Neil J. DiamantJan 31, 2022
Constitutions in Chinese Politics and Society
Cornell University Press 2022
In Useful Bullshit: Constitutions in Chinese Politics and Society (Cornell University Press, 2022) Dr. Neil Diamant pulls back the curtain on early constitutional conversations between citizens and officials in the PRC primarily around the first draft constitution in 1954. Scholars have argued that China, like the former USSR, promulgated constitutions to enhance its domestic and international legitimacy by opening up the constitution-making process to ordinary people, and by granting its citizens political and socioeconomic rights. Despite many considering the document "bullshit," successive PRC governments have promulgated it, amending the constitution, debating it at length, and even inaugurating a "Constitution Day." But what did ordinary officials and people say about their constitutions and rights? Did constitutions contribute to state legitimacy?
Drawing upon a wealth of archival sources from the Maoist and reform eras, Diamant explores all facets of this constitutional discussion, as well as its afterlives in the late '50s, the Cultural Revolution, and the post-Mao era. Useful Bullshit illuminates how the Chinese government understands and makes use of the constitution as a political document, and how a vast array of citizens—police, workers, university students, women, and members of different ethnic and religious groups—have responded.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars. Dr. Melcher also lived in Beijing, China for nearly 10 years, and keeps an eye on China-Africa security issues.