Making (some) sense of CCP statutes

We typically describe the Communist Party of China (CCP) as opaque, mysterious, and as a "black box." This is with good reason. There's a lot about the structure and operational processes of the Party that we just don't/can't know.

Fortunately, there's also a lot we can know thanks to the CCP's obligation to communicate to its 89 million members. Over the course of its 95+ year history, the CCP has developed by design and necessity into a secretive organization, yet in the end, it's a massive bureaucracy that has many of the same attributes and imperatives as any other bureaucratic entity.

Keeping its membership informed about what's going on is one of the most important. Much of this occurs through internal channels, naturally, but a great deal of it happens on public websites and hard copy publications that are designed to explain to the membership various aspects of Party operations.

Thus, if a new Party pronouncement, document, rule/regulation is made public and you're thinking "what the heck does that mean?", there's a darn good chance that a large chunk of the membership has the same question. And fortunately for us trying to make sense of the CCP, much of it is publicly available.

One issue that's bugged me for a while is the rank-ordering of Party rules and regulations. There seemed to be a lot of them, and they came in a wide assortment. What, for example, was the difference between a rule (规则) and a regulation (条例)? Who could issue them? How many where there?

Fortunately, in May of 2013, the Central Committee (中央) promulgated the "CCP Intra-Party Regulation Formulation Regulations" (中国共产党党内法规制定条例) which clarified the types and rankings of the various rules and regulations that govern Party members. All of this is very helpfully laid out in a piece on Sina (in Chinese) explaining how the statues fit into an overall structure the Party refers to as the "Four Beams and Eight Pillars". 

The Four "Beams" and Eight "Pillars"

Since Xi Jinping took power, the Central Committee has created or amended more than 50 intra-Party statutes, or nearly 1/3 of the total number currently in force. And with the CCP playing a more active role in just about all areas of Chinese society, I think it's important that we start to better understand how the Party works.

According to the 2013 Regulations, there are seven types of official Party statues, which are here ranked from most important to least. (A full list can be found here and here)

  1. The CCP Constitution - This, like the US Constitution, is the law of the (Party) land and stands on a peak all its own. It stipulates fundamental provisions on the nature and purpose of the Party, the political line, the guiding ideology, organizational principles, and Party discipline.
  2. Standards (准则) - These regulate the basic provisions of political and organizational life and the behavior of all Party members. There are only three Standards on the books, and as with the Party Constitution, additions or amendments to Standards can only be made by the Central Committee.
  3. Regulations (条例) - There are 21 Regulations in total, and they too must be approved by the Central Committee. Regulations are comprehensive provisions over certain important areas of Party work or relations. Last year's 6th Plenum, for example, passed the "Regulations on Inner-Party Supervision of the Communist Party of China," which focused on resolving the weakening of the Party's leadership and deficiencies in "Party building."
  4. Rules (规则) -The next four categories of statues occupy a lower level of authority, and can be created and approved by the CCDI, Central Committee departments, and Party committees , autonomous region, and Party committees at provincial-level cities can formulate the remaining policies.
  5. Provisions (规定) - The following three categories cover much more detailed and specific rules and regulations covering, for example, requirements for new Party members, intra-Party promotions/demotions, examinations, "democratic evaluations" (民主评议).
  6. Measures (办法)
  7. Detailed rules (细则)

I hope in the coming few posts to dig a bit deeper into how the Party "strictly governs", as it's one thing to see these rules on paper, but the real interesting stuff is to see how they are interpreted and enforced up and down the hierarchy. If anyone has ideas/thoughts -- or if I've gotten something wrong in the post above --  please let me know.