Title

What the (Expletive) is a "Constitution"?! Ordinary Cadres Confront the 1954 PRC Draft Constitution

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-2018

Department

East Asian Studies

Language

English

Publication Title

Journal of Chinese History

Abstract

Following the history of western constitutional history, studies of Chinese constitutionalism have tended to focus on its intellectual origins, or, more commonly these days, its failure to restrain official behavior. Drawing upon new archival materials, this article takes a different tack. I zero in on a critical period of constitutional gestation, when officials read the 1954 constitution in draft form, posed questions about its text and suggested revisions. How did officials react when told that citizens, many of whom were recently persecuted, now enjoy “freedom of assembly”? These materials allow us to see “the state” in real time: How did officials understand core legal concepts such as “right,” “constitution” and “citizen” as well as their role in the new polity? In many respects, the discussion surrounding the draft constitution turned out to be a venue for officials to talk about the meaning of the revolution they had just experienced.

Comments

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DOI

10.1017/jch.2017.28

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