Dream of China, Dream of Constitutionalism. It was the title of popular Chinese liberal newspaper Southern Weekly’s 2013 New Year Editorial. When the piece was significantly changed by local government propaganda official and subsequently led to strikes and protests of journalists, it’s the first sign that 2013 may be a chilling year for China’s intellectuals who have longed for reform, both economically and politically. After reading a series of recent articles in important Party journals and newspapers, many of them see an end of their dream of constitutionalism in China.
Red Flag Manuscript, an affiliated publication with Qiushi Journal, China Communist Party’s most influential magazine for policy-making and theoretical studies, featured an article titled “Comparison between constitutionalism and people’s democracy” on Tuesday. In the piece, Yang Xiaoqing, law professor at People’s University of China, argued that “constitutionalism belongs to capitalism, not socialism,” and that Western political concepts like separation of powers are alien and unsuited to China.
On Wednesday, Global Times, a state-sponsored English-language newspaper in China, featured an editorial with the title “Constitutionalism is to circle around to deny [China’s] mode of development.” The article argued that “the emergence of the concept of constitutionalism in public discourse has never been about theories, but politics. It stems from Western political concepts. When forced to fit into China’s political theories, it concludes that China’s current political system is on the wrong track. The use of constitutionalism is but a new way to force China to adopt Western political systems.
“Views of constitutionalism stand at the opposite side of China’s current constitution,” the article went on.
Also on Wednesday, People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the Chinese government, had an article titled “Hold on to sacred Party spirit,” in which Party spirit was compared to God – “Belief in Party spirit is like a Christian’s belief in God.” What’s more,
“The difficulty of China’s Communist Party, formed by the proletariat, leading the Chinese people to build a new China is no less than Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.”
And there is more, still on the same wicked Wednesday. PLA Daily (People’s Liberation Army) featured an article titled “Where is the confidence of the Chinese dream nested in?” It’s nested in, according to the article, the fact that “what we believe in is the grand truth of the universe.” And what do “we” believe in? Definitely not constitutionalism judging by previous articles.
Image how China’s vocal intellectuals who have been openly advocating constitutionalism and political reform would react to these articles. If there were hopes that China’s new leadership, with law backgrounds, would bring new air to China’s political scene, that hope is now vanished. Like one netizen 小飞侠91 asked: “Why it has become like this after Xi took power?” Another netizen 汗裔巴爷 commented: “Only half an year [in power], they show their true colors.” Netizen 梦向左转 went further: “They sound like another North Korea.”
Frustrations from Chinese netizens are overwhelming. Netizen Hi_Carlo sighed: “I cannot even finish reading. Put their messages in one word, China needs no law. The Party alone is sufficient. Perfect argement!” Another netizen 不老的传说之现实版 commented: “Their message is simple. Under constitutionalism, the constitution is state law that everybody has to follow. In China, however, the constitution is only for display.”
Consitutionalism may not be a thing for China, but definitely something desirable for the Chinese people. Netizen 徐大师说 asserted: “Without constitutionalism, China has no future.” Another netizen lucy_悻籽 commented: “My dream is to live in the world depicted in China’s constitution.”