An editorial in Caixin comments on the importance of role of law as the government emphasizes “social management,” which has been the topic of three, top-level meetings in the past year:
The social contradictions in today’s China are undoubtedly a threat to social stability. But acknowledging these contradictions can be a first step toward necessary change, and then government leaders can begin laying down principles.
To that end, we fully agree with the Politburo which once declared that the rule of law is the foundation of governance.
The rule of law – unlike rule by law – runs contrary to the idea of rulership by a handful of leaders. The rule of law is based on effective protection of civil liberties and human rights, as well as the effective restraint of state power. Its implementation depends on the existence of an appropriate political, economic and cultural framework.
By contrast, rule by law has no such underlying values. It can be adjusted to fit different governance systems, including rule by a few.
As China prepares to strengthen “social management,” it is vital not to confuse the rule of law and rule by law, nor should we use law as a mere tool for social control. Hence, the Politburo’s commitment to making the rule of law a foundation of its strategy is profound.