The skills of a Kremlinologist (the Supreme Court Observer first learned these skills when reading Pravda and other Communist Party of the Soviet Union publications as a Russian Studies major) are needed to unpack what a Plenum Communique and a Plenum Decision mean for the Chinese legal system. (For those who haven’t heard the term “Kremlinologist,” the Wikipedia article gives a good summary).
The Plenum Communique (now nearly forgotten) is a set of high level bullet points. The 4th Plenum Decision, released late on 28 October, is something akin to a memorandum of understanding (MOU), for those who have spent time in the world of commercial law or business. The 4th Plenum Decision cannot be implemented by itself–for many issues it requires complex bureaucratic arrangements, as well as framework legislation and detailed rules (akin to the sets of contracts that are needed for a business deal). So evaluating how the 4th Plenum Communique or Decision will affect the real world of Chinese law requires the same analytical skills as taking a deal’s high level bullet points or MOU and predicting how a business will operate.
Evaluating a Plenum decision requires analytical sifting of the standard language from the operative provisions. Those provisions are often single phrases, and have behind them years of research and policy analysis within the institutions involved, as well as Chinese universities and think tanks.
The Supreme People’s Court Observer will take this opportunity to evaluate discrete provisions in the 4th Plenum Decision in future blogposts, as time permits.