Home / Issues / Volume 6, Number 1 (Fall 2013) / Constitutional Politics: The Road to Permanent Peace and Stability
VOLUME 6, NUMBER 1 (Fall 2013)
Constitutional Politics: The Road to Permanent Peace and Stability on How the Communist Party Can Escape from the Historical Cycle
By WANG Zhenmin | Article | 6 Tsinghua China L. Rev. 1 (2013) | Download Full Article PDF


Implementing constitutional governance (constitutionalism) results from China’s more than sixty years of hard exploration and bitter lessons. Only through practicing the rule of law and effectively establishing constitutionalism can the Communist Party of China (“CPC”) escape from the historical cycle of sliding into decline after achieving success and fully solve the institutional problems affecting its long-term governance and China’s long-term stability and prosperity. It is extremely erroneous to place implementing constitutionalism in opposition to the leadership of the Party. Failing to govern the country in line with the Constitution will not only undermine the rule of law but violate the Party’s fundamental line and policies. We need to study constitutionalism, and more importantly, develop constitutionalism and build a Chinese-style socialist constitutionalism that is superior to its capitalist counterpart.

I. Question: How to Escape the Historical Cycle

In the long history of human development, every government, regardless of whether it is an imperial, bourgeois or a socialist regime, wants to rule for as long as possible, even forever. The Goldbach conjecture in the field of law and political science asks: is it even possible to create a stable form of government of eternal existence?

This same question lay before the CPC before the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In the famous dialogue about the historical cycle between Huang Yanpei and Mao Zedong in Yan’an in 1945, Huang said:
During my sixty years of life, I have witnessed, not to mention heard, many people, families, organizations and countries, which ended up under the control of the historical cycle. People are careful and hard-working at first, for bold measures are the only possible ways to break through difficult conditions. But when things gradually get better, people begin slacking off: laziness may spread through a long history and is impossible to be corrected when it becomes a common practice. Gradually expanded territory requires corresponding increases in talent, but when the latter is insufficient, the central control will become weak. In a word, no one can escape the ‘vicious cycle’ of dynastic rise and collapse. I understand that you, the Chinese Communists are trying to find a new path to escape this cycle.
Huang was curious about how the CPC would confront and solve this problem. Mao declared unequivocally:
We have found a new path. We can break free of the cycle. The path is called democracy. As long as the people have oversight of the government then the government will not slacken in its efforts. When everyone takes responsibility there will be no danger that things will return to how they were even if the leader has gone.
From that time, the CPC and every generation of its leadership have been pondering and exploring this question: how to form a government that can break free of the historical cycle to achieve long-term governance and stability?

In 2004, the Fourth Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee noted:
The proletarian party took arduous efforts to capture the ruling position and is expected to stand more hardship to keep the position. The ruling position of the Party is not inherent. Nor is it established once and forever. We have to be alert to the challenges which lie ahead and mindful of the potential danger, learn from the experience of other parties in the world, strengthen the administrative competence of the Party and govern the country for our people.
Strengthening administrative competence may solve some problems for the time being, but to escape the cycle, it is essential to start from systems and mechanisms.

At the end of December 2012, the new General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, Xi Jinping, visited the central committees of the eight democratic parties and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce. He mentioned the dialogue about the historical cycle between Huang Yanpei and Mao Zedong in 1945, which he believes remains a warning to the Party even today. The General Secretary talked about the historical cycle again to remind the Party of the rises and falls in history, to find systems and mechanisms which can escape the cycle, and to ensure long-term governance and stability of the Party and the country. In July 2013 when he visited the village Xi Bai Po in Hebei province, Xi Jinping gave reminders about this same question again.

This question has been raised again and again from past to present and from 1945 until today. But what is the correct answer. . . If we look at the historical experience across the globe and study this question from political, economic and many other perspectives, we may come to a conclusion: only when we practice the rule of law and constitutionalism will we be able to break free of the historical cycle and find the systems and mechanisms necessary for long-term governance and stability.
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