Zhang Weiwei: The Party’s Leadership Added into the First Article of the Constitution Shows China’s Confidence in its Political System
By Zhang Weiwei
What messages were conveyed by this year’s government work report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang at the two sessions? How should we analyze the recent constitutional amendment and its 21 revisions? Professor Zhang Weiwei, professor of Fudan university responds to these questions as follows.
Reporter of guancha.cn: The Constitutional amendment (draft version) proposed to add “the leadership of the communist party of China is the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics” to Article 1(2) of China’s Constitution. What’s your opinion on this revision?
Zhang Weiwei: It was proposed that the leadership of the communist party of China should be added into China’s Constitution this year. In terms of this change, first of all, we must understand something about the background. The Constitution was drafted in 1982. Having suffered from the dark days of the Cultural Revolution, and having just launched reform and opening-up, China lagged far behind many foreign countries. As a result, many Chinese people had lost their confidence in China’s political system. However, Deng Xiaoping said that four basic principles must be enshrined in the Constitution, with the Party’s leadership at the core.
Over the past two decades the Soviet Union has broken up, Yugoslavia has disintegrated, the Colour Revolution has faded, the Arab Spring has become the Arab Winter, and the western political system is experiencing difficulties. Meanwhile, China has developed rapidly under the leadership of the Party. This is obvious to any objective observer.
We have basically reached a new social consensus: the strong leadership of the Party ensures China’s independence, stability and unity; and it is under the leadership of the Party that we can achieve national rejuvenation. So it must be emphasized clearly that this constitutional revision contributes a lot to China’s further development, long-term peace and stability.
I would like to add more. The Chinese Communist Party is not a party in the western sense, for the meaning of “party” in Chinese Communist Party is totally different from the term as applied to the Democratic Party and the Republican Party of the US. Western parties are avowedly parties with partial interests, while the Chinese Communist Party is a party with integrated interests, which represents the long-term interests of the general public.
As a super-large modern state with a long history, China has developed a tradition of governance by a unified ruling group, and the Chinese Communist Party maintains this tradition. I think that countries with political systems representing the long-term interests of the general public will perform well in international competition in the 21st century. That’s why I am optimistic about China’s political model.
Reporter of guancha.cn: How do you understand the revision about the president’s term of service?
Zhang Weiwei: Actually, since Jiang Zemin became the Chinese president, the practice of the Chinese president serving as general secretary of the party as well as chair of the Central Military Commission has shown its worth in maintaining China’s stability and development. However, according to the party constitution, the general secretary of the party and chair of the Central Military Commission can serve more than two terms. Therefore, the 2 term limit on the president has been removed to unify the three positions.
But it does not mean lifelong tenure, for the party constitution stipulates a non-tenure track, and even sets a retirement process in response to age or health issues. In fact, this is common to many countries — some countries may have a 4 or 5-year term for president but no strict limit on the number of terms. For example, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel is now in her fourth term.
Reporter of guancha.cn: What is your opinion on the review of the government’s work for the past five years?
Zhang Weiwei: The government work report provides a meticulous review of China’s development over the past five years, when its achievements have been remarkable indeed. China has contributed over 30% to world economic growth, more than the contribution of the US, Japan, and Europe put together.
China has advanced its economic structure through substantial reform, which is an unusual achievement anywhere in the world. And five years of persistent effort has brought China considerable progress.
Western countries have begun to realize that China is becoming a big innovator, leading the world in many areas of the new economy. For example, having proposed to “accelerate the shift in driving forces for development”, China leads the world in “internet plus”, big data, and cloud computing.
Reporter of guancha.cn: Premier Li Keqiang addressed the issue of resurgent protectionism. During the visit to the US of Professor Liu He, deputy director of National Development and Reform Commission, Trump ordered steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. What do you think of the recent changes in the Sino-US trade relations?
Zhang Weiwei: In 2017, Sino-US bilateral trade was worth more than USD 580 billion. As President Trump said, both China and the US will suffer if a trade war happens between the two. Furthermore, I think the US is not likely to win if there is a trade war, and the American economy will suffer badly. President Trump’s measures will firstly affect consumers in the Rust Belt area.
The reason for this is the different models of the two countries: China takes the people as the core in economic development, while Trump’s policy focuses on his voters, which widens the gap in American society.
The policy benefits fewer than 150,000 workers, while the resultant rise in the prices of steel and aluminum will hit more than 1.5 million people. The move is a sop to Trump’s hardcore supporters.
The US economic policy caters only to the president’s champions, which indicates that there is little real democracy in the American electoral system.
Trump’s cabinet members have not reached consensus about the tariff policy, forming a contrast with Chinese model. For example, China’s five-year plan and annual plan can only be carried out when officials reach consensus through democratic centralism, after adequate discussions. However, Trump made his order – which may drag the US into trouble – with no consensus and little negotiation.
Reporter of guancha.cn: China set its GDP growth rate target at 6.5%, the same as that in 2017. What do you think of it?
Zhang Weiwei: This target is relatively conservative. Although the global economy is seeing a superficial recovery, the government work report acknowledged that “we can expect a continued recovery of the global economy, but there are also many factors that bring instability and uncertainty ”.
In fact, the so-called “recovery” of the western economy is not a recovery of the real economy, but an upsurge in assets and the stock market. Therefore, we need to be aware that the global economy could encounter difficulties or even a new financial crisis. Though we set a growth rate target at 6.5%, we may surpass it eventually, as we achieved a growth rate of 6.9% in 2017 against the previous target of 6.5%.
Reporter of guancha.cn: What deserves public attention in the government work report this year?
Zhang Weiwei: In terms of the government work report, the “addition, subtraction, and multiplication” is worth for public focus.
First, the addition. We focus on promoting big and strong new industrial clusters, internet plus, and intelligent manufacturers, which includes turning China into a manufacturer of quality, developing integrated circuits, promoting the 5th generation of mobile communication, and supporting the new energy automobile industry.
Second, the subtraction. We need to deleverage to prevent financial risks, especially the risks that have occurred in internet finance. The central government is in three critical battles against potential risk, poverty, and pollution in three years, with against potential risk in first place.
Third, the multiplication. We can see from the economic and social effects of “new four great inventions” that China is committed to transforming itself into a innovation-driven country.
Experiencing the fourth industrial revolution, China leads the world in internet plus, big data, and artificial intelligence; mobile phone payments are 60 times the value of payments in the USA.
With HSR (high speed rail) and the shared economy, China is making it possible to handle everything by phone, while countries in Europe and north America lag far behind.
An American expert once observed: “Xi Jinping is heading for the future and embraces 2050”. Trump is heading for 1950. China has achieved some striking progress. We are justifiably proud of that. And this is the best gift to offer to the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up.
Zhang Weiwei, professor of Fudan University and Dean of China Research Institute of Fudan University.
The author’s personal opinion in the interview does not represent China Focus’ stance.
This article is translated from guancha.cn