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Chinese Communist Party Standards on Integrity and Self-Restraint - comment.

The Chinese Communist Party Standards on Integrity and Self Restraint (the Standards - here, in Chinese) were adopted by the CCP Central Committee on October 12, together with the CCP Regulations on Disciplinary Punishments (here, in Chinese). This post offers a short and very simple commentary on the Standards. 

Together with the Regulations on Disciplinary Punishment, the Standards are one of the most important pieces of Party legislation. The Regulations on Disciplinary Punishment define certain conducts as violations of Party discipline and specify the punishment associated with each one of them. The Standards, as they were enacted in 1997 (here - Chinese) and amended in February 2010 (here - in Chinese), aimed at "regulating the honest performance of official duties" (规范廉政从政行为). 

As I have explained elsewhere, the Standards did more than specify a set of principles of conducts Party cadres should have followed: they proscribed a broad range of behaviors. Most of the behaviors proscribed by the Standards however duplicated conducts defined as criminal offenses by the Criminal Law of the PRC. The overlaps between Party legislation and the Criminal Law were among the factors that allowed a considerable discretion in the punishment of erring cadres. Overlaps were not entirely inconsistent with the rules on inner-Party law making, as these rules were effective until recently. Between 1990 and 2012, intra-Party rule making was regulated by the CCP Regulations on the procedure to enact intra-Party rules (for trial implementation). This document did not pose any requirements about consistency between Party rules and regulations and the state law. 

Things changed in 2012, when article 7 of the CCP Regulations on Enacting Party Rules and Regulations  specified the principles that should guide intra-Party rule making. These are:

(1) starting from the developmental needs of the cause of the Party and from the realities of Party building;
(2) implementing the Party's theory and line, principles and policies taking the Party Statute os the fundamental basis;
(3) complying with provisions that the Party must conduct its activities within the scope of the [State] Constitution and the law;

(4) meeting the needs of scientific governance, democratic governance, governance on the basis of the law;
(5) advancing the institutionalization, regulatization, proceduralization of Party construction;
(6) upholding democratic centralism, give full play to inner-Party democracy, safeguard the unity of the Party;
(7) safeguarding the unity and authoritativeness of the system of Party laws and regulations;
(8) privileging ease of use and avoid complexity and redundancies
Conflicts and overlaps between the Standards and the Criminal Law violated principles (3) and (8). The 2015 amendment to the Standards has solved most of these problems by reducing the number of provisions from eighteen to eight, and introducing fundamental changes in their substantive content. 

"Standards", the 2012 Regulations on Party rules say, are a category of Party rules that "make basic provisions on the political life of the Party, its organizational life, and the conduct of Party members." (art. 4). Besides,"perfecting the construction of a system of morality for Party members and cadres" is among the goals of the current intra-Party legislative plan  (section 3, paragraph 3).

The Standards look closer to a code of ethics for Party members and Party cadres, than to any other piece of legislation on Party discipline. Adherence to the ethical standards set for members of the CCP after all is a fundamental component of what the 2012 Regulations call "political life". Given the requirements of "political life" and the opportunities for unethical behavior are in part determined by the rank a cadres occupies, the Standards are divided in two sections:

- regulating Party members' integrity and self-discipline
- regulating leading cadres' integrity and self-discipline

Each one of the two sections poses four behavioral prescriptions, which are expressed using political rather than legal language: "uphold the distinction between public and private; the public comes first, the private comes next; sacrificing yourself for the public", or "use power with integrity; protect the fundamental interest of the people" and so on. 

One should not be tempted to dismiss the Standards as a mere exercise in political rhetoric. Together with the amended version of the Regulations on Disciplinary Punishment, as well as other legislative and regulatory documents, they have given legal form to Xi Jinping's theory of the "Four Comprehensives". Even though the short preamble to the Standards does not reference the Four Comprehensives, the Notice with which both the Standards and the Regulations were issued makes it clear that the two regulations embody "comprehensively strictly governing the Party" and introduce a partially new and  different set of ethical and behavioral standards. 


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