all very business as usual. What has been extraordinary about the Xi-Wang anti-corruption purge is not so much its style or extent, but the fact that after nearly two years, members of the privileged families of the party-state have gone on the record to observe why they are above the grimy business of corruption. […] The following is a small sample of some recent observations on the anti-tiger corruption purge by some of the more outspoken members of China’s Red Gentry. // Source: China Story