Reading the tea leaves of China’s rule-of-law project
A push to codify party leadership into law and enshrine “socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics” suggests that the Chinese Communist Party acknowledges the legitimating power of law. At the same time, China under Xi Jinping continues to bypass state legal requirements through extra-legal detentions and other coercive measures. This has included the detention of up to 1 million ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang and the arrest of Canadian and Australian citizens without due process. The end game of Xi’s push to institutionalise and legalise party leadership over the law is uncertain. Emphasising party leadership raises concerns about increased politicisation of decision-making, with less transparency and accountability, threatening not only economic and social development, but also the rule-of-law project that is intended to enhance party legitimacy.