The six-episode documentary Rule of Law in China recently aired on CCTV has once again made rule of law a hot topic for public debate.
The third episode of the documentary, subtitled “Law-Based Administration,” showcases the advances China has made in law-based administration and government since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012.
In the past five years, the will and interests of the people have been a central focus of law-based administration and government.
China has been streamlining administration and delegating more power to lower agencies while reducing or abolishing administrative review and approval procedures that created an undue burden.
“Internet Plus” administration also uses data to help the people. Strictly implementing laws on food safety safeguards every bite of food people eat. By strictly penalizing pollution and other environmental violations, the government reflects the public will and advances the interests of the people. All these policies provide the people with a greater sense of gain, realizing the promise set forth in China’s constitution that a law-based government with Chinese characteristics will dedicate itself to serving the people.
Rule of law in administration upholds the ideas of defining and restricting the exercise of power through legal procedures. Regulations are a means of putting power in a cage so that it is not being used arbitrarily. In the past five years, the central government has been formulating three lists—power, responsibility and areas of restricted investment.
For example, the absence of legal procedures regulating the local governments’ administrative policymaking made the policy arbitrary. Strict regulations for procedures were thus made at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, including public participation, expert consultation, risk assessment, legitimacy review and collective discussion and decision-making. The procedure regulations also apply to other administrative behaviors besides policymaking.
Great achievements in administrative rule of law have been made since 2012. For example, government affairs are increasingly transparent. The General Office of the State Council issues detailed targets and guidelines for the disclosure of government affair, and administrative agencies at all levels are required to submit and publish routine reports about government affairs disclosure.
In addition, the laws have been more strictly enforced since 2012. China maintains a good social order and safeguards the health and safety of the people through determined enforcement against illegal activities and crimes, including telecommunication fraud, counterfeiting and copyright infringement.
At the same time, rational and civilized means of law enforcement are advocated instead of barbaric, violent methods. The goals, principles and the spirit of law as well as the socialist core values are manifested in the entire process of law enforcement.
Last of all, China continues to improve the governance system and modernize the nation’s governance capacity. The nation has established a long-term mechanism of educating cadres on legal awareness as well as a system of legal consultation to advise the government on policymaking, document release and major activities. In addition, an accountability system has also been established to hold cadres accountable for their illegal policymaking and administration. All these effective systems safeguard and improve China’s rule of law in governance.
Jiang Ming’an is the director of the Constitution and Administrative Law Research Center at Peking University.