Unconstitutional Constitutional Change?: the Constitutional Logic of Chinese Economic Reform

The Chinese reform towards market economy has achieved remarkable success in the past 40 years. Yet the course of the reform experienced constitutional hurdles as the Constitution, established in 1982, held socialism, against capitalist way of production, as the central, ideological pillar that defines the Constitution. To legitimatize the reform, the authorities set out to revise the Constitution through constitutional amendments that allows private economies. This paper will trace out the constitutional logic of Chinese economic reform, highlighting how the Chinese authorities strive to fundamentally change the Constitution and evade the doubt of “unconstitutionality”. It argues that the reform, against conventional wisdom, did encounter constitutional challenges, especially the possibility of “unconstitutional constitutional amendment”, but the authorities, following a pragmatist approach, overcome them.