Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Party School Professor Wang Guixiu wrote his article “Overcoming the Eight Weaknesses of Supervision” to discuss improve upon the old Party panacea of “strengthening supervision” that has been on the lips of party secretaries for years. Supervision, a CPC analogue to oversight isn’t really thoroughgoing oversight since that would fit in poorly with basic principles of the PRC operating system, especially “democratic centralism” and the “people’s democratic dictatorship. If people were really give the more rights to second guess and oppose the decisions of party, the CPC might fear that factionalism and the authority of the party secretaries at each level would be badly weakened. Probably the reason why supervision has never really worked.
Prof. Wang’s article was published online in the Chinese language version of “News of the Chinese Communist Party” in an article reprinted from Beijing Ribao. There are version of this news in several languages including English one can find much harder hitting and well thought out articles in Chinese from China than in English. This may be due to a felt need to protect foreign friends from disillusionment or from a need to protect the national face. Presumably, the Chinese people know all about this kind of problem and the article could even be a reassurance that some people are working on this problem in a more serious way. Chinese scholar regularly come out with well considered analyses and policies that are sometimes adopted in part by the CPC. Adoption and implementation are even further apart in China than elsewhere given the center’s difficulties in imposing it policies on the countryside especially where the interests of local officials are threatened.
The eight weaknesses Prof. Wang pointed out are:
- Only talking about supervision and ignoring the key strategy of division of powers.
- Ignoring the way power is conferred when discussing supervision. This means that top Party officials are elected in multiple level election that begin with individual Party members who elect the people who elect the people who elect the people etc. etc. who choose the top leadership. In practice power runs from the secretary on top telling every on down the line what to do. This is a basic problem of the Chinese system, says Prof. Wang.
- Placing too great an emphasis on supporting and accommodating oneself to the decisions of leaders, and too little to supervision and the necessity for supervision to be independent of leaders.
- Placing too much trust in those being supervised to being self aware and voluntarily complying with supervision guidelines and neglecting compulsory measures. Leaders should obey the rules too.
- Conferring too great a role in supervision to one person.
- Criticism too often is just a matter of words and no action is taken.
- 7. Failure to distinguish rights and privileges and to supervise both power and the rights and privileges assumed by agents who are exercising authority. Although party members and the general public are not strictly the ones conferring authority on party and government officials, stronger supervision on their part would be beneficial.
- 8. Exaggerating the role the Chinese media can play in exercising supervision. The press can help by exposing abuses of official privilege but not so much abuse of power. In case of abuse the press can only speak out but can’t take action. The potential role of the press in solving the supervision problem should not be exaggerated.