China has moved from a system of rule “by” law to rule “of” law. It’s a subtle change of wording—with a large impact.
CGTN’s Jim Spellman explains what’s different now.
Three years ago, the Communist Party of China set out to strengthen the rule of law in China.
“The theory of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics stipulates the nature, direction and road map of the rule of law,” said Yuan Shuhong of the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council.
“The key issues lie in scientific legislation, strict enforcement of law, judicial justice and law observation by all the people. In the meantime, the theory links the ultimate goal with the country’s governance system and modernization.”
Norman Markowitz, a history professor at Rutgers University in the U.S., thinks that the rule of law is key to the continued success of the party.
“The effect of the lack of rule of law leads to more and more people becoming discouraged, disillusioned, believing that society is not advancing equality and social justice – the ideals of socialism,” he said.
Beijing says a lot of progress has been made. Mafia-style gangs have been broken up, companies committing fraud have been brought to justice, and internet criminals have been captured and tried.
Officials say the murder rate in China is one of the lowest in the world.
Corruption within the party has been rooted out. More than 70,000 officials at or above the county level have been investigated for corruption since 2012.
In 2015, officials launched Operation Sky Net—a global hunt for Chinese fugitives wanted on corruption charges.
“Zero tolerance, zero loophole and zero obstacle. China has sent a message to the corrupt ones: there’s nowhere to hide for fugitives,” said Wang Xiumei from the Beijing Normal University.
So far, more than 3,300 fugitives have been returned from more than 90 countries, and more than 1.4 billion U.S. dollars have been recovered.
Experts say China has learned the value of the rule of law by studying the fall of the Soviet Union which happened, in part, due to the corrosive influence of corruption.
“If a communist government fails to operate by the rule of law, then, ultimately, that government will fail,” said Markowitz.
“And whether it survives or not, it will become an instrument of exploitation and oppression.”
The Communist Party says it has gained “crushing momentum” in the fight against corruption while pushing forward strict governance of the party.