Putney Debates 2021: The Unity of China

In this lecture, professor Qianfan Zhang discusses how China has managed to keep its parts together in a centralized framework that is supposed to accommodate ethnic and political diversities. The challenge to unity mainly comes from ethnic minority areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as the Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong, which implements one-country, two-system scheme through its Basic Law. He argues that, while the 1982 Constitution and the Basic Law are capable of maintaining unity by allowing diversity and autonomy, they are not adhered to in practice, and the maintenance of unity relies primarily on force and centralized control. Such unity is unsustainable once the party-state is unable to exert sufficient pressure over Hong Kong and the peripheral regions. He concludes the lecture by highlighting several “political natural laws”, which are necessary for sustainable maintenance of national unity.

Qianfan Zhang

Qianfan Zhang

Professor Qianfan Zhang is a leading constitutional scholar and public intellectual in China and has been the Vice President of the Chinese Constitutional Law Association since 2004. He obtained his Ph.D. in Government from University of Texas at Austin (1999), and taught comparative constitutional law and administrative law at School of Law, Nanjing University, where he served as the Chief Editor of the faculty law journal, Nanjing University Law Review. He joined the law faculty in Peking University in 2003, where he is now the director of the Center for the People’s Congress and Parliamentary Studies. He has published widely in the areas of Chinese and comparative constitutional law, moral and political philosophy.

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Putney Debates 2021; China; Constitution; national unity