China and Inner Asia
In March 2018, China’s National People’s Congress passed the most far-reaching amendments to the Constitution since its adoption in 1982. Though the move to abolish term limits for President and Vice President got perhaps the most international media attention, other key changes – including the creation of a Supervision Commission empowered to investigate all other government bodies and personnel; the inclusion of Xi Jinping Thought in the Preamble; and the insertion of the Party’s leadership status into the main body of the Constitutional text – may have as much or greater impact.
This panel will explore the process by which the NPC adopted such wide-ranging constitutional amendments, largely without any public or academic debate. Panelists will seek to address the question of why the constitutional reform process was undertaken in such haste, and why key initial steps were taken largely outside of public view. The panel will also discuss the impact of core reforms on the structure of the Chinese state, on day-to-day governance, and on the long-term trajectory of political and legal reform in China. Finally, the panel will analyze the political significance of the 2018 constitutional reforms: what do the reforms tell us about Xi Jinping’s ambitions, his long-term agenda, and the level of political power that he currently enjoys?
This roundtable panel will embrace an innovative format: presentations will be kept very short (5-8 minutes), to encourage discussion among the panelists, and also with members of the audience. Carl Minzner will discuss how the 2018 constitutional reforms fit into Xi Jinping’s broader efforts to consolidate political power. Tom Kellogg will discuss the process of constitutional reform, and also assess scholarly and public reactions. Keith Hand will assess the overall package of constitutional reforms, and analyze their impact on Beijing’s approach to governance. Aynne Kokas will offer a case study of media reform, focusing on the ways in which the 2018 reforms elevated even further the connection between media oversight and state expansionism. Katherine Wilhelm will moderate, and also comment on the role of the Supervision Commission.