On 18 April 2018, the Finnish China Law Center and the University of Helsinki, one of the Center’s 10 member institutions, hosted a guest lecture by Assistant Professor Yan Tian of the Peking University School of Law on ‘How Important is China’s Constitution in the Chinese Legal System?’
The event was part of Nordic China Law Week 2018 (17 – 23 April), organized by the Finnish China Law Center and Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki, with the support of the Confucius Institute and Chinese Studies of the University of Helsinki.
Following an introduction given by Professor Ulla Liukkunen, Director of the Finnish China Law Center, Assistant Professor Yan gave a wide-ranging lecture on the significance of the Chinese constitution in the Chinese political/legal system. This included a discussion of the scope and meaning of the recent amendments to China’s constitution. (These changes were approved by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) by a vote of 2,958 to 2).
Among other things, these recent constitutional changes deleted limits on the terms of presidency, enshrined Xi Jinping’s ‘New Era Socialist Theory with Chinese Characteristics’, provided that the Communist Party of China’s leadership is ‘the most fundamental feature of socialism’, and endorsed disciplinary inspection bodies under the auspice of the National Supervisory Commission (NSC) as official state organs. (The NSC and its local commissions will operate alongside existing administrative, executive and judicial departments. The NSC was officially inaugurated on 23 March 2018).
Assistant Professor Yan shared three Chinese constitutional law prospects. First, constitutionally-based judicial review would likely not be feasible. Second, legislative review of the legality of administrative regulations may be much more robust. But such review has nothing to do with China’s constitution. Third, Chinese citizens might employ ‘constitutional discourse’ much more than previously.
But two main uncertainties remain, Assistant Professor Yan said. First: Will the NPC interpret and implement China’s constitution, and if so, how? Second: Will the Chinese state tolerate constitutional discourse, especially when such a discourse may be framed against the state?
Following his lecture was a robust discussion among participants on the implications for Chinese law and legal theory of the recent constitutional changes, prospects for constitutionalism in China, and a broader discussion of other developments in the Chinese political/legal system.
Assistant Professor Yan also presented at the second China Law Research Workshop organized by the Finnish China Law Center on 19 April 2018. The Workshop was one of many events held during Nordic China Law Week 2018 (17 – 23 April), including:
Wednesday 18 April: Latest Developments in Chinese Intellectual Property Law
Thursday 19 April: China Law Research Workshop
Friday 20 April: Nordic China Law Scholars Meeting
Monday 23 April: Information Session on Online Chinese Legal Research