China’s lawmakers told to vigorously study Xi Jinping’s legal theories

Jun Mai
·3-min read

Legal theories by President Xi Jinping are the “fundamental guidance” to govern China with laws, a top aide of Xi said as he lectured the country’s lawmakers.

“Delegates to [China’s top legislature] the National People’s Congress … should take the lead to vigorously study the scientific system of the profound essence of Xi Jinping’s thought on ruling the country by law,” Wang Chen, a vice-chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said.

The remarks by Wang, a member of the Communist Party’s 25-strong Politburo, were made on Tuesday as he lectured a group of 255 lawmakers. There are more than 2,000 seats in the NPC.

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Calling Xi’s legal theories the “latest achievement of the sinicisation of Marx’s legal theories”, Wang called on the lawmakers to firmly bear in mind that the leadership of the party was what distinguished China’s legal system from those in the West.

Xi’s legal theories marked the third and most recent major achievement in China’s legal theories, after the Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping eras, he said.

Wang’s speech was seen largely as another effort to lift Xi’s personal status in the Communist Party’s history ahead of its centenary in July.

Plans for the anniversary – the most important political task of the year for many Chinese officials – include political gatherings and extensive propaganda campaigns under especially tight social control.

The centenary is seen as particularly important for Xi, who is expected to seek a third term as the party’s leader in next year’s 20th national congress.

Xi’s legal theories, titled Xi Jinping’s Thought on Ruling the Country by Law, were formally introduced in November. They constitute the latest set of remarks and writings by Xi after similar theories on economy, military, ecology and foreign policy.

In 2018, he became the first state leader since Mao to add his name to China’s constitution while still in power, as the NPC enshrined his political dogma, Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

Efforts by Chinese officials to embed Xi’s name in policy statements and party regulations have continued since 2018. Wang, who is named on the United States’ sanctions list, is a key player in this process.

Wang was also responsible for shepherding the NPC to pass the Hong Kong National Security Law last year and the reforms of the Hong Kong electoral system this year.

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With the latest push to cement Xi’s influence in the legal system, Beijing is looking for a way to make his power and clout more binding, said Deng Yuwen, former deputy editor with Study Times, an official newspaper.

“They are trying to legitimatise Xi’s thoughts and embed his status in laws of all sorts, so his influence could last even after his tenure as a leader,” Deng said.

“It is after all more difficult to amend laws than change policies. Once it’s written in the law, everyone needs to abide by it, whether you like it or not.”

During Tuesday’s speech, Wang reiterated the need for China to sharpen its legal tools for foreign affairs. Beijing should seek to improve its system for national security reviews of foreign businesses, antitrust reviews and compiling its unreliable entities list, he said.

China should also put more resources into studying different legal systems, especially those of major powers, Wang said, without naming specific countries. Such efforts could help China gain an upper hand in legal interactions, he said.

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