Constitutional Supervision in China after the 2018 Amendment of the PRC Constitution: Refining the Narrative of Constitutional Supremacy in a Socialist Legal System
21 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2019 Last revised: 3 Oct 2019
Date Written: August 2, 2019
Since the drafting of the 1982 PRC Constitution, constitutional supervision has been a key topic of discussion in China’s political-legal reform process. In 2018, the Chinese Party-state took steps to address this unresolved reform issue. While the 2018 constitutional amendments attracted widespread attention outside of China, foreign commentators focused on provisions covering presidential term limits, new anti-corruption organs, and the constitutional status of the Party and “Xi Jinping Thought.” Another, largely overlooked, amendment reconstituted one of the National People’s Congress (NPC) special committees as the “Constitution and Law Committee,” and a subsequent NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) decision tasked this Committee with detailed constitutional functions. In a related step, new official reports enhanced transparency in the system for filing and review of legislation. This paper provides an introduction to these recent reforms and assesses their significance. It argues that the reforms should be understood as components of a broader constitutional rationalization intended to refine the Party’s narrative of constitutional supremacy, strengthen the legal system as an instrument to discipline China’s bureaucracy, and marginalize citizen constitutional activism. The reforms demonstrate the Party’s confidence that its grip on China’s political-legal system is sufficiently strong that it can reap the legitimacy and governance benefits of building new constitutional supervision infrastructure without incurring material risks that citizens might leverage it to challenge Party authority.
Keywords: China, Constitution, Constitution and Law Committee, Constitutional Review, Constitutional Supervision, Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Amendment, Constitutional Litigation, National People's Congress, Popular Constitutionalism, Fourth Plenum, Filing and Review, Rights Lawyers, Cons
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation