Modernizing Country by Law and Morality

Chinese President Jiang Zemin recently stressed that, in the process of building socialism with Chinese characteristics and developing a socialist market economy, the nation needed to unremittingly strengthen socialist legal system construction, and ensure China was a country ruled by law. At the same time, every Chinese should untiringly strengthen socialist morality construction and ensure that morality governed every part of national life.

What is "morality?" What does "ruling by morality" really mean? And why is the idea being put forward now? To gain answers to these questions, CIIC journalists interviewed historian Li Hanqiu, who is member of the Standing Committee of the China Peasants and Workers Democratic Party and the member of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

"Morality is the core of culture," said Prof. Li. "The rulers in Chinese feudal society energetically spread three cardinal guides (ruler guides subject, father guides son, and husband guides wife) and promoted the five constant virtues (benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and fidelity).

"In regard to the traditional moralities, we discard the dross and select the essence. A wholesale return to ancient concepts is not practical. We should actively establish a socialist ideological and moral system adapted to the development of the socialist market economy, society, science and technology.”

"We must integrate the inheritance of the fine tradition with the promotion of the spirit of the times," he insisted.

Ruling by law plays an important role in guaranteeing social order and stability, and the socialist market economy cannot develop smoothly without a complete legal system, according to Prof. Li.

"But, in recent years, we have only paid attention to the legal construction while neglecting moral aspects, so the desired results have not been achieved."

Besides, nowadays, there are many problems and phenomena that cannot be covered by law, Li pointed out. For example, the law can punish bigamy, but is powerless before on-line marriage broking, lying, watching people die and not lending a helping hand, and making counterfeit goods, etc.

Carrying out a deepened and extensive drive for ethical education, public morality and family virtues can help foster a healthy social atmosphere and thus promote the development of socialist undertakings.

According to Li, the following five steps can help implement the campaign of ruling by morality:

--Establishing relevant departments to spread modern ethics;

--Formulating a plan for a socialist ideological and moral system in the 10th Five-Year Plan;

--Cultivating public opinion and training government officials;

--Developing basic ethical standards through non-governmental organizations and educational institutions;

--Building both the socialist democratic, and moral and legal systems.

Li said that ruling by morality should be aimed at high-ranking officials. "We should select government officials who have both moral integrity and professional competence. They, in particular, should set an example in strictly abiding by the laws and moral standards."

Close attention should be paid to both intellectual training and moral education among children. "Children are the future of a nation. Training our children contract good code of conducts is advantageous to the building of socialist modernization. Families and schools play an important role in the process," Li said.

(CIIC by Li Jinrong 03/06/2001)