Opinion: Constitutional revisions promote legal effectiveness
Updated 16:33, 06-Dec-2018
Zhu Zheng
Editor's note: Zhu Zheng is an assistant professor at China University of Political Science and Law. The article reflects the author's views, and not necessarily those of CGTN. 
On Tuesday, China will celebrate a national holiday called Constitution Day, which will be solemnly honored and closely watched through a series of constitutional activities – conferences, seminars, and lectures – in the following whole week. 
Established in 2014, the holiday is designed to commemorate China's current 1982 Constitution, which superseded its three precursors – the 1954, 1975, and 1978 Constitutions – and was put into effect on December 4, 1982, the exact day of the holiday. 
Emanating from the 1954 Constitution but drafted in the initial stage of China's reform and opening up, the 1982 Constitution has undergone five revisions – in 1988, 1993, 1999, 2004 and 2018 – to meet the fast-changing demands arising both from economic developments and from political and ideological transitions.
Teaching kids about China's Constitution in a primary school in Shijiazhuang City of Hebei Province, December 3. /VCG Photo

Teaching kids about China's Constitution in a primary school in Shijiazhuang City of Hebei Province, December 3. /VCG Photo

Among these five revisions, there are multiple constitutional changes to the original provisions, and three of which are worth particular attention here. 
First of all, in the First Session of the Seventh National People's Congress (NPC) in 1988,  two constitutional amendments were approved, with the first one referring to “the right to the use of land may be transferred according to law,” and the second one allowing “the private sector of the economy to exist and develop within the limits prescribed by law.” If the first one loosened the straitjacket of public land ownership, the second one acknowledged the status of the private economy, and unleashed its economic potential.
The two constitutional amendments have given momentum to the economic reform of the 1980s, and a lift to the private sector. They have steered the constitutional itinerary from a planned economy towards a market one.
Secondly, the 2004 constitutional amendment was the most extensive in scope, and perhaps the most significant in its implications, with 14 provisions being revised and ultimately adding a human rights clause. The constitutional revision for the first time openly recognized the importance of human rights, providing that China will  “respect and preserve human rights.” 
This newly added constitutional provision, as some commentators pointed out, has partly discarded the erroneous notion that human rights stems from “bourgeois origins,” and made a constitutional commitment to protect rights of all human beings. To say the least, the 2004 constitutional amendment has built up a “patriotic united front,” which embraced “all socialist working people, all builders of the socialism” and therefore accorded the will of the people.
Celebrations for this year's Constitution Day in Beijing on November 30. /VCG Photo

Celebrations for this year's Constitution Day in Beijing on November 30. /VCG Photo

Finally, the 2018 constitutional amendment, which was passed by the NPC in March of this year, also marked an essential revision to the 1982 document. The 2018 amendment entrenched Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as a guiding ideology for the country, and further underlined the importance of the party's leadership, ensuring the leadership as “the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” 
The 2018 revision has institutionally set up National Supervisory Commission, a new disciplinary body, which has been bestowed with powers to oversee China's anti-corruption drive and curb malfeasance. 
Under the revision, the former Law Committee within the NPC has been rebranded as Constitution and Law Committee, entitled to review primary legislation in the light of the 1982 Constitution. It has signaled a significant expansion of the scope of constitutional review, which ensures the correct and effective enforcement of constitution and law.
It is clear from the aforementioned three revisions that China's Constitution has steered towards a new direction at every juncture, from erecting market economy and protecting human rights to making sure the strict enforcement of constitution and law. To be fair, the 1982 Constitution is on course to become a legal instrument with increasing effectiveness in face of a changing society.     
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