Reforming Authoritarianism in Contemporary China

Reflections on Pan Wei's Consultative Rule of Law Regime

  • Gunter Schubert (Autor/in)


Rampant corruption and declining regime legitimacy force the Communist Party to reform the political and legal system of the PRC. There are different opinions on how far these reforms have affected Chinese authoritarianism so far. While some observers have identified higher degree of regime legitimacy achieved by gradual political liberalization in recent years, others have stated reconsolidation of non-democratic one-party rule providing only temporary stability for the political system at best. The PRC leadership, for its part, has repeatedly claimed to work toward' socialist democracy' by separating the Party from the government and subjecting the system to the rule of law. The institutional foundations of 'socialist democracy' may have been spelled out by Beijing scholar Pan Wei by his idea of 'consultative rule of law' modeled along the Hong Kong and Singaporean examples. This paper reconstructs Pan Wei's basic argument for such system and discusses both its conceptual consistency and political practicability. It is suggested in this article that reforming Chinese authoritarianism by implementing legal reforms, modern civil service structure and more mechanisms of political consultation might work for some time. It is argued, however, that 'consultative rule of law' cannot sustain one-party rule in the long run.