Help the people understand the importance of the rule of law
June 28, 1986
While we are correcting unhealthy tendencies and cracking down on crime, we must leave matters that fall within the scope of the law to judicial institutions; it is not appropriate for the Party to concern itself with such matters. The Party should concern itself with inner-Party discipline, leaving legal problems to the state and the government. If the Party intervenes in everything, it will not help the people understand the importance of the rule of law. This is a question of the relations between the Party and the government, of the political structure of the country. I think we should raise this question at the Thirteenth National Party Congress next year and try to straighten it out.
Right now the Party is concentrating on rectifying the conduct of its own members, but at the same time we are trying to strengthen the rule of law in society at large. Our country has no tradition of observing or enforcing laws. Since the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee we have been working on establishing a legal system -- that is indispensable. People's understanding of the rule of law is related to their educational level. One reason for the high crime rate among young people who are simply lawless and have no scruples about committing crimes is that their level of general education is too low. To strengthen the rule of law, therefore, the most important thing is to educate people. Education about the law should begin at an early age and be carried out in all our primary and secondary schools and in the society at large. In the effort to correct unhealthy tendencies, problems that fall within the scope of the law and concern society as a whole should be solved by strengthening the legal system and educating the people. We should review our experience in this respect so as to improve our work.
In addition, we should review our experience of the way in which the Party exercises leadership over the government. Since the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, we have been calling for separating the functions of the Party and the government. We uphold the Party's leadership, but the problem is whether the Party is doing a good job of leading. It should give effective leadership and not intervene in too many matters. The Central Committee should take the lead in this regard. What I am proposing will not weaken the Party's leadership. On the contrary, its leadership will be weakened if it tries to take responsibility for too many areas. I'm afraid that's the truth of the matter. The last time I talked with some comrades about economic work, I called their attention to the necessity of reforming the political structure, including the need to separate the functions of the Party and the government and to delegate powers to lower levels.
I suggest that our leading comrades of the Central Committee, especially those in the Secretariat, consider this question. They might first spend a year or so making investigations, identifying the problems and drawing up a workable plan before taking any action. The reform of the political structure and the reform of the economic structure are interdependent and should be coordinated. Without political reform, economic reform cannot succeed, because the first obstacle to be overcome is people's resistance. It is human beings who will -- or will not -- carry out the reform. For instance, we encourage devolution of powers, but other people take powers back. What can we do about it? So in the final analysis, the success of all our other reforms depends on the success of the political reform.
In the first half of this year we have scored some achievements in rectifying Party conduct. But let's not overestimate them, for they are only a beginning. When we said that we needed to spend two years concentrating on this work, we didn't mean that that would be the end of it. We only meant that we didn't necessarily need to set up a permanent body for this purpose. Our efforts to open to the outside world and invigorate the domestic economy are bound to have some undesirable side effects. If we fail to cope with them, our work will take the wrong direction. As long as we pursue the policies of opening to the outside world and invigorating the domestic economy, we shall have to continue our efforts to improve Party conduct, correct bad tendencies and crack down on crime. This is going to be a long-term task to be fulfilled throughout the period of the reform. It is the only way to ensure the correct implementation of our policies.
(Talk at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.)
(From Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Volume III <1982-1992>)