Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2014
CONSTITUTIONS, CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM AND CONSTITUTIONAL conflict are once again commanding attention. The celebrations of the bicentennial of the American constitution, the implementation of constitutional reform in Canada, the Labour government's programme for constitutional change in the United Kingdom, the seemingly intractable conflict in Northern Ireland, and transfers of sovereignty to the European Union from its constituent states, testify to this. Equally, if not more challenging, have been the upheavals in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and its reconstituted states, the ‘third’ wave of democratization across the developing world, the experiment in participatory constitutionalism in South Africa and the return of Hong Kong to China. Of the 179 countries that elect their governments out of a total of 192 countries in the world, 176 have codified constitutions. Constitutions, however, that are not fully mature or operative and are not based on the principles or drafted with the advice of those nations that have developed and entrenched their constitutions tend to be disregarded, or even dismissed. Moreover, writing a constitution is one exercise, implementing, and interpreting it is a far more complex and delicate undertaking. So how are social scientists to evaluate the process?
1 This is a revised version of a paper presented to the ‘Conference on Constitutional Transition: Hong Kong 1997 and Global Perspectives’, Hong Kong, 29 May–1 June 1997. I am grateful to the British Academy for its support. It is based on a research visit as part of the exchange programme between the British Academy/ESRC and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, March 1996 and participation in a conference on ‘The Legal System of Village Committees in China’, Department of Basic‐Level Governance, Ministry of Civil Affairs, July 1995. I wish to thank Rosemary Foot, Barbara Krug and the anonymous reader for their comments and encouragement.
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8 Dearlove, John, ‘Neo‐classical Politics: Public Choice and Political Understanding’, Review of Political Economy, 1 (1989) pp. 37–37 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Dearlove, also offers a satisfactory approach to constitutions, i.e. ‘Constitutions can be conceived of as systems of restraining and enabling rules’. ‘Putting Humpty Together Again. Homo Sociologicus, Homo Economicus and the Political Science of the British State’, European Journal of Political Research, 27 (1995) p. 496 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; for an attempt to reintroduce the political analysis of power into the study of markets, see White, Gordon, ‘Towards a Political Analysis of Markets’, IDS Bulletin, 24:3 (07 1993) pp. 4–11 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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19 The 1975 Constitution asserts that the National People’s Congress is the highest order of state power under the leadership of the Communist Party. The 1978 constitution returns to the 1954 formula, deleting under the leadership of the Communist Party. At the same time the 1978 constitution carries over the article from 1975 that the Chairman of the Communist Party commands the People’s Liberation Army.
20 For example, the writing of big character posters guaranteed in article 45 of the 1978 constitution was abandoned following the trial of Wei Jingsheng in 1979.
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36 Saich, Tony, ‘Most Chinese Enjoy More Personal Freedom than Ever Before’, International Herald Tribune, 1–2 02 1997 Google Scholar.
37 State Statistical Bureau, China Statistical Yearbook 1996, Beijing, China Statistical Publishing House, 1996, Tables 11:6 and 11:31. The gross output value for town and village level enterprises was 4.17 billion yuan, Table 11:31. This Table does not appear in the China Statistical Yearbook 1997. However, the gross output value of agriculture for 1996 is given as 2.34 billion yuan, Table 11:6. It is also possible to compare the gross industrial output value which shows an increase from 2.38 billion yuan in 1995 to 2.76 billion yuan in 1996 Table 12:1.
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42 Research Group on the System of Village Self‐Government in Rural China (China Research Society of Basic‐Level Governance), Legal System of Village Committees in China (draft), 1995, p. 107.
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