Grassroots Governance - Apple Daily - United Front Work - Legal System with Chinese Characteristics

Here are the stories and pieces from the July 12, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: Let’s begin with Xi’s message to Kim Jong Un (English report) on the 60th anniversary of the signing of the China-DPRK Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance. Xi praised leaders of the past for having made the “far-sighted strategic decision” to sign the treaty in 1961, “consolidating the friendship the two peoples had forged with blood.”

Xi said that “he and Kim have met for several times to blueprint the development of relations between the two parties and countries and enrich the China-DPRK friendship in the new era, and reached a series of important consensuses. Stressing that today a major shift in the world landscape unseen in a century is accelerating, Xi said he is ready to work with Kim to strengthen strategic communication, chart the course for the China-DPRK relationship and lift the friendly cooperation between the two countries to new levels so as to bring more benefits to the two countries and their people.”

Xi added: “China firmly supports the DPRK in developing its economy, improving its people's wellbeing, and vigorously advancing its cause of socialist construction.”

Xinhua reports that Kim said “it is the unswerving position of the WPK and the DPRK government to continuously strengthen and develop the DPRK-China friendly and cooperative relations...The WPK, the DPRK government and the DPRK people, he added, will attach greater importance to the DPRK-China friendship, a common treasure of both sides, and march forward hand in hand with the CPC, the Chinese government and the Chinese people in the sacred journey of building socialism and communism.”

Next, we have the full Opinions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council on Strengthening the Modernization of the Grassroots Governance System and Governance Ability (Short English Report). Let’s take a look at the Guiding Ideology section of the document, which comes under General Requirements, to try and understand the conceptual approach that is being adopted. It says that:

“Guided by Xi Jinping’s socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, we should uphold and strengthen the party’s overall leadership, adhere to the people as the center, take improving people’s well-being as the starting point and anchor point, strengthen the construction of grassroots party organizations, enhance their political functions and organizational strength as the key, focus on strengthening grassroots political power construction and improving grass-roots mass autonomy system, and focus on reform, innovation, system construction and capacity building, establish and improve grassroots governance system and mechanism, promote the benign interaction between government governance and social regulation and residents’ autonomy, and improve the level of socialization, rule of law, intelligence and professionalization of grassroots governance.” 以习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想为指导,坚持和加强党的全面领导,坚持以人民为中心,以增进人民福祉为出发点和落脚点,以加强基层党组织建设、增强基层党组织政治功能和组织力为关键,以加强基层政权建设和健全基层群众自治制度为重点,以改革创新和制度建设、能力建设为抓手,建立健全基层治理体制机制,推动政府治理同社会调节、居民自治良性互动,提高基层治理社会化、法治化、智能化、专业化水平.

The key goals are “establishing in about five years a primary-level governance system led by the Party organizations, with law-based duty performance by the government, cooperation from various kinds of organizations, and participation from the public. The governance model should combine self-governance, rule of law, and rule of virtue. By another 10 years, modernization of the system and capacity for primary-level governance should be basically achieved, and the benefits of primary-level governance system with Chinese characteristics should be fully demonstrated, the plan says.”

The second part of the document begins with a focus on improving the Party’s overall leadership and grassroots governance system. It talks about strengthening the leadership of township (street) and village (community) party organizations over the work of grassroots governance. It also talks about strengthening the legal authority of the village Party secretary. It also specifically says that:

“It is important to pay attention to the outstanding candidates recommended by the party organization to emerge as the heads of various organizations through certain procedures, and ensure that the relevant requirements of Party leadership and Party building are written into the articles of association of various organizations according to law.” 注重把党组织推荐的优秀人选通过一定程序明确为各类组织负责人,确保依法把党的领导和党的建设有关要求写入各类组织章程.

It also talks about the need to continue to rectify “weak” grassroots party organizations, “strengthen daily supervision, and continue to rectify unhealthy practices and corruption...”

The third section talks about strengthening the “construction of grassroots political governance capacity.” This talks about strengthening the leadership of the township committees on the construction of grassroots power, but at the same time, it says that greater administrative powers must be devolved downstream based on actual local situation. The fourth section talks about local “self-governance.” The focus here is on village (neighborhood) committees.

“We should strengthen the role of the leadership of the Party organization in guarding the door, standardize the general election of village (neighborhood) committees…” This then outlines some parameters through which people should be excluded:

  • fully implement the joint examination mechanism for the membership of the ‘two committees’ in the village (community), 

  • resolutely prevent the political two-faced people, or

  • people who have faced criminal punishment, or

  • people who are associated with ‘village tyrants’, or

  • people who are associated with ‘black and evil’ clan-related forces, or 

  • people who are associated with other areas like being illegal religion and cult organizers, implementers, participants, etc.


The fifth section talks about the “construction of the rule of law and the rule of virtue at the grassroots level.” This includes a number of things from volunteering, public welfare and charity. But one important part of this talks about the need to “strengthen ideological and moral construction.” This begins by saying “cultivate and practice core socialist values and promote Xi Jinping's thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era into communities, rural areas and families...Improve the village (community) moral evaluation mechanism, carry out moral model selection and recognition activities, and focus on the important role of family ethics in grassroots governance.” 培育践行社会主义核心价值观,推动习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想进社区、进农村、进家庭...健全村(社区)道德评议机制,开展道德模范评选表彰活动,注重发挥家庭家教家风在基层治理中的重要作用.

The seventh section talks about building smart governance capabilities. This entails better planning, informatization, use of technology, digital penetration and better use of data, etc.

Next we have a commentary drawing from Xi’s July 1 speech. It talks about the Party’s policy of uniting the people and leading them. It tells us that:

“Practice has fully proved that the United front is the Communist Party of China's political advantage and strategic policy to unite people's hearts and strength, an important magic weapon to win the cause of revolution, construction and reform, an important magic weapon to strengthen the party's class foundation, expand the party's mass base and consolidate the party’s ruling position, and an important magic weapon to build a socialist modern country in an all-round way and realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” 实践充分证明,统一战线是中国共产党凝聚人心、汇聚力量的政治优势和战略方针,是夺取革命、建设、改革事业胜利的重要法宝,是增强党的阶级基础、扩大党的群众基础、巩固党的执政地位的重要法宝,是全面建设社会主义现代化国家、实现中华民族伟大复兴的重要法宝.

Looking back at the century-long struggle, we deeply realize that the united Chinese nation is the common root of Chinese people at home and abroad, the profound Chinese culture is the common soul of Chinese people at home and abroad, and the realization of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is the common dream of Chinese people at home and abroad. By holding high the banner of patriotism and socialism, cultivating and practicing the core socialist values, and always inheriting and carrying forward the excellent Chinese traditional culture, we will be able to build a good spiritual home for all the people of the nation, build a solid ideological foundation for the unity and progress of the Chinese sons and daughters, and jointly write a new chapter in the development of the Chinese nation.” 回望百年奋斗历程,我们深刻认识到,团结统一的中华民族是海内外中华儿女共同的根,博大精深的中华文化是海内外中华儿女共同的魂,实现中华民族伟大复兴是海内外中华儿女共同的梦. 共同的根让我们情深意长,共同的魂让我们心心相印,共同的梦让我们同心同德,高举爱国主义、社会主义旗帜,不断培育和践行社会主义核心价值观,始终继承和弘扬中华优秀传统文化,我们就一定能够建设好全国各族人民的精神家园,筑牢中华儿女团结奋进、一往无前的思想基础,共同书写中华民族发展的时代新篇章.

It then adds that as China is heading closer to the goal of national rejuvenation, “the closer we are to the goal, the more complex the situation and the more arduous the task. The more we should give play to the political advantages of the Communist Party of China's leadership and the institutional advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and unite all aspects of wisdom and strength to form a powerful synergy between Chinese people at home and abroad. 越是接近目标,越是形势复杂,越是任务艰巨,越要发挥中国共产党领导的政治优势和中国特色社会主义的制度优势,把各方面智慧和力量凝聚起来,形成海内外中华儿女心往一处想、劲往一处使的强大合力.

Next a report about Zhao Leji’s visit to Jilin. He emphasised the need to study Xi Jinping’s July 1 speech. He insisted on cadres “reading the original text and comprehending the principles, understanding the essence of the spirit, grasping the core principles, and implementing responsibilities and actual conditions.” Xinhua English tells us that “Zhao visited a village in Yanji City and a community in Changchun City to learn about residents' livelihood and their access to medical service and elderly care. He also listened to their opinions on improving Party conduct and promoting integrity. While inspecting Chinese automaker FAW Group Co., Ltd. and pharmaceutical company Jilin Aodong Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd., Zhao reiterated promoting Party conduct and integrity as soft power of enterprises.”

Finally, the special Xi Jinping story today -- the ones which have his name in red and gold -- is about the fight against corruption. This is how it begins:

“‘General secretary, hello! You are the nemesis of corrupt elements and the blessing of the people of the whole country!’ On December 13, 2014, when General Secretary Xi Jinping visited Yongmaoxu Village, Shiye Town, Dantu District, Zhenjiang City, Jiangsu Province, Cui Ronghai, a 74-year-old man, squeezed in front of the crowd and held the General Secretary's hand tightly. This old party member who has been part of the Party for over 50 years could not hide his excitement and said these words.” “总书记,您好!您是腐败分子的克星,全国人民的福星!” 2014年12月13日,习近平总书记在江苏镇江市丹徒区世业镇永茂圩村考察时,74岁的老人崔荣海挤到人群前面,紧紧握着总书记的手.这位有着50多年党龄的老党员,难掩内心激动说出了这么一番话.

I guess, this gives a sense of the tone of the piece, and I am not going into too many details, but here’s what it says about the 8 regulations.

“On December 4, 2012, General Secretary Xi Jinping presided over a meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee and reviewed and approved the eight regulations on improving work style and keeping close contact with the masses. At this meeting, General Secretary Xi Jinping took the lead in making promises and saying that ‘The construction of party style and clean government must start with leading cadres, and must first start with the central leadership. If one is not righteous, how can he/she rectify others?’ Using this as the starting point and as a mobilization order, the prevailing turbulent and turbid atmosphere was cleaned up across the land of China.” 2012年12月4日,习近平总书记主持中央政治局会议,审议通过中央政治局关于改进工作作风、密切联系群众的八项规定. 在这次会议上,习近平总书记带头作出承诺、发起号召: “党风廉政建设,要从领导干部做起,领导干部首先要从中央领导做起。正所谓己不正,焉能正人.” 以此为切入口和动员令,一场激浊扬清的风气之变在神州大地涤荡开来.

Page 3: Let’s begin with the Zhong Sheng commentary on the page. This one criticises the Media Freedom Coalition’s statement on the closure of Apple Daily. The commentary calls this a “worthless confession” of their support for “anti-China chaos in Hong Kong.” The article then rubbishes Apple Daily as an example of “yellow journalism” - a paper “characterized by incitement, pornography and bloodshed.” Then we get a history of yellow journalism issues in America, and criticism of Apple Daily’s content and journalism quality.

And then we get this absurd claim:

“The closure of Apple Daily is not a government order, but a market choice that illustrates the wishes of the majority of Hong Kong people.” 《苹果日报》关门不是政府的命令,而是市场的选择,说明了香港大多数民众的心愿. 

And then this, which makes more sense in terms of the philosophical/values argument that Beijing’s making: “Any kind of freedom and right in a civilized society can not be wanton and unrestrained, but should be regulated and guaranteed by laws that reflect the will of the public.” 文明社会的任何一种自由和权利,都不能是无限制的肆意妄为,而应是由体现公众意志的法律所规范、所保障的. 

Freedom of the press is strictly bounded by the rule of law and the crime of incitement. The member countries of the Media Freedom Coalition should ask themselves: Can their laws allow the press to endanger national security, undermine social order, reveal state secrets, and incite religious and ethnic antagonism? 新闻自由,同煽动罪行有严格的法治边界。媒体自由联盟的成员国应该自问:本国法律能够容得新闻媒体危害国家安全、破坏社会秩序、泄露国家机密、煽动宗教和民族对立吗?

“It should be noted that since the promulgation and implementation of Hong Kong's national security law, Hong Kong society has shifted from chaos to governance, which is more conducive to normal journalistic work. As the world focuses on Hong Kong, it is necessary to grasp the irreversible trend of Hong Kong's rise from governance to prosperity. Over the past year or so, the number of foreign media reporters in Hong Kong has risen sharply as a number of U.S. and British media outlets have deployed additional foreign staff to Hong Kong. How should those who signed the so-called statement of the Media Freedom Coalition interpret the layout of the Western media, which is autonomous and free?” 应当看到,自香港国安法颁布实施以来,香港社会由乱转治,更有利于开展正常的新闻报道工作。世界瞩目香港,必然需要把握香港由治及兴的不可逆转的大势。一年多来,美英两国多家媒体纷纷增派驻港外籍员工,在港外媒记者人数呈大幅上升之势。对于西方媒体如是自主而自由进行的布局,签署媒体自由联盟所谓声明的那些人该如何解读呢?

Next, a short report telling is that during the UNHRC, the China Human Rights Development Foundation and the Chinese National Unity and Progress Association held the theme of “Minority Rights Protection and International Human Rights.” Also check out this commentary which focuses on promoting the “formation of a more just, reasonable and inclusive global human rights governance.” Also at the UNHRC, there was a session titled:Cyber Justice and Building a Community of Human Destiny: The Dangers of U.S. Cyber Surveillance and Cyber Hegemony for the Common Good of the World. This event was sponsored by the Chinese Society for Human Rights Studies and carried out by the Beijing Institute of Technology’s Technology and Human Rights Research Center.

Next, a short report telling us that the Rodong Sinmun published a front page commentary on China-North Korea friendship. 

Page 6: A short report telling us that the new “China’s Rule of Law Construction Annual Report (2020)’ has been released. The story tells us that “the report covers legislative and supervisory work of NPC and its Standing Committee, administration according to law, reform in political and legal fields, judicial and procuratorial work in public security and judicial administration, protection of human rights and the rule of law, protection of intellectual property rights, construction of ecological civilization and the rule of law, publicity of the rule of law, legal education and research, international exchanges and international cooperation, etc.”

Among the important milestones for last year is of course the fact that the Central Committee’s Work Conference on Comprehensive Rule of Law clarified the guiding position of Xi Jinping’s rule of law in terms of building comprehensive rule of law.

Page 9: This page today has a specific focus on the Chinese legal system. These are a bit complex; I’ve done my best to try and understand the core ideas. But if you find that I’ve mucked up somewhere, please do reach out and let me know. 

For me, the big takeaway from all these pieces is the doubling down on Chinese nationalism by the Party. There seems to be a curious balance between socialism and Chinese characteristics in terms of the system of governance; and these pieces tell us that the scales are tilting significantly towards the latter.

In the first piece, Xia Jinwen from the Jiangsu Academy of Social Sciences writes that:

“to adhere to the path of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics, it is necessary to study and summarize the ancient legal traditions of our country, excavate and inherit the essence of traditional Chinese legal culture, and promote the creative transformation and innovative development of Chinese excellent traditional legal culture under the conditions of the new era.”

Xia writes about the interlinkages between traditional legal culture and modern-day China’s legal system. He says that the system “embodies the traditional Chinese concepts of morality, politics, philosophy and ethics, emphasizing self-cultivation, family harmony, governing the country and balancing the world, and seeking harmony between nature and social order.” 它体现着中华传统道德、政治、哲学、伦理等理念,强调修身、齐家、治国、平天下,又寻求自然与社会秩序的和谐. He then goes on to cite a whole bunch of examples and ideals.

In the second piece, Gu Peidong, from Sichuan University’s Law School, talks about the Confucian concept of harmony and makes the case for China not being a terribly litigious society. He talks about the concept of “无讼” no litigation. The idea that Gu is emphasising is resolving disputes as far as possible without official litigation. Gu adds that:

“For disputes that must be put into litigation, we should make a fair judgment, distinguish right from wrong, tell the people, coordinate the interests as soon as possible, and set a good example for the people, so as to reduce the occurrence of similar litigation...Another important way is civil mediation, that is, disputes are not resolved through litigation.” 对于必须付诸诉讼的纷争,通过公正裁断、明辨是非、晓谕百姓,尽快协调好利益关系,为百姓做好示范,从而减少类似诉讼发生...还有一种重要方式是民间调处,即不通过诉讼来解决纠纷.

Gu argues that the idea of no litigation, limits the subject, time, reason, form, and pre-procedures of litigation; at the same time, it curbs abusive and malicious litigation; and implies the idea of ​​advocating a ruler to implement benevolent governance. The idea here is that a good ruler and good governance that flows from the ruler will invariably reduce the requirement of litigation.

Gu then says acknowledges that present-day circumstances of the socialist market economy are unlike how things were in the past; so while one can and should draw inspiration, the 无讼 concept cannot be easily applicable today. But it should be “reflected in the adherence to systematic governance, legal governance, comprehensive governance, and source governance when resolving conflicts and disputes.” He talks about different mechanisms for dispute resolution like “mediation, arbitration, administrative adjudication and administrative reconsideration.” 

But he adds: “At the same time, it is necessary to strengthen the guiding role of justice in the resolution of social disputes, especially through judicial cases to clarify judicial judgments on various social behaviours, guide the parties to form reasonable expectations of the results of dispute resolution, and provide a model for resolving disputes without litigation.” 与此同时,要强化司法对于社会纠纷解决的引导作用,特别是通过司法案例明确司法对于各种社会行为的判断,引导当事人对纠纷解决结果形成合理预期,为非诉化解纠纷提供示范. 

The final piece has Fudan University’s Wang Zhiqiang writing that while legal structures are products of their times, “China has over time accumulated rich experience and wisdom in social governance in ancient times, and built a series of legal systems to ensure social security, cope with risks and disasters, and show strong ability of system construction.” 经过长期发展,我国古代在社会治理方面积累了丰富经验和智慧,构建起一系列法律制度,以保障社会安全、应对风险灾害等,展现出强大的制度建设能力.

Wang’s core argument is that:

“today, as we promote the modernization of social governance, we still face issues such as dispute resolution, the relationship between emotion, reason and law, and issues of providing social assistance; in this, the traditional Chinese legal system’s ideology of prudence, equality and compassionate punishment can provide inspiration. Studying the traditional Chinese legal system, we can also find that many of the more systematic and effective institutional arrangements did not emerge overnight, but evolved over a long period of time based on the lessons learned from the history of previous generations and in response to the changes of the times.” 今天,我们推进社会治理现代化,仍然需要面对纠纷化解、情理法关系、社会救助等问题,中国传统法律制度中的慎刑、平等、恤刑等思想观念可以提供启迪. 研究中国传统法律制度,我们还可以发现,许多较为系统、运行有效的制度安排并非一蹴而就,而是在汲取前代历史经验教训、顺应时代变迁的基础上,历经较长时间演变而成.