Opposing editorials reflect ideological rift in Communist Party

Opposing views on the need for constitutional checks on power reflect party's ideological rift

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 3:29am

Two key party-run publications ran editorials yesterday expressing sharply opposing views on the issue of constitutionalism- the idea that a government's power should be restrained by a higher system of laws that protects citizens' rights.

One, from the People's Daily, warned that the concept was a Western conspiracy to impose Western ideals on the mainland, while the other was a call for democratic reform.

Another article in Study Times, a publication of the Central Party School, argued that it was more imperative for China to proceed with political reform as the country had reached a critical juncture - an appeal apparently made to the new leadership under President and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping .

The front-page commentary in the overseas edition of the party-run People's Daily said the spread of "constitutional-rule" ideas - in China was fostered by foundations affiliated with US intelligence agencies that aimed to overturn socialism.

The People's Daily article warned that constitutionalism under the disguise of "democratic socialism" was more dangerous than one under the name of capitalism as the former was designed to subvert socialism around the world.

It added that since the beginning of the cold war, US intelligence agencies had seen "democratic socialism" as powerful ideological weapon against "totalitarianism". The article added that such views were shared by prominent Anglo-American thinkers of the 20th century, such as historian Arthur Schlesinger, British philosopher Isaiah Berlin and US diplomat George Frost Kennan, whose writings made him known as "the father of containment".

The article said that US intelligence community had also used various foundations to promote constitutionalism in China and cited how the Ford Foundation had largely funded the Comparative Constitutionalism Project in the late 1980s.

The People's Daily said that "democratic socialism" and "constitutionalism" were the two "weapons" that had contributed to the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union .

In contrast, the Study Times said that hopes for "democratic reform" were high after the 18th party congress. It said it was imperative for leaders to introduce political reform to promote citizens' political rights and their participation in policymaking .

Analysts said the articles were an indication of the intensity of the debate between the communist party's left and right wings.

"Certainly, the People's Daily often reflects the view of the conservatives while the Study Times represent the liberals," said Deng Yuwen , former deputy editor of Study Times . But, he added, yesterday's articles did not necessarily represent the view of certain leaders.

Li Xigen, associate professor at the department of media and communications at City University, criticised the author of the People's Daily article for labelling those who opposed constitutional rule as Marxists and the advocates as liberal.

The reality, Li said, was that Marx never labelled constitutional governance as either socialist or capitalist.

"While trying to give and impression of being impartial, the use of such emotionally laden terms places the author firmly among the conservatives," Li said.

Li said that by resorting to such terms, the author was trying to denounce constitutional rule, the fundamental rules than any civilised state should follow.

"To discredit constitutional rule with political labels and in derogatory language is the new tactic of pro-establishment scholars to reject constitutional rule and cater to the government's preferences," Li said.