In a bold analysis making the rounds in print media and on the Internet yesterday, Wang Guixiu (王贵秀), a scholar with the Party School of CPC Central Committee, criticized normative approaches to “power monitoring” in China, saying they were based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the notion of power relationships and the delegation of power. Effective monitoring, he argued, could only come with “rational decentralization”, in which power was delegated through an electoral process and officials were monitored independently by those who entrusted them with power.
The article, which addresses with rare boldness the question of political reform in China, also touches in its conclusion on the issue of media monitoring, or “watchdog journalism.” While affirming the importance of so-called “watchdog journalism”, or “supervision by public opinion”, in China, the author argues that it is not a true form of power monitoring as it fails to meet the test of “rational decentralization”:
News watchdog journalism (新闻舆论监督) is an extremely important and special form of monitoring. In Western countries it has been called “the fourth estate,” which places it alongside the legislative, judicial and executive branches as fourth branch of power. This idea [of media as independent monitors of power] has been trumpeted by a lot of people in China since economic reforms began. But this is actually a misunderstanding, a specific case in the confusion of what should, as watchdog journalism [in China], be classed as “rights monitoring” (权利监督) with “power monitoring” (权力监督).
While watchdog journalism is an irreplaceable form of supervision, says Wang, it cannot be truly effective without the political reform required for it to operate independently. “However, watchdog journalism, without the proper assistance, if it is not backed up by ‘power monitoring,’ cannot serve the purpose and function it should have. On the contrary, it will suffer grave danger, facing violence and revenge such as ordinary people can scarcely imagine, being entirely snuffed out.”
Selected portions of the Wang Guixiu article follow:
How can we talk about monitoring without rational decentralization?
In the checking and monitoring of public power, the necessary condition is rational decentralization.
Without rational decentralization, there is no way to check or monitor power. But for a long time now, we have been on guard or even in terror of the “separation of the three powers” (三权分立) of the West and have not dared speak of “separation of powers” (分权).
In fact, this is a major misunderstanding. It goes against Marxist theories of political power, and is incommensurate with the basic facts of our own political structure [in China]. Marxism has never, generally speaking, opposed separation of powers, and even less has it opposed rational decentralization …
When all is said and done, monitoring implies a special kind of relationship of power constraint, and it is an important embodiment of the relationship involved in the delegation of power. It means monitoring and supervision by those who delegate power of those to whom power is entrusted (委托权对受托权的监督和督促). This [question of relationship] is the real issue in the monitoring of power. However, we have for a long time grown accustomed to treating and grappling with the question of power monitoring without addressing this real issue.
If we wish to address the problem of ineffective power monitoring beginning with fundamentals, we must have a grasp of the real nature of power monitoring, working out and adjusting relationships of power delegation (调整和理顺权力授受关系), building within the party a chain of power delegation based on elections in proper order (依次选举的授权链), from “Party member (election, delegation) → representative congresses (election, delegation) → full committees (election, delegation) → standing committees (election, delegation).” To be able to accomplish this, we must fundamentally change the existing inverted chain of power delegation, [a top-down bureaucracy in which] – “secretary working meetings (书记办公会) [delegate power to] → standing committees (常委会) [which delegate power to] → full committees (全委会) [which delegate power to] → representative congresses (代表大会) [which delegate power to] → party members (党员),” and this includes eliminating the “secretary working meetings” [of core leaders in a given jurisdiction], which go against the letter of the Party Constitution. This is the deep foundation on which the strengthening of internal-party monitoring is based …
For a long time, when we talk about power monitoring we have emphasized “cooperation” and coordination between those being monitored and those carrying out monitoring. We have overlooked the relative independence [required of] monitors and monitoring [in general], and we have neglected the [necessary] “estrangement” (异体性) of monitor and monitored. Under the influence of such notions [of monitoring], our monitoring bodies have been placed routinely under the control of those monitored, so that [these bodies] are perhaps in every aspect controlled by and adhere to those being monitored, and monitors have no independence to speak of. This means our special monitoring bodies are fundamentally incapable of independently carrying out monitoring, and so “impartial and incorruptible monitoring” (铁面无私的监督) is altogether impossible.
Power monitoring is actually an act of checking on limiting of those monitored by the monitoring body, and so, as far as those monitored are concerned, it is always an act that comes from an “outside” (异体) body. This means that monitors and those monitored, monitoring and the act of being monitored, must always be “estranged” (异体), and are never “of the same body” (同体). Often, we talk about “self monitoring” (自我监督) or “internal monitoring” (内部监督), which means monitoring between parts within an organizational system, rather than a part [within an organizational system] placing checks on itself.
Our so-called “internal party monitoring” (党内监督) refers to monitoring between parts of the vast party organizational system, such as superior [party] organs of subordinate ones, the disciplinary commission of party organizations or party members, or party members of leadership organs . . . These are, without exception, cases of one part monitoring another. Any checking of one part against another may be called “self restraint” (自我克制), or “self-examination” (自省), or “self-discipline” (自律), but it is fundamentally not “monitoring.”
“Studying the Three Represents“, Joseph Fewsmith, China Leadership Monitor [mentions Wang Guixiu on page 5 as a “campaigner” for internal-party democracy]
“Social Issues Move to Center Stage“, Joseph Fewsmith, China Leadership Monitor
“China reduces party posts for efficient governance“, Embassy of the PRC in the U.S., November 3, 2006 [quotes Wang Guixiu]
[Posted by David Bandurski, May 16, 2007, 1:15pm]