Monday, November 19, 2012

Chinese State Security Arrests Stay High, Trials Soar

In 2011, the number of arrests and indictments for “endangering state security” (ESS) in China remained high, while ESS trial numbers broke new ground, according to China Law Yearbook. The official compendium states that 930 individuals were arrested and 974 were indicted on ESS charges (see Figure 1). Both figures remained well above pre-2008 averages despite double-digit declines. Arrests fell 11 percent year-on-year and indictments fell 20 percent—in lock step with Dui Hua estimates published in March. The subset of concluded first-instance trials that includes ESS leapt 96 percent to 1,314 trials, the highest volume since ESS entered China’s criminal code in 1998.

Dui Hua’s Political Prisoner Database includes information on 25 people convicted on ESS charges in 2011. Many ESS trials are closed on the grounds that they involve state secrets and the publication of verdicts is strictly controlled, making it difficult to obtain information on individual cases. Crimes in the ESS category include “subversion,” “splittism,” and their incitement.

Figure 1. Arrests and Indictments for Endangering State Security in China, 1998-2011

Among those convicted were Memetjan Abduqadir and Tursunjan Ablimit, who in 2002 set up a foundation to serve Uyghur students in impoverished areas of Xinjiang; dissidents like Xue Mingkai (薛明凯)—who had been diagnosed with mental illness—Liu Xianbin (刘贤斌), Chen Wei (陈伟), and Chen Xi (陈西), who were all jailed following online calls for Jasmine Revolution in China; Li Nanhang (李南航) and Sun Tianxi (孙天西), who were convicted in separate cases for allegedly organizing political parties, one of which only existed online; Falun Gong practitioners Wang Guangying (王光英) and Zhang Xiuling (張秀玲); Tibetan writer Tashi Rabten and Tibetan rights activist Kalsang Tsultrim—a number of other Tibetans were reported detained and convicted during the year but sentencing information is not available; and Lü Jiaping (吕嘉平)—the oldest person on the list, at age 71—and Jin Andi (金安迪), who published online articles critical of Communist Party elder Jiang Zemin.

Although there are only two names of Uyghurs convicted of ESS in 2011 in the database, this group is known to account for a high percentage of those convicted of ESS. According to official statistics, 414 ESS trials (including first-instance and appellate trials) were held in Xinjiang last year.

Figuring for Trials 

The reason for the disparate trends in the number of ESS trials versus arrests and indictments is unclear but is likely due to a combination of a decline in the number of defendants per trial and case backlogs.[*] Since 2007, the average number of individuals involved in each case involving arrest or indictment has declined markedly (see Figure 2). Backlogs, i.e., instances where an individual’s arrest or indictment does not occur in the same year his/her trial, are likely since the gears of Chinese criminal justice often turn slowly when processing ESS cases. This is because these cases are commonly classified as either “complex” or “sensitive” and sometimes require additional investigation to overcome issues of insufficient evidence. For example, Li Nanhang and Liu Xianbin were arrested in May and July of 2010, respectively, but were not convicted until March 2011.

Figure 2. Change in Number of Persons per Case, 1999-2011

On average, there were no more than 600 ESS arrests or indictments per year between 1998 and 2007. These figures more than doubled in 2008 due in large part to a crackdown on Tibetans and Uyghurs—often the targets of “splittism” charges—particularly after the uprising in Lhasa in March 2008, and more generalized efforts to ensure that dissenting voices did not tarnish the Beijing Olympics.

* Note: There is also a chance that there was an increase in the number of trials for dereliction of military duty, which Dui Hua believes China Law Yearbook lumps together with ESS crimes under the category “other,” but such an increase would be unlikely to have much impact on the whole. Although trial statistics are not disaggregated, indictment statistics have consistently indicated that dereliction of military duty accounts for less than 1 percent of indictments when placed in a separate category with only ESS. ^

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Call for Constitutionalism at the 18th Party Congress

18th National Party Congress Press Conference Center. Photo: Xinhua

At a press conference on the eve of the 18th Party Congress, a spokesman told reporters that the delegates assembled in Beijing to select China’s newest leadership group “brought with them the wishes of the Chinese people.” Indeed, as they did at the time of China’s last leadership transition 10 years ago, many in and outside China have high expectations for China’s incoming leadership, looking to them to push forward all sorts of much-needed economic, legal, and political reform.

In a recent interview with the Economic Observer newspaper, Shanghai-based constitutional scholar Tong Zhiwei expresses his own hopes that China’s coming decade will bring a renewed commitment to the principles of constitutional governance. As Tong explains, such a commitment to limiting state power and protecting individual rights would have profound ramifications for China’s economy, its legal institutions, and especially its political system.

Constitutional Rule: Current Realities and Future Visions
Meng Lei
Economic Observer, November 3, 2012

Conscientiously Protect Citizens’ Fundamental Rights

Economic Observer [hereafter, EO]: A few days from now, the Chinese Communist Party will hold its 18th Party Congress and there will be a transition of the party’s central leadership. This year is also the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of the 1982 constitution. As a constitutional scholar, what prospects do you see for “ruling the country according to the constitution” in the coming decade?

Professor Tong Zhiwei. Photo:

Tong Zhiwei: It’s great that you’ve chosen to discuss things from the angle of ruling the country according to the constitution! To rule according to the constitution is a concrete requirement of constitutionalism; ruling according to the constitution means implementing constitutionalism, and implementing constitutionalism requires ruling according to the constitution. Governance is not an issue for ordinary citizens; it’s only a problem for state leaders and the ruling party. So, during the 18th Party Congress, it is necessary to discuss this fundamental issue.

Essentially speaking, the most important aspects of constitutionalism are, first, the need to implement the restrictions and checks on [the exercise of] supreme power provided for in the constitution and, second, the need to conscientiously protect all of the fundamental rights of citizens that are affirmed by the constitution.

In the 30 years since the current constitution took effect, constitutional implementation has made major achievements overall, but has also encountered some fairly major problems. We don’t lack for self-praise, so with respect to ruling according to the constitution I think I’ll focus on what hasn’t been done well and where it is necessary to exert significant effort to improve.

Whether one is talking about rule according to the constitution or constitutionalism, the first requirement is the need to place all public power under the regulation or restriction of the constitution and not allowing [the existence of] any power that is unchecked or not subject to restriction by the constitution. But in our country, there are some basic issues of constitutionalism that have yet to be resolved. For starters, have a look at the power [enjoyed by] the party secretaries in some cities and counties—how are they restrained by the constitution? The most extreme [example] is Bo Xilai when he was in Chongqing. There he was called a leader of the ruling party, but the constitution and laws that were established in accordance with party proposals were simply unable to restrain him. He was called the leader of the municipal party committee, but in fact [he ran] a personal dictatorship where local institutions of state power and other state institutions set forth in the constitution were only for show. Under these circumstances, how can it be acceptable not to reform?

Another requirement of rule according to the constitution or constitutionalism is the conscientious protection of citizens’ fundamental rights. Citizens’ fundamental rights refer to those individual rights affirmed in the constitution; rights that the state is obliged to protect. Over the past 30-plus years, our citizens’ fundamental rights have received fuller protection than they ever did in the past, but unfortunately, obvious defects exist. China is a country that strictly adheres to a statutory-law system in which the fundamental rights provided in the constitution generally must first be expressed through legislation before they can actually be protected. In reality, it remains an open question how to implement and how to use the law to protect these constitutional rights of citizens.

EO: Without special legislation, these specific constitutional rights cannot be protected. In other words, when these rights are subjected to restriction, the constitution is not enough to be used as a “shield.”

Tong: You’re a reporter, you’ve certainly heard sayings such as “there is freedom to research, but expression must be disciplined.” But can citizens’ fundamental rights be restricted through discipline? If so, it is the same as the deprivation of relevant fundamental rights.

Citizen’s fundamental rights can only be restricted by laws. Moreover, laws restricting fundamental rights cannot protect these fundamental rights in form but negate them in practice. Also, laws restricting citizens’ fundamental rights cannot violate the constitution, because laws that violate the constitution are invalid. Of course, this necessitates an effective system of constitutional review, or, as our constitution puts it, a system to “oversee constitutional enforcement.”

Here, it’s crucial to understand why all norms that are not laws, like administrative regulations, have no power to restrict citizens’ fundamental rights. The logic is simple. Taking China’s constitution as an example, if a fundamental right affirmed in a constitution that was passed by more than two thirds of all of the delegates to the National People’s Congress (NPC) could be restricted arbitrarily by central state organs like the State Council or by local state organs, it would effectively mean a veto over this right’s essence as a fundamental right and be no different in consequence from the constitution not affirming this right.

Of course, this is not to say that without legal protections citizens are entirely unable to enjoy these rights. Without corresponding legal provisions, citizens more or less still enjoy some fundamental rights affirmed in the constitution, but this kind of enjoyment lacks stable, reliable protection.

EO: Just now you were discussing constitutional rights that are not yet protected through specific laws. But in reality, there are some fundamental rights for which there is already specific legislation but the protection [of these rights] is still not ideal. What causes this?

Tong: There are many reasons that can lead to this kind of situation.

The first situation is that the legislation itself is problematic. Even though there are legal protections, things like violations of the principles of rule of law mean that the legislation doesn’t meet the standards of effective protection that are commonly necessary. For example, there are procedures in the Criminal Procedure Law that protect the right to personal liberty. According to rule-of-law principles, criminal coercive measures and investigative methods taken by investigative departments should be reviewed and approved by a court. But in the majority of situations our laws do not require review or approval by a court; rather, the public security departments decide and implement [these decisions] on their own. This is the case for residential surveillance, release on guarantee pending further investigation, seizure of property, monitoring, etc.

The second scenario is when laws exist but are not followed. This has been particularly noticeable in recent years. I won’t discuss this in detail; readers can recall some of the more notorious cases from recent years.

The third situation is when laws or administrative regulations violate the constitution. From a certain perspective, the system of reeducation through labor, which we have all had enough of, can be put in this category.

The fourth situation is when a law’s derivative laws or normative documents violate the constitution or the law but cannot be reviewed in order to remedy the situation.

Aside from this, there are also outrages committed by state agencies or officials who don’t follow any rules at all. These are even more terrifying.

Exercise Power, Rule in Accordance with the Constitution

EO: Besides protection through dedicated legislation, I’d like to ask you to discuss why courts can’t directly apply the constitutional provisions protecting fundamental rights. In this regard, didn’t we once discuss “judicialization of the constitution”?

Tong: Constitutional adjudication is different from ordinary judicial discretion. Valid constitutional rulings must effectively restrain all state agencies and officials, otherwise they cannot be considered constitutional rulings and would have no significance. Our courts have a lower status than the people’s congresses and their standing committees. It would be unimaginable for a Chinese court ruling to restrain the NPC and its standing committee or even the people’s congress and standing committee at its own administrative level. So, there is no way to accomplish this so-called “judicialization of the constitution.” However, even if we cannot judicialize the constitution, it is possible to implement constitutional review, or, as provided for in our constitution, the oversight of constitutional enforcement. Oversight of constitutional enforcement is a power of the NPC and its standing committee. A dedicated body ought to be established to deal with this matter. We’ve discussed this issue for decades, ever since 1982 when the constitution was promulgated. Unfortunately, it has yet to be resolved. What we can strive for at the moment is to establish a dedicated constitutional oversight body.

There has been much discussion of this subject. One of the more radical ideas is to have the NPC establish a constitutional committee, equal in status to the NPC Standing Committee, that would be able to review the constitutionality of all legislation except that passed by the NPC. A more moderate proposal is to establish a dedicated state agency under the NPC and its standing committee equal in rank to the State Council and the Supreme People’s Court. The most modest reform would involve setting up a special committee under the NPC, not an independent organ of the state, that would carry out specific review work related to oversight of constitutional enforcement and provide consultative opinions to the NPC and its standing committee. Whether it’s a constitutional court or constitutional committee, the most important thing is that it must not be all talk and no action.

EO: On September 15, 2004, Comrade Hu Jintao said in a speech at the “50th anniversary commemoration of the establishment of the National People’s Congress”: “In order to rule the country in accordance with the law, we must first rule in accordance with the constitution. In order to exercise power in accordance with the law, we must first exercise power in accordance with the constitution.” Nevertheless, when Lu Yongxiang, vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said last week that China’s fundamental [task] going forward would be to “exercise power and rule the country in accordance with the constitution,” the media and the public still treated it as a major, noteworthy event. Why do you think that some comrades, like theoreticians and leading cadres, treat this subject as taboo?

Tong: If the constitution and laws are properly utilized, they can be used to resolve all problems. However, because many leading cadres are not familiar with the constitution, they don’t have a clear understanding about how to resolve problems within the framework of the constitution or law. When there is no effective implementation of the constitution or laws, much of the time it is mainly because of poor use by institutions of public power and their officials.

Moreover, it’s much easier to talk about doing things or governing in accordance with the constitution than it is to have correct understandings. A fundamental requirement of ruling in accordance with the constitution is, first, that those bodies that exercise constitutional state authority are themselves based in the constitution. In other words, the name of that body or official position can be found in the constitution. Bodies or official positions that are not named in the text of the constitution cannot exercise constitutional state power—that is most important. A big problem we currently face is that some party and governmental bodies commonly exceed their authority and exercise state power. All state power derives from the people, and the people express themselves legally through voting. Only organizations or persons that are directly or indirectly elected by voters are those that have been granted state power by the voters. At present, there are still many matters with which there is a gap from this standard.

EO: Returning to the constitution itself, how do you assess the results of constitutional amendments over the years?

Tong: I normally divide constitutional amendments into comprehensive and partial amendments. The 1982 constitution was a comprehensive amendment of the 1978 Constitution, while since 1982 the constitution has undergone four partial amendments. Without question, the 1982 Constitution is more advanced than the 1978 Constitution, and the current constitution is a relatively good one.

No matter whether one is talking about comprehensive or partial amendments, the biggest problem that has emerged in our country over the course of all previous amendments remains an insufficient mentality regarding constitutional enforcement. The constitution is emblematic of [the state of] democracy and rule of law, and without a constitution you cannot even speak of these things. So, in the past, consideration mostly went to creating a constitution in order to represent [these things], whereas relatively little consideration was given to how to seriously enforce it. This can be seen in the way that amended constitutions have immediately taken effect after their promulgation. Never once at the time of promulgating and implementing a new constitution was a thorough constitutional review of existing law, regulations, and other normative documents conducted and the results of it released.

The 1954 constitution was like this, and the 1982 constitution and the four subsequent amendments were each handled this way as well. In order to seriously enforce the constitution, there definitely needs to be a transitional period before it takes effect, during which time two things must be done in earnest: first, the enactment of necessary laws as concrete protections of the new fundamental rights affirmed in the new constitution; and, second, the weeding out of legal and regulatory provisions that contradict [the new constitution] and the announcement of [these provisions] as in violation of the constitution and abolished. You cannot say that this kind of new basic law can take effect immediately after it is announced. That’s impossible.

EO: Can you give a few examples of old laws or regulations that were in conflict with the new constitution or constitutional amendments at the time they were announced that should have been reviewed and abolished but never were?

Tong: There are too many. For example, the Methods for Custody and Repatriation of Urban Migrants and Beggars that led to the Sun Zhigang affair count as an administrative regulation that should have been sorted out and abolished at the time the 1982 constitution was promulgated and implemented, but it never was. Similarly, the State Council Decision on the Issue of Reeducation through Labor and its Supplementary Regulations, as well as the NPC Standing Committee’s Decision Regarding the Handling of Offenders Undergoing Reform through Labor and Persons Undergoing Reeducation through Labor who Escape or Commit New Crimes are normative documents that should at least have already been sorted out and abolished when constitutional amendments were promulgated to respect and protect human rights [in 2004] and to establish a socialist country under rule of law [in 1999].

EO: Just now you mentioned institutional regulations, which definitely include administrative regulations. This makes me think of some rules of government and administrative bodies, such [as those involving] so-called property tax, about which there has been furious speculation of late. I’d like your opinion: if the State Council or local governments pass new rules or revise old rules to levy a tax, would it satisfy constitutional principles?

Tong: The State Council is a state administrative body. Even though it is the highest state administrative body, for it to decide to levy a tax would not satisfy constitutional principles. The right to private property is a citizen’s fundamental right protected in the constitution. Moreover, the levying of taxes on citizens is a major state issue. Looking from these two perspectives, levying of taxes can only be decided through legislation passed by the NPC. I believe that the next amendment to the constitution should add some new provisions regarding taxation and financial budgeting in order to more fully protect citizens’ private property rights and the effective control over budgeting by people’s congresses at all levels.

Constitutionalism and the Economy

EO: Turning to look at economic development, how do you see the relationship between constitutionalism and economic development?

Tong: There is an extremely close relationship between constitutionalism and economic development. We need long-term, sustainable development. The American legal scholar [Richard] Posner once suggested that a state structured on separation of powers and the principle of checks and balances is the lowest-cost, most efficient constitutional system there is. In saying this he pretties-up their political system, but he makes a significant point about the relationship between constitutionalism and healthy, sustainable economic development. Historically, some totalitarian, dictatorial governments have sometimes appeared more efficient and able to make rapid and timely decisions about various matters. But they often make big mistakes and, once having made them, it is extremely difficult to rectify them, which leads to especially major economic waste. With a system of constitutionalism and rule of law, the situation is precisely the opposite. These days, we all talk about “low-carbon economics” and “green economics.” I think that constitutionalism is the rule-of-law low-carbon and green environment that most suits economic development.

There are many counterexamples in China. For example, during our history the Great Leap Forward and “Cultural Revolution” were economic disasters seldom seen in world history. Everyone knows that more than 10 million people starved to death during the Great Leap Forward and that the “Cultural Revolution” brought China’s national economy to the brink of disaster. These problems were all caused by China’s lack of constitutionalism and rule of law. They were economic disasters caused by flaws in the political and legal [systems].

EO: Since reform and opening, some constitutional changes such as provisions to establish a market economy and emphasize the status and role of the non-state-sector economy have fundamentally pushed forward our country’s economic development or, at least, played an irreplaceable role.

Tong: The state-sector economy certainly played an important role in the rapid economic development over the past 30 years, but first and foremost we must recognize that it was [the introduction of] new elements that brought about this sort of high-speed development, starting with the private economy and then the market economic system and the introduction of foreign capital through reform and opening. Under 30 years of the state-owned, planned economy, things didn’t go well. Then, after the constitution provided for the co-existence of a variety of economic actors and the implementation of the market economy, growth immediately picked up. But after things picked up, many people forgot [the reasons for this]. The [policy of] advancing the state sector and shrinking the private sector is, on some level, that is, to a real degree, following the old path and, it ought to be said, has no future. We will see that none of the modern economic powers with reasonably balanced development rely on a state-run economic sector, and some countries, such as the United States, can almost be said to have no state-sector economy. These are things we should consider but not necessarily replicate. I’m not advocating privatization but advancing the state sector and shrinking the private sector is definitely no good. China’s economic future mainly rests on the strong growth of the non-state economy. Our current economy is still a kind of “identity economy” in which things are unequal and [success] depends on the identity of the actor. We need to devise a way to fix this.

EO: What concrete reform measures could be [implemented] next to realize rule and governance according to the constitution? Put another way, in the next 10 years, in what areas should constitutional rule and governance be promoted?

Tong: I’ll make a few simple points:

  1. Institutions of the state and ruling-party organization, along with their powers, should return to the constitution. The ruling party ought to use its political leaders to have its positions written into the constitution and the laws, and recommend its trusted party-member cadres to positions in state organs through legal procedures. State institutions must truly take up the duties of state institutions and handle matters strictly according to the constitution and laws, rather than doing things according to speeches or temporary [policy] documents issued by one body or another. There should be a true separation.

  2. Enact necessary constitutional legislation. First of all, this includes a News Law and Publication Law to protect citizens’ freedom of speech and publication, an Association Law to protect the people’s right to form associations, and a Protection of Religious Freedom Law to protect citizen’s freedom of religious beliefs. The highest organ of state power should establish legislation to protect the fundamental citizens’ rights provided for in the constitution.

  3. Step-by-step, planned implementation of direct, competitive elections of people’s congress delegates at all levels. Even if for the time being we still cannot have direct elections of NPC delegates, we should at least gradually introduce direct election of local people’s congresses at all levels. There should be no problems with having direct competitive elections for local people’s congress delegates. If there are no competitive elections, the people’s congresses serve no representative function.

    Presently, people’s congresses clearly serve no representative function. For instance, consider the example of the recent incident in Ningbo, as well as those in Qidong and Shifang. We can see that in these incidents, people’s congresses did not participate substantively in making major local decisions, not to mention make those decisions themselves. Even if they had participated, they wouldn’t reflect public opinion. When there are matters that ought to be discussed before decisions are made and people’s congresses don’t even engage in substantive discussion, the results will be conflict appearing in the streets.

  4. Effective protection of judicial independence. An independent judicial system is an important sign of a modern nation. All types of disputes in society ultimately rely on resolution through the judicial system, but today, because courts and judges are not independent, judicial rulings lack the authority they ought to have. For this reason, the party and government always have to face social conflicts directly. This is extremely harmful to China’s stability and sustained development.

  5. Set up a body dedicated to constitutional review (or constitutional oversight and protection) and properly deal with review of the constitutionality and legality of derivative legislation and normative documents. It is because the 1954 constitution had no system for constitutional review that [the idea] silently died. In response to this lesson, the 1982 constitution specially enacted some provisions with the hopes that they would remedy the unfortunate deficiencies of the 1954 constitution. However, because for more than 30 years it has been all talk and no action, constitutional review today remains something relegated to paper only. In more than 30 years the highest organ of state power has not enacted the necessary procedural law and has not carried out a thorough review of the constitutionality or legality of laws or relevant administrative regulations. This is a major problem that concerns the unity of the state legal institutions, and one that ought to be resolved in a timely manner.

    I hope that the 18th Party Congress can set out an encouraging blueprint for the construction of constitutionalism for the coming decade. This would have profound significance for China.


Tong Zhiwei: Vice president of the China Constitutional Studies Association and professor at East China University of Political Science and Law

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Party Paper Lists Six Errors in Chinese Social Management

A 2011 panel meeting on social management in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua

During the past two years, “social management” (社会管理) has emerged as an important new concept under which China’s leadership hopes to deal with the growing tensions in Chinese society, reflected in recent years in an increasing number of “mass incidents.” As articulated by Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, social management involves such things as “developing, managing, and supervising” social organizations; building a “service-oriented” government; and establishing “social-stability risk and evaluation mechanisms.” By becoming more proactive and extending its leadership over civil society, the party aims to limit the risks associated with the social transformations attendant to economic development.

The emphasis on social management was reflected one year ago when the name of the party’s key body responsible for “maintaining stability” was changed to the Central Comprehensive Social Management Commission (from the Central Comprehensive Public Order Management Commission). This change has been accompanied by a gradual shift in the leaders and members of the commission and its subordinate bodies nationwide. Altogether, these moves appear to be asserting more direct party control over the mechanisms of social management, while broadening the range of associated interests from its traditional focus on law enforcement to include things like public services, crisis response, healthcare, education, social security, and mental health.

Although the language of social management encourages a more holistic, less repressive approach to preserving social stability and appears to place more emphasis on developing the capacity for civil-society development, skeptics worry that the effect of social management policies will not be the liberation of autonomous social forces but, rather, more effort to assert control over the processes of civil-society formation that are already underway. Some of these concerns can be seen in a recent article (translated below) by Gong Weibin, a professor at the National Academy of Governance, who identifies six misconceptions about social management among Chinese officials.

The article appeared in the October 15 edition of Study Times, a newspaper published under the auspices of the Central Party School. It is replete with the kind of jargon commonly seen in articles dealing with party policies and pronouncements, but behind all the buzzwords lies a genuine concern about striking a proper balance between government control and individual and group autonomy—as well as an implicit warning that if this balance is not struck properly, there could be serious consequences for the legitimacy of the political regime.

Six Errors in Contemporary Social Management
Gong Weibin, Study Times
October 15, 2012

At present, innovations in social management are being launched throughout [China] with great vigor, achieving positive results and accumulating a great deal of good experience and methods. However, there are some errors in understanding and practice.

Error One: A Rigid “Stability-Maintenance Perspective”

Our country is in a crucial period of its reform and development, a period in which there are both important development opportunities and obvious contradictions. It has become more important to correctly manage the relationship between reform, development, and stability. Therefore, “development is the number one task” and “stability is the number one responsibility” have become two important matters for local party committees and governments.

However, some people understand social stability in a one-sided way, thinking of it as everyone getting along, as songbirds in spring, without any “noise” and without social conflicts or contradictions. Guided by this type of thinking, [they] cannot tolerate the slightest expression of different opinions, unreasonably obstruct people’s [ability to make] ordinary appeals on behalf of their interests, and spare no expense to tightly guard against some “so-called abnormal behaviors.” In the name of “maintaining stability,” some will even go so far as to suppress different opinions and impose a patriarchal system in which their word is law.

The essence of social stability is political stability or, in other words, the stability of the political system. Stability of the political system depends upon the level of trust that the public has in the political system. Petitioning by the public is actually an expression of trust in the party and the government, not an attempt to create instability. Historical experience shows that social stability is relative. A harmonious and stable society is not totally without contradictions or conflict; rather, social contradictions and conflicts are kept within the bounds of what society is able to endure. It should be clear that society has the ability to endure a certain amount of social contradictions and conflict, as well as the ability to clear up such contradictions and conflicts on its own.

No society in the world can achieve stability that lasts forever. Social stability is realized dynamically by continually regulating [stakeholder] relations and [through the use of] “safety valve” mechanisms that continually release the discontent and grievances [pent up] in society. In the current stage of frequently erupting social contradictions, leading cadres at all levels must increase their awareness of hardship, risk, and responsibility. They must be neither aloof and indifferent nor too tense and must adopt a flexible, dynamic “stability-maintenance perspective” and increase the level of inclusiveness and tolerance in society.

Error Two: One-Sidedly Emphasizing Government Control

Traditional ideas, habits, and methods persist in current social management, and in many places social management means only an emphasis on efforts at government control. Rather than positively focusing on bringing [problems] under control at their source, there is a negative focus on remaining on guard and asserting control when trouble breaks out. The emphasis is not on improving people’s livelihoods, improving methods of service, and raising the quality and standards of service. [Leaders] aren’t looking to safeguard the public’s lawful rights and interests or making efforts to unblock channels for expressing demands and expanding citizens’ orderly participation in politics. Rather, [they] focus on protecting themselves to the death and surrounding, pursuing, and intercepting [citizens]. [They] aren’t looking at transforming government functions and ways of governing, at fully utilizing the power of people and markets, or at realizing a cooperative management in the common interest; rather, [they] are used to taking complete charge and putting on a one-man show.

Modern social management should entail diverse participation and shared control. Government should properly carry out its responsibilities of social management and public service; it can neither be absent nor substandard, nor can it be in the wrong place or exceed its bounds. At the same time, all social forces should be fully mobilized to jointly participate in social management through the promotion of neighborhood self-management and corporate responsibility for social management and the realization of new models for [achieving] a good interaction between government administrative control and social self-adjustment and residents’ self-management, organic integration between neighborhood management and workplace management, comprehensive involvement of a variety of methods, integration between management and service, and the orderly and vital integration of diverse control with joint establishment and enjoyment.

Error Three: Unwillingness to Develop Social Organizations

It has been repeatedly shown that social organizations [contribute] positive functions and important impacts in the development of modern society. Since the 16th Party Congress, social organizations have undergone definite development, and, as of year-end 2011, there were more than 450,000 social organizations of various types nationwide playing positive roles in [activities] such as providing public services, dealing with unemployment, protecting people’s legitimate rights and interests, and coordinating social relationships.

However, the present number of social organizations and their [combined] scale is extremely unsuited to the needs of a large nation with a population of more than 1.3 billion. Social organizations are developing at a slow pace, and some are not thriving and have imperfect internal control structures and poor management and service capacities. The status of some social organizations is not clear, with [these organizations] becoming “alternative governments” that, overly relying on government budgetary support, have a weak capacity to develop on their own. There are also some social organizations that deviate from their missions and seek profit.

There are a variety of reasons for this: there are problems of understanding as well as problems with institutional policies and law, and problems with the quality and capacity of those engaging in the work. At the root [of the problem] are some leaders who have a mistaken understanding of social organizations. Although the great majority of leading cadres say that they attach importance to the development of and role played by social organizations, deep down many still carry profound concerns that social organizations will, if they grow big and strong, become the opponents of the party and government and, if they’re not [managed properly], will turn into rivals that will vie for public [support]. [These cadres] set up obstacles to the development of social organizations. [But] faced with the increasing diversity of social groups and interest structures, the party and government cannot run everything and need to provide public services and social management through social organizations. Thus, with the exception of a need to exert more control over a small number of social organizations of special types, [leading cadres] ought to loosen entry conditions for economic, public interest, charitable, and neighborhood social organizations; improve relevant laws; increase the degree of government support; and promote and standardize the rapid, healthy development of social organizations. Social management is about both “managing society” and “having society manage.” A variety of actors are needed, including social organizations, to realize the self-management of “society.”

Error Four: Stressing Stability, Ignoring Rights

For a relatively long time in the past, people commonly thought of social management as social control and of maintaining social stability as managing, controlling, suppressing, and fining; restricting people’s freedom; and placing prohibitions on this and that. Guided by this negative view of maintaining stability, some cadres frequently focus on asserting control after an incident in order to avoid getting in trouble, and pay less attention to pre-incident prevention and controlling [problems] at their source. This kind of thinking and way of doing things still persists in some locations. What [adherents to these beliefs] don’t realize is that, as a result of the opening and progress of society, protecting the lawful rights and interests of the public is at the root of realizing long-term peace and stability in society.

The prerequisite and basis for maintaining stability is protecting rights. First, [we] must respect and protect the public’s rights to information, to participation, to expression, and to [government] oversight. [We must] actively open up mechanisms for public opinion, widen channels for the expression of public demands, and allow mass organizations like the [All-China Federation of Trade] Unions, the Communist Youth League, and the All-China Women’s Federation as well as all types of social organizations to fulfill their function of safeguarding the rights and interests of the broader public. The protection and realization of the lawful rights and interests of the masses is an important means of ensuring social harmony and stability, stimulating social vitality, and promoting social development and progress.

Error Five: Stressing Livelihood, Ignoring Democracy

Since the 17th Party Congress, the pace of social construction has sped up across the country with an emphasis on improving people’s livelihoods. Issues like employment, education, healthcare, housing, and social security have all received unprecedented attention. The mission to improve people’s livelihoods has seen rapid progress and development, and the standard and quality of people’s basic needs have seen relatively large improvements.

However, in the course of improving people’s livelihoods, there have arisen a series of social problems and contradictions associated with livelihood issues. Looking at the reasons, the principal [cause] is that there has not been sufficient attention to the opinions of the public, and what the government has done on behalf of people’s livelihoods has not necessarily met public need. Livelihood policies themselves cannot resolve questions of how to engender more scientific and rational decision-making on livelihood issues, and how to allow livelihood policies to gain the understanding and support of vast majorities of the stakeholding public.

Although some places have made great efforts and large investments [to improve] people’s livelihoods, the results have not been apparent, public discontent has not abated, and some contradictions and disputes have even arisen during the roll out of livelihood projects. The root cause [of all of this] is that they discuss livelihood without mentioning democracy. On the other hand, some local leaders have integrated democracy and livelihood and used democracy to promote people’s livelihoods. At the same time that they strengthen grassroots party organization, they conscientiously develop self-governance by village and urban residents; follow through on village (urban) residents’ rights to democratic elections, democratic decision-making, democratic management, and democratic oversight; allow the public to participate in discussions of livelihood issues; and mobilize the public to offer advice and make suggestions.

Public participation in the enactment of policies concerning livelihood issues enables the gathering of public knowledge and the optimization of the decision-making process. It is also a way of ensuring that policies concerning livelihood issues are understood and supported by the public. Public participation in the decision-making process enables people to understand matters in a complete and correct way and to understand the various considerations behind decisions and the difficulties faced by decision-makers.

Once they understand the difficulties that decision-makers face, the public will also understand when some things cannot be done all at once. The integration of democracy and livelihood avoids the embarrassing situation in which leading cadres make decisions on behalf of the people and, despite their best intentions to do the right thing, do not get the understanding and approval of the public. As the structure of societal needs changes, the democratic consciousness of the masses will increasingly grow stronger. Therefore, democracy is an important safeguard of improving people’s livelihoods and is an important measure for promoting social management.

Error Six: Abusing Grid Management

Grid management is a new management method adopted in recent years by cities across the country in which urban communities are divided into several management grid units according to a certain standard. After clarifying the scope of management and the responsibilities of [social management] personnel, information is proactively gathered about people, events, and things [in order] to build a database of urban components and events. [This database] forms [the basis of] an urban management work platform through which relevant departments and work units can proactively uncover problems in a timely manner, respond quickly, and resolve problems in a timely manner. [All of this represents] the informatization and refinement of urban management and is a kind of innovation in social-management service.

The idea of grid management has spread rapidly, and methods of grid management have been promoted rapidly, so that now party and government departments in many cities are exploring grid management. However, if within one city various agencies like those responsible for politico-legal work, public security, civil affairs, social security, family planning, and city management and law enforcement each pursue grid management separately and for their own purposes such that information cannot be shared effectively, it can potentially result in duplicated investment and wasted resources. In the name of grid management, some cities divide communities or buildings into grid units of five or 10 households, appointing a “grid captain” and setting up [a system of] collective responsibility. This way of doing things either tends towards the formalistic, producing no real effects, or it results in excessive control that infringes on personal space. Attention needs to be paid to these problems in the course of establishing and managing grids. Good things need to be done well.