Analysis of the revised Regulations on the Rights of Party Members: New-Era Obligations in the Name of Rights?

The Party recently released a revised version of the 2004 CCP Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights 中共中央印发《中国共产党党员权利保障条例》. At the time I commented in the newsletter that:

They are long, and I have only scanned them and the comparison chart the CCDI released. They look to be yet another step towards strengthening Xi as the core and effectively limiting intra-Party Democracy.

I wanted to do a deeper dive and so I reached out to Holly Snape. She is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Glasgow. Before moving to Scotland, she was a fellow at the Research Centre for Chinese Politics at Peking University’s School of Government where she studied Chinese domestic politics and political discourse under Prof. Yu Keping. Her current research focuses on the relationship between the Communist Party and its state, and you can follow her on Twitter here.

What follows is her detailed analysis of the revised rules and what they mean for the Party going forward. This is the first in what I hope will become a regular series of deep dives by academics for broader audiences. You all have gifted me a remarkable platform and I want to start spreading the wealth a bit. If there is topic you think the Sinocism community would be interested in please reach out and we can have a discussion. I will pay for your work.


Regulations on the Rights of Party Members: New-Era Obligations in the Name of Rights? by Holly Snape

“The entire document gives off a thick scent of democracy” (Study Companion, 2004) (1)

After revision, the whole document is threaded through with  the spirit of strictly enforcing rules on discipline”  (CCDI, 2021) (2)

In late December, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP or Party) issued a heavily amended version of its 2004 CCP Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights. This in itself was unsurprising. For the Party, amending these Regulations was probably unavoidable, not least because of Xi Jinping’s aim to overhaul the entire system of intraparty regulations, a part of which has been to freshly issue or amend a raft of regulations on supervision and penalties. Scholars had begun noting the lag between regulations to penalize and supervise its members and the long untouched regulations on protecting their rights.(3) These Regulations were due for revision under the second of two overarching five-year programmes on rebuilding the Party’s internal regulatory system.(4) They were amended by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the Party Organization Department and released in full earlier this month. 

While the amendment itself was expected, the sharp contrast between the new version and its former iteration merits attention. Here, I argue that the new document curtails certain rights and turns others into obligations, all while shifting power from the provinces to the Centre. It further uproots past understandings of democratic centralism and intraparty democracy and locks members into the task of constructing consensus-based compliance, compelling them to “struggle against any behaviour that might shake the Party’s foundations or obstruct the Party’s endeavours.”(5) Related propaganda, in the same vein, cites the Regulations’ aim of harnessing young members’ increasing awareness of rights and channelling it into correct and “regulated” forms. (6)

The amended version brings to mind historian Qin Hui’s analogy of an inchworm (7) —tucking itself up at one end and stretching out at the other—as the Party drags itself in one direction, curtailing some ‘rights’ and strengthening others, and all the while edging away from intraparty democracy and toward stricter self-regulation and dutiful observance of New-Era Party spirit.  

Rights in Relation to What? And Why Do They Matter?

The Party Charter begins from its first article to set out the contract between a person who joins and the Party itself. To join you are meant to be willing to do certain things—recognize the Program and Charter, take part in a Party organization, implement Party resolutions, and promptly pay fees. Article 3 demands fulfilment of a list of obligations. Article 4, continuing the logic of a contract,  states that those who join also have certain rights. It is in this context that Party members are meant to have rights that need safeguarding. In other words, these are member rights vis-à-vis the organization. 

That said, given the division of labour (or lack thereof) between the ‘leading’ Party and the public-power-wielding state, and the political model that rejects a separation of powers, giving ‘rights’ to members is a way for the Party to oversee, manage, and make informed decisions for, itself and its state. Scholars of Chinese politics typically refer to Party member rights in the context of internal Party oversight.(8) Last week, Party propaganda on the amended draft stated plainly, “the proportion of civil servants who are Party members exceeds 80 percent, and at county-level and above it’s over 95 percent. Overseeing state civil servants to ensure they use power correctly...is a necessary part of intraparty oversight. This is not just a right of Party members but a responsibility to the Party.” (9)

In other words, while these are ostensibly rights, granted in return for the obligations and restrictions that a member submits themselves to, the Party is also heavily reliant on members putting their ‘rights’ into action. 

The substance of the rights that the Party grants its members, which has changed during different periods in its history, is a direct reflection of the role that it expects them to play. It can tell us something important about the Party’s approach to governing. While the 2004 Regulations attempted to cultivate some level of intraparty democracy, the 2020 Regulations take a very different course. 

Gauging Change in Relation to What?

The Party first issued specific regulations on safeguarding the rights of Party members in December 1994 (10), but its Charter has contained member rights since the 7th Congress in 1945.(11) Since 1982, the Charter’s wording on them has remained unchanged. 

In their original iteration the rights conferred on all Party members were: 1) the right to participate, in Party meetings or publications, in free, earnest discussion on issues regarding the implementation of Party policies; 2) the right to vote and be voted for inside the Party; 3) the right to put forward suggestions and statements to any organ right up to the Centre; and 4) the right, at a Party meeting, to criticise anyone working for the Party. (12)

There is some similarity with member rights today, with the current Charter listing eight items, including discussion, voting, suggesting, and criticising. Added to this are the rights to attend meetings, read documents, and receive training; to plead one’s case in disciplinary cases; to maintain a difference of opinion on a decision on the proviso of strict implementation; and to submit a request, appeal or accusation to a higher-level Party organization. (13)

To examine changes in the new Regulations I refer to the provisional version from 1994 and the 2004 Regulations. I consider them in the context of the broader regulatory system. This is particularly important due to the Party’s regulatory overhaul. Unlike the approach to Party regulating in the past few decades, when regulations were introduced in fits and starts as needed, new regulations today fit under a more systematic, planned design. This means that they complement, reinforce, and otherwise interact with each other more than in the past. I also refer to the propaganda surrounding the document’s issuance. Much of this comes from the CCDI which is, along with the Party Organization Department, responsible for interpreting the document.

In the rest of this article, I attempt to explain the new document’s significance: first, by noting key changes in its basic format; second, by explaining what I see as two major adjustments in the principles that underpin it; and third, by examining some of the specific content of these ‘rights.’ 

Change in Basic Format

First, banal as it may be, a newly added Article 2 needs noting as it modifies the entire document. Its statement is by now all too familiar: the safeguarding of Party member rights “shall uphold...Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a New Era, strengthen the Four Consciousnesses, uphold the Four Confidences, (and) live up to the Two Protects...” Its inclusion reminds that this is a “New Era”—with new ways of doing things—and that whatever other terms or concepts appear below, they should be interpreted in reference to this list of formulations. 

Take for example “Alignment Consciousness” (看齐意识).(14) This was originally introduced in 2016 with the wording “Party organizations at every level and all Party members...shall align themselves (看齐) with the Party Centre...and with the Party Centre’s decisions and plans, resolutely responding to what the Party Centre advocates, doing what the Party Centre decides, and not doing anything the Party Centre prohibits.” (15) Since 2016 Party and state documents and study sessions have used the Four Consciousnesses so frequently that their inclusion here follows the norm. The message is unmistakably obedience to the Centre. Party members must judge and be judged as to whether they are correctly exercising their rights in this current political context. 

Second, altered chapter names reinforce shifts in content. In 1994 Chapter Two was titled “Rights Enjoyed by Party Members.” In 2004 it was “Party Member Rights.” The new version adds “The Exercise of”(党员权利的行使) underscoring that exercising these rights is not optional and that the chapter will detail the precise ways in which that should happen. (16)

Third, the new Regulations invent proper names for member rights—the “intraparty right to be in the know,” the “intraparty participation in discussion right,” and so on—as if endowing members with something more sacrosanct. Propaganda, meanwhile, has made much of the Charter’s eight ‘aspects’ being transformed into thirteen ‘rights,’ as if more names mean more rights (in fact it seems more is less). This actually boxes off each ‘right’ (sometimes in groups different from those in the Charter), naming and then describing particular parameters while downplaying some and highlighting others. 

Fourth, the new Regulations appear to re-centralize power.In its “Supplementary Articles,” the document no longer states permission for provincial-level Party committees to make their own implementing regulations. Only the Central Military Commission retains this right. The Centre seems to be revoking the power of localities to put their own spin on Party member rights.  

General Principles 

Is a Right that Is Obligatory Still a Right? 

The notion that member rights are inseparable from obligations is not new (17), nor is the expectation that members act on these rights. But the new Regulations arguably remould rights into compulsory responsibilities, making them obligations in the name of rights. 

In its “General Principles” the new version breaks with past iterations in the way it states the relationship between rights and obligations: 

2004: “Uphold the unity of rights and obligations (权利与义务相统一). Party members should correctly exercise each of the rights stipulated by the Party Charter, and act within the scope of the Constitution and law, and at the same time must carry out Party Charter stipulated obligations” (18)

2020: “Uphold the unity of obligations and rights (义务和权利相统一), earnestly carry out the obligations stipulated by the Party Charter, correctly exercise each right, and act within the scope of the Constitution and law.” 

In 2020, obligations come before rights. An intervening clause on law which previously appeared in between rights and obligations has been cleared out of the way; and “at the same time” is deleted. The inseparability of obligations with rights is driven home and the focus is on obligation.

In case this shift is too subtle, Article 4, hammers home the change: “Party members should strengthen their Party consciousness” (19) and “treat exercising the rights stipulated in the Party Charter as a responsibility toward the Party that they should fulfil” (对党应尽的责任). 

Accompanying explanatory propaganda further reinforces this. Citing Xi’s “theoretical innovations,” CCDI Regulations Department director Zou Kaihong stresses that “democratic oversight by Party members is not just a right but a responsibility to the Party to be fulfilled.” (20)

From Intraparty Democracy to “Enthusiasm Plus Party Spirit” (既激发热情,又按照党性) 

In 2004, the professed purpose of amending the Regulations was “promoting the development of intraparty democracy, improving the Party’s governing capacity.”(21) The Party issued those Regulations immediately after the 16th Central Committee 4th Plenum—a plenum that had focused on strengthening the Party’s governing capacity and had emphasised the role of “democracy” in doing so.(22) In this context, the 2004 Regulations, the Central Notice that introduced them, and the accompanying Party propaganda and study materials all stressed intraparty democracy. (23)

In contrast, the 2020 version shrivels intraparty democracy, touting instead a New Era version thereof. Its “General Principles” state: 

“Uphold democracy and centralism in combination, both inspiring Party members’ enthusiasm for participating in intraparty affairs while also requiring (that they) exercise their rights according to the Party spirit principle (党性原则).” 

In propaganda accompanying the new Regulations this is expressed as “a unity of exercising democratic rights and upholding the Party spirit principle” (行使民主权利与坚持党性原则的统一). (24)

Allusions to Party spiritedness go back a long way. After the CCP became sole governing Party, in 1953, Mao used it to argue for centralism. Without Party spirit, he claimed: “independent kingdoms would proliferate, and hundreds of feudal princes would emerge...Opinions are welcome, but to undermine Party unity would be a most shameful thing.” (25)

But the notion of Party spirit is slippery, and it derives contemporary meaning from the Party’s shifting canon of speeches and regulations. (26) Xi has ordered that Party spirit be made a core part of study throughout the Party school system, the media, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Party’s organizational system supports enforcement by compelling members to actively demonstrate that they are sufficiently Party spirited, in the contemporary sense. The 2016 Code of Conduct for Intraparty Political Life Under New Circumstances (hereafter “Code of Conduct”) requires that regular Party meetings make Party spirit a key focus. A member’s Party spirit is then weighed up in “democratic assessments” and those deemed to be doing poorly should “promptly receive criticism and guidance and make positive changes within a certain time period.” 

The demand that Party members exercise their rights in the way that Party spirit dictates necessarily alters the uses to which their “enthusiasm” can be directed. 

Specific Rights 

  1. The intraparty right to be in the know (党内知情权)

This may have gained a shiny new name, but what it may lose is more important. The 2020 Regulations contrasts with its no-frills predecessors, which both stated two rights: “Party members have the right to participate in...meetings” and “Party members have the right to read...documents.” The new Regulations subsume the two under one name and, through further modification, potentially diminish its substance.   

The 2020 Regulations no longer list the types of meetings that members have the right to attend. One implication of this is that they drop the explicit statement of the “right to attend meetings related to posts in the Party assumed by the member” (有权参加....与其担任的党内职务....相应的会议). While this might be covered by the general statement “attend relevant meetings,” the modification creates room for manoeuvre.  

In the past, on the right to attend any meeting related to one’s posts within the Party, a Study Companion to the 2004 Regulations explained: “this includes Party Central Committee meetings, Politburo meetings, and Politburo Standing Committee meetings.” (27) The removal of this explicit statement of a right previously enjoyed begs the question: what is to be gained by dropping it? Do, for example, all Politburo members retain the inviolable right to attend all Politburo meetings? (28) Perhaps the drafters had no intention of leaving anyone out, but it would be interesting to see a similar study companion volume explaining the change. 

Another amendment is less obvious but just as notable. Explanatory content seems to modify, and thereby narrow, the right to participate in meetings and read documents. Article 7 imitates the Party Charter’s wording but not its grammar. In Chinese, the relationship between clauses often demands interpretation.(29) Here, the Regulations alter the relationship between the parts stipulated in the Charter, swapping the Charter’s comma for a slight pause mark (i.e. 、instead of , ). This loops “meetings and documents” closer together (like adding “&”) instead of listing them in parallel like the Charter:  

2017 Charter: “participate in meetings, read documents, receive education and training” 

(参加...会议,阅读...文件,接受...教育和培训). 

2020 Regulations: “participate in meetings & read documents, [to]find out about”  

(参加...会议、阅读...文件,了解...) 

The result is the possible impression that the content which follows modifies being in the know, making the purpose of both participating in meetings and reading documents: “[to] find out about the Party’s line, program, policies and resolutions, their own Party organization’s implementation of the Party Centre’s decisions and arrangements...” and so on. This would significantly shrink the parameters of this grandly named right. 

  1. The intraparty participation in discussion right (党内参加讨论权)

In 1980, in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution and Mao’s death, an important document titled A Number of Norms Regarding Intraparty Political Life (关于党内政治生活的若干准则) addressed Party member rights. It stated, “Party members have the right, in Party meetings and publications, to participate in discussion on issues regarding the formulation and implementation of the Party’s policies.” This, and the spirit it captures, is unmistakably altered through the new 2020 Regulations on member rights in concert with the 2016 Code of Conduct that supplanted the 1980 document. (30)

The 2004 Regulations basically continued the spirit of that earlier document, pursuing as it did incremental advances in intraparty democracy. It encouraged “the broad masses of members to assuredly go right ahead and exercise this right” to “help the Party organization make scientific decisions.” (31)

In a twist to this right, the new Regulations swap “discussion” alone for “study-discussion” (学习讨论). It is now described as “the right to...participate in study-discussion...” (32) Is ‘study-discussion’ the same thing as “discussion”? Of course, we could also read this as “study [and] discussion.” But it could also mean that discussion and study go hand in hand, which would break the soul of the right and the clause adjacent to it (“and fully express views”). 

Discussion is further modified with the requirement of alignment with the Party Centre. This is not new, but it is altered. While the 2004 Regulations state that, in the process of discussing, Party members “should consciously stay closely in line with the Party Centre” this is followed immediately by the clause “[they] must not publicly express views and opinions that violate the Party’s basic line...” The Party has long stressed a distinction between internal and external and, internally, the management over the scope of dissemination (“publicly” here might by be understood as “publicly within the Party as opposed to being kept within a specific organization or circle”). The 2004 version of the Regulations adopts this logic.(33)

In contrast, in the 2020 version of this right—which includes “intraparty” in its new name—the crux is not whether dissenting views are expressed inside, outside,or within certain intraparty circles, but whether they are expressed at all. 

  1. The intraparty oversight right (党内监督权)(34)

This name is created to correspond to, and arguably adjust the emphasis of, Article 4.4 in the Charter. The latter reads (members have the right to): 

“At Party meetings, criticise with grounds any Party organization and any member; responsibly expose or report to the Party any disciplinary or legal violation by any Party organization or member; ....” 

The relationship between clauses, as it is expressed above (note the semicolons), comes from the official English translation. It treats “the right to criticise” as relatively independent, followed in a separate clause by “expose or report.” (35) This reading is supported by textbooks from past decades to guide implementation (36) as well as by contemporary scholarship.(37) The right as expressed in the Charter has a number of elements. The first is criticism. 

The right to criticise was included in the 7th Congress Charter in 1945, worded as “at Party meetings, criticize any worker of the Party.” (38) Liu Shaoqi, in his “Report on Amending the Party Charter” stressed its line “criticising any Party worker at a Party meeting, including any Party member in a position of responsibility, is an inviolable right of every Party member.” (39) While avoiding an oversimplistic comparison between the spirit of the ‘right’ then and now, it is worth noting that the current Regulations underscore criticism’s role as part of an oversightright which is directly linked to calling out corruption and other types of misconduct (over ideology, for example) that Xi is not fond of.  

In safeguarding this right, the new Regulations order Party organizations to “support and encourage members to carry forward the spirit of struggle” (斗争精神) and to “struggle against all kinds of discipline and law breaking (违纪违法) behaviour and misconduct.” (40) Criticism as a right—and an obligation—in the Party has long been an essential element of the Party’s modus operandi. These new Regulations combine it closely with “exposing and informing” under the “oversight right” moniker and subsume it under calls for such struggle. (41) With this, something of the breadth of possibility of criticism seems to be lost. The spotlight is placed on keeping tight discipline, compelling Party members to use their rights-cum-obligations to implement Xi’s favoured approach of “comprehensively managing the Party strictly.”    

Conclusion: An Inchworm in Action?

Ultimately, in my understanding, there are two main shifts under the new Regulations, which take place through re-centralised interpretation. On the one hand, the Regulations attempt to enervate debate, cordoning it in and channelling it toward emulating the top-down line. On the other, they galvanise and compel Party members to speak up and act in ways that display commitment to the policies of the New Era, channelling their energies into calling out corruption, ideological misconduct, and anything else the current leadership determines detrimental to its cause.

The Party is, by nature, reliant on its members to exercise their rights. However, as ‘rights’ become increasingly indistinguishable from obligations, what becomes of the contract between member and organization? If members are obliged to play out ‘rights’ increasingly geared toward Xi’s vision of Party management will this eventually lead to an irreversibly altered Party? For now, at least, it seems evident that these Regulations help the Party inchworm crawl further in the New Era’s direction: a little further from internal debate and a little closer toward obligatory compliance with centralised command. 

End notes:

1 “条例通篇露出浓厚的民主气息,力求用发展党内民主、健全党内生活的方式。”

《中国共产党党员权利保障条例辅导本》(Study Companion to the CCP Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights), This Book’s Editorial Team ed., People’s Publishing House, Beijing, 2004: 4.

2 “修订后的《条例》将严明纪律规矩的精神贯穿全篇” see《解读党员权利保障条例① 激励党员自觉发挥先锋模范作用 促进党员正确行使权利》(Interpreting the Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights [1] Inspiring Party Members to Consciously Play an Advanced Exemplary Role, Promoting Party Members’ Correct Exercise of Rights), 8 Jan 2021, available at: http://www.ccdi.gov.cn/yaowen/202101/t20210108_233474.html.

3 Song Jin (宋金) 《十八大以来党的监督保障法规建设研究》(A Study on the Party’s Oversight Safeguard Regulations Since the 18th National Party Congress) Peking University MA thesis, 2020:61.  

4《中央党内法规制定工作第二个五年规划(2018-2022年)》Second Five-Year Programme for Formulating Party Regulations (2018–2022).

5 “同一切可能动摇党的根基、阻碍党的事业的行为作斗争” This is from the Xinhua report on the Politburo Meeting that reviewed the Regulations, see: 中共中央政治局召开会议 审议《军队政治工作条例》《中国共产党统一战线工作条例》和《中国共产党党员权利保障条例》 中共中央总书记习近平主持会议, 10 Dec 2020, available at: http://iplr.whu.edu.cn/info/1030/6085.htm. Note, “struggling” against “different kinds of erroneous thought and action” as an aim of Party member rights is not new (see, for example, 《中国共产党党员权利保障条例学习问答》(Study Q&A on the CCP Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights), This Book’s Editorial Team ed., People’s Publishing House, Beijing 2004:22). However, the extent, content, and culture created in 2020 is arguably very different. 

6 See 解读党员权利保障条例① 激励党员自觉发挥先锋模范作用 促进党员正确行使权利 (Interpreting the Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights [1] Inspiring Party Members to Consciously Play an Advanced Exemplary Role, Promoting Party Members’ Correct Exercise of Rights), 8 Jan 2021, CCDI-NSC Website, available at: http://www.ccdi.gov.cn/yaowen/202101/t20210108_233474.html.

7 Qin Hui (秦晖) uses this to explain how the Party uses both the ‘left’ and ‘right’ to ultimately move in one direction. See (no paywall)《破除两种尺蠖效应互动——全球经济危机的缘由及根本解决之道》, Ai sixiang, 23 Apr 2009, available at:  http://www.aisixiang.com/data/26596.html; (paywalled) Qin Hui and Huiqing Liu. Small Government, Big Society? What Role for the State in the Chinese Transition Process? Social Research, 2006: 29-52. 

8  See for example He Zengke (何增科)“政治监督” In Yu Keping (俞可平) ed. 中国的治理变迁 (1978–2018) Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press 2018: 230–262.

9《身为共产党员,这些党内权利你要知道》(As a Party Member, These Intraparty Rights You Need to Know About) 6 Jan 2021, 学习小组 WeChat account, also available at: https://www.sohu.com/a/442928491_120207619.

10《中国共产党党员权利保障条例(试行)》 See Jin Zhao (金钊) 《新编青年学生入党培训教材》 (New Training Materials for Student Youth Entering the Party) People’s Publishing House, Beijing, 2007:100.  

11  Zhong Ziyao (钟子尧) 《改革开放以来中国共产党党内法规建设研究》(A Study on CCP Regulation Building Since Reform and Opening), Peking University MA thesis, 2014:61. This was not the first time rights were mentioned (the right to speak and to vote appeared in the first amended version of the Charter in 1923, see《中国共产党第一次修正章程》Resolution of the 3rd National Party Congress, Jul 1923, available at: http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64162/64168/64555/4428213.html). But the 7th Congress was the first time they were treated as a full set of rights paired with a full set of obligations.

12 See《中国共产党党章》(Charter of the Communist Party of China) passed on 11 Jun 1945 at 7th National Party Congress, available at: http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64162/64168/64559/4442095.html.

13 For the full official English translation of the current version of the Party Charter, in which they appear (in Article 4) see: http://www.xinhuanet.com//english/download/Constitution_of_the_Communist_Party_of_China.pdf

14 One of the Four Consciousnesses (四个意识). Elizabeth Economy translates this as “emulative consciousness” stressing the need to imitate (see The third revolution: Xi Jinping and the new Chinese state. Oxford University Press, 2018: 23). I use “alignment” based on the official translation because I think it fits with both the term’s use under Xi and its origins as a military term used by Mao in 1945 during a preparatory meeting for the 7th Party Congress “向中央基准看齐,向大会基准看齐.” See Wang Changjiang (王长江) 《党的建设》(Party Building) In Yu Keping (俞可平) ed. 中国的治理变迁 (1978–2018) Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press 2018: 54.

15中国共产党第十八届中央委员会第六次全体会议公报 (Communiqué of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China) 27 Oct 2016.

6 Zou Kaihong (邹开红), CCDI-National Supervision Commission Regulations Department head, has been reinforcing this in media interviews (e.g. on CCTV 13 and the CCDI-NSC’s own website). He says this title change is to stress that “members have to bring a strong sense of political responsibility toward the Party (党员要本着对党高度负责的政治责任感) in exercising their rights ‘correctly.’ See https://news.dayoo.com/gzrbrmt/202101/05/158541_53740411.htm.

7 “党员的权利和义务是互相制约,互相促进的” Study Companion to the CCP Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights), This Book’s Editorial Team ed., People’s Publishing House, Beijing, 2004:26.

8  The 1994 version was similar to the 2004 version: “Upholding the principle of the unity of rights and obligations, Party members must exercise their rights according to the stipulations of the Party Charter, and act within the scope of the Constitution and law, and at the same time must carry out Party Charter stipulated obligations.”

9 This is the translation of 党的观念 used in the official translation of the Code of Conduct issued in 2016.

20 See 在线访谈丨中央纪委国家监委法规室主任邹开红解读新修订的《中国共产党党员权利保障条例》(Online Interview: Zou Kaihong, Head of the CCDI-National Supervision Commission Regulations Department, Interprets the Newly Amended CCP Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights) 5 Jan 2021, available at: http://v.ccdi.gov.cn/2021/01/05/VIDEChSb3BdIzxGoNnVBvdBi210105.shtml

See also 《激励党员自觉发挥先锋模范作用 促进党员正确行使权利》(Inspiring Party Members to Consciously Play an Advanced Exemplary Role, Promoting Party Members’ Correct Exercise of Rights) 8 Jan 2021, available at: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/vHCCGubdYOaxVffmFplNww.

21  Wu Guanzheng (吴官正) 保障党员权利  发展党内民主 (speech on 25 Oct 2004) In《正道直行——党风廉政建设的实践与思考》People’s Publishing House, Beijing, 2008: 317–321.

22 See 《中共中央关于加强党的执政能力建设的决定》(CCP Central Committee Decision on Strengthening the Governing Capacity of the Party) 19 Sept 2004 available at: http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64162/64168/64569/65412/6348330.html.

23 Two years earlier, the 16th Party Congress report had stated that intraparty democracy is “the life of the Party” (党的生命) and that “safeguarding Party members’ rights is the foundation” of intraparty democracy. The 2004 Central Committee Notice on the Regulations states “its promulgation and implementation is an important move in developing intraparty democracy, building better intraparty life, and strengthening Party governing capacity building” see  中共中央关于印发《中国共产党党员权利条例中国共产党党员权利条例》的通知 (22 Sept 2004) In CCP Central Committee Literature Research Institute ed.《十六大以来重要文献选编(中)》(Compilation of Important Documents Since the 16th National Congress) Central Literature Publishing House, Beijing: 2006:349. See also 《社论:发展党内民主保障党员权利的重大举措》which claims “the Regulations’ promulgation is of deeply important significance in implementing the spirit of the 16th Congress and 16th Central Committee’s 4th plenum, upholding and improving the principle of democratic centralism ...further developing intraparty democracy, and improving Party governing capacity” 

available at: https://www.ccps.gov.cn/zt/lxyzxxjy/dnfgzd/201812/t20181211_117263_1.shtml.

24 “行使民主权利与坚持党性原则的统一” See《激励党员自觉发挥先锋模范作用 促进党员正确行使权利》(Inspiring Party Members to Consciously Play an Advanced Exemplary Role, Promoting Party Members’ Correct Exercise of Rights) 8 Jan 2021, available at: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/vHCCGubdYOaxVffmFplNww.

25 See “Combat Bourgeois Ideas in the Party” 12 Aug 1953, In Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung Vol. V, People’s Publishing House, Beijing, 1977:109. Before this, in May 1941, Mao also argued that it was “the absence of the Marxist-Leninist approach of uniting theory and practice” that showed that “Party spirit is either absent or deficient,” see “Reform our Study” In Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung Vol. III, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1965:22.

26 Changes can be traced over time. See, for example, Hu Jintao’s speech《领导干部要带头增强党性》 21 July 1995 In 胡锦涛文选(第一卷)Selected Works of Hu Jintao Vol. I,People’s Publishing House, Beijing, 2016:161–187.

27《中国共产党党员权利保障条例辅导本》Study Companion to the CCP Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights), This Book’s Editorial Team ed., People’s Publishing House, Beijing, 2004:36.

28 The 2020 Central Committee Work Regulations stipulate that a Politburo meeting can go ahead as long as over half its members are present (Art. 25): “中央政治局会议应当有半数以上中央政治局委员到会方可召开,” available at: http://www.xinhuanet.com/politics/zywj/2020-10/12/c_1126597105.htm.   

29 In official document translation this is a key focus of research and debate. It is often covered in great detail in books written by translators of leaders’ works and official documents. The greatest challenge is understanding the often inexplicit and at times even intrinsically ambiguous relationship between elements of a sentence. Interpreting the relationship between clauses can alter dramatically the meaning ascribed to a text.  

30 According to Xi Jinping’s speech explaining the new Code, the 2016 document did not replace that 1980 document. But by listing specific parts of the document to be retained the speech actually conveys that much of it is now redundant. 

31 The Study Companion to the 2004 Regulations (Op. cit., 2004: 41–3) explained the reasoning: “where do correct policies come from? [Where do] scientific policies come from? They don’t drop down from the sky...they can only come from practice, from the masses. Given that Party members are advanced elements among those masses, their participating in discussion of Party policies and theory at Party meetings is an important form of promoting intraparty democracy.”

32 2004 Regulations: “Party members have the right, at Party meetings, to participate in discussion on the Party’s policies and questions of theory, and fully express their own opinions.” 2020 Regulations: “Party members have the intraparty participation in discussion right [; they] have the right, in Party meetings and Party newspapers and journals, to participate in study-discussion on Party theory and policies, and fully express opinions.”

33 A Number of Norms Regarding Intraparty Political Life adopted this notion of managing the scope of discussion: “when it comes to major political questions of theory and policies...when there are different opinions, [we] can discuss them in an appropriate arena within the Party” (可以在党内适当的场合进行讨论) with the Centre deciding on the timing, means, and in which publication. The 2004 Regulations followed a similar logic: members should be able to discuss, disagree, and suggest alternative reasoning but this should happen in an organized way. It should be managed by central or local party organizations and members should “not take it upon themselves to spread views or opinions violating the Party’s basic line...among the masses,” see Study Companion (Op. cit., 2004:43–4).

34 The documents issued at the 18th Central Committee 6th Plenum in 2016, including the Code of Conduct for Intraparty Political Life Under New Circumstances (which, as a Code [准则] ranks higher than the Party member rights Regulations [条例]), use the term “oversight right” (监督权). This supports and complements a certain reading of the general tenor and substance of this right in the “New Era.”

35 The most recent version is available here: http://www.xinhuanet.com//english/download/Constitution_of_the_Communist_Party_of_China.pdf

36 See for example 《中国共产党党员权利保障条例学习问答》(Study Q&A on the CCP Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights), This Book’s Editorial Team ed., People’s Publishing House, Beijing 2004, which asks separate questions for each separate clause, e.g,: “why must a Party member, when criticising any Party organization or member, have grounds (for doing so)?”, “Why do Party members have the right to expose and report to the Party organization the law or discipline violations

of any Party organization or any Party member?” (81–82). It is sometimes referred to as “the right to criticize” (批评权).

37As Li Zhongjie (李忠杰), a current Central Party School scholar, points out about criticism “the key is ‘any’ (任何)...whether or not we can genuinely live up to the notion of (criticising) ‘any’ (member) is a matter of the life of the Party.” See Li Zhongjie 《党章内外的故事》 (Stories on the Ins and Outs of the Party Charter) Zhonggong dangshi chubanshe, Beijing, 2019:68–69.

38 “在党的会议上批评党的任何工作人员。” See 《中国共产党党章》(Charter of the Communist Party of China) passed on 11 Jun 1945 at 7th National Party Congress, available at:

http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64162/64168/64559/4442095.html.

39 See Liu Shaoqi (刘少奇) 《关于修改党章的报告》(Report on Amending the Party Charter) available at: http://news.southcn.com/ztbd/16thcpc/constitution/200211071018.htm.

40 The order used in past versions was “law and discipline breaking” (违法违纪).

41In the “New Era,” unlike in the past when if a member broke discipline but not law they would be likely let off, under Xi the Party has made Party discipline increasingly binding. It has put particular weight on “establishing discipline and rules, making them strict, and seeing they’re implemented.” See Wang Changjiang (Op. cit., 2018: 55).