|China Table of Contents
The party constitution adopted in September 1982 at the Twelfth National Party Congress clearly defines the powers and functions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and it assigns the party a pivotal role in guiding national efforts toward a communist social system. Although the party constitution sets legal limits on CCP activities, the party's role in areas of political, ideological, and organizational leadership is authoritative and unquestioned.
The organizational principle that drives the Chinese political system is democratic centralism. Within the system, the democratic feature demands participation and expression of opinion on key policy issues from members at all levels of party organization. It depends on a constant process of consultation and investigation. At the same time, the centralist feature requires that subordinate organizational levels follow the dictates of superior levels. Once the debate has reached the highest level and decisions concerning policy have been made, all party members are obliged to support the Central Committee.
In the party constitution, and in other major policy statements, the CCP diminished the role of centralism by abolishing the post of party chairman, by prohibiting any future cult of personality, and by emphasizing the importance of collective leadership. Most of the aged revolutionary veterans who had worked for years under the highly centralized party organization dominated by Mao Zedong were made honorary advisers, elected to the Central Advisory Commission initiated at the Twelfth Congress. Although their prestige remained intact, these leaders were effectively removed from direct participation in the policy-making process. This development permitted their replacement by younger leaders more supportive of the Four Modernizations. In addition, the new party constitution emphasized the party's role in promoting socialist democracy, in developing and strengthening a socialist legal system, and in consolidating public resolve to carry out the modernization program.
The priorities expounded at the Twelfth National Party Congress were designed not only to improve the organizational cohesion and morale of the party and government but also to hasten prosperity and foster national power. The congress endorsed programs from the Eleventh National Party Congress that stressed stability and unity, balance between ideology and technical skill, collective rather than individual leadership, party discipline, training of successors at all levels of party organization, and a more relaxed climate for intraparty debate on major national and local issues. The economic policies of the Twelfth National Party Congress continued to be oriented toward growth, but the party's subsequent direction emphasized a more controlled growth program.
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Source: U.S. Library of Congress