Building a Rule of Law Culture, Japan-China Dialogue & Marxism's Guiding Position

Here are the stories and pieces from the People’s Daily’s April 6, 2021, edition that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: We are back to normal publication after the Qingming festival break. First, there’s a report on a new guideline on Strengthening the Construction of Socialist Rule of Law Culture. The big goal over the next 15 years is this:

“By 2035, a socialist rule of law culture that is compatible with a country ruled by law, a government ruled by law, and a society ruled by law, and a socialist rule of law system with Chinese characteristics will basically be formed…”

The key tasks to be carried out in order to achieve this goal are:

  • Carrying out in-depth study, publicity and implementation of Xi Jinping's thoughts on the rule of law. (If you are unclear what Xi thought implies, do check out my breakdown of Chen Yixin’s speech on it.)

  • Working on theoretical enhancement, i.e., “integrate the Marxist theory of the rule of law with China's specific reality, and continue to promote the modernization and popularization of the Marxist theory of the rule of law in China.” This requires research work but also improvements in the “academic system, theoretical system, and discourse system of the socialist legal system.”

  • Focusing on popularising and emphasising on the Constitution. Part of this requires the Party to “combine constitutional education and patriotism education organically, use constitutional education to stimulate patriotic enthusiasm, and increase the recognition of the people of all ethnic groups with the great motherland, the Chinese nation, Chinese culture, the Communist Party of China, and socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

  • Improving the legal literacy of citizens. This covers a wide range of activities. But what’s interesting here is the emphasis on what is needed when drafting legislation. “Adhere to scientific legislation, promote the party’s leadership into the law and regulations, transform the party’s propositions into the will of the country in accordance with legal procedures, and integrate the core socialist values ​​into the whole process of legislation…” Another key objective is to “Improve the comprehensive mechanism for prevention, mediation, and resolution of social conflicts and disputes; put the non-litigation dispute resolution mechanism in the forefront, and guide people to rationally and peacefully negotiate and resolve conflicts and disputes.”

  • The last few points are to promote China’s traditional legal culture; leverage media, particularly digital tools, to promote rule of law culture; and expand rule of law education bases touching all different segments of society.

  • The last point is about international work. It talks about rule of law as a “soft power” tool. “Establish a legal system for foreign-related work, accelerate the construction and research of legal systems applicable outside of our country's jurisdiction, promote the high-quality development of overseas legal services, better serve the settlement of overseas legal disputes and foreign-related legal work, and improve the level of legalization of foreign-related work.”

And finally to do all this, the pathway is to ensure Party control, ensure that key institutions that are identified work in accordance with the goal; improve cadre capacity through training and incentives; and finally innovate with regard to publicity.

Next, Xi Jinping on Monday sent a congratulatory message to Nguyen Xuan Phuc on his election as Vietnam’s president. Xinhua English has the details. It says that “Noting that the world today is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, Xi stressed that the China-Vietnam relations and their cause of socialist construction have entered a crucial stage of inheriting the past and ushering in the future.” Xi also “expressed willingness to work with Phuc, guided by building a community with a shared future with strategic significance to both sides.”

Page 3: We have a couple of pieces on the page, which essentially showcase foreigners praising the CCP and the Chinese system. So this one carries comments from Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, former Speaker of the Iranian Parliament. This piece is, of course, the work of the Party’s International Liaison Department. Likewise, we have Yukio Hatoyama, former Japanese PM, talking about how “China has implemented the basic strategy of targeted poverty alleviation and created a miracle of poverty reduction that has attracted worldwide attention.” What’s really intriguing about this piece is that he actually quotes Xi Jinping and repeats Party-state media talking points. For instance, he talks about Xi’s Liangjiahe experience and how it gave Xi “a deep understanding of the poverty situation in China's rural areas in his youth and a natural feeling for the poor.”

One Japanese politician that’s clearly not going to be quoting Xi is Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi. He had what appears to be a testy exchange with his Chinese counterpart on Monday. Xinhua English has the details that the PD report carries. But there are omissions in both, which I will get to later. First, let’s look at what Xinhua says.

Wang said that “in the face of the complicated international situation,” China and Japan should work tougher towards the “cause of peace and development of the region and the world at large.” He wants the two sides to “should cherish and safeguard the hard-won overall situation” and “abide by the principles and spirits established in the four political documents between China and Japan, and ensure that bilateral relations do not flip-flop, stagnate or backpedal, and do not get involved in the so-called confrontation between major countries.”

He wants Japan to take an “independent” and “rational” view of China’s development, rather than being swayed by “some countries holding a biased view.” He says that while Japan has an alliance with the United States, their two countries have also signed the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship, and Japan also has the obligation to fulfil the treaty. There’s also talk about events marking the 50th anniversary of normalisation of bilateral ties.

According to Xinhua, Motegi basically agreed that bilateral ties are of “great importance” and that Japan remains committed to their “steady development.” He, however, clarified that “Japan-U.S. alliance does not target any specific third party.” The report then abruptly goes on to say that:

“Wang elaborated on China's position on issues such as the Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea, and opposed to Japan's interference in China's internal affairs involving Xinjiang and Hong Kong. He urged Japan to abide by the basic norms governing international relations, truly respect China's internal affairs as a close neighbor and refrain from interfering in China's internal affairs.”

Now where this last bit came from is evident in the Japanese foreign ministry’s readout of the call. It says that Motegi “reiterated serious concerns” about the presence of Chinese Coast Guard vessels in territorial waters around the Senkaku islands, the situation in the South China Sea, the situation in Hong Kong, and the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and urged concrete action. In addition, he reiterated the early abolition of import restrictions on Japanese food products. 

All this comes amid moves among Japanese lawmakers to pass a Japanese version of the Magnitsky Act, which would enable sanctions in regard to human rights violations. And of course, this comes before Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga travels to the US for a summit with President Biden on April 16.

Page 9: The lead piece on the page is by the Party Secretary for Xinhua. It basically reiterates the key talking points with regard to the significance of the Party history learning campaign. I am not going to go into this, because if you’d like, you can read here why Xi believes this is significant

The other noteworthy piece is by Zhang Yueguo, Dean of the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences. He writes about the significance of upholding the guiding position of Marxism in terms of ideology. To do this, he says that it is important to:

  • Study and implement Xi Jinping Thought because it is the latest achievement in the Sinicization of Marxism.

  • He calls for greater theoretical research into Marxism, terming this a “strategic project.”

  • Finally, he wants to improve ideological and political education in schools. In this, he argues for the need to do more of such courses and do them better but also to “integrate ideological and political education with relevant professional courses in philosophy and social sciences” in order to “increase the proportion of professional course materials and ideological and political education content in the classroom.”