Chinese Constitutionalism, Social Credit, and Party Groups in the 2008 SASAC Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility

During the 2017 Forum on Business and Human Rights, I noticed how most informal discussions of CSR (the term preferred in China to refer to business and human rights) in the PRC introduced a separation between corporate social responsibility, and Chinese constitutionalism. CSR (or business and human rights) was framed as existing autonomous from the political leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, and was for the most part discussed in relation to Chinese state legislation. Perceptions of CSR as distinct from CCP leadership and CCP regulation are, in a sense, misleading.

The Corporate Law and the Labor Contract Law have indeed incorporated the concept of CSR. The most important directive this far issued, however, is the 2008 SASAC Guidelines to the State-Owned Enterprises Directly Under the Central Government on Fulfilling Corporate Social Responsibilities. This document alone has led to the release of 1,600 sustainability reports, also  by state-owned MNCs.

The 2008 SASAC Guidelines make several references to the Constitution of the CCP. A close textual analysis of the 20 paragraphs of the Guidelines reveals how:

  • CSR is placed within the scope of Chinese constitutionalism, under the political leadership of the Party, and the operational responsibility of enterprises.
  • 50% of the paragraphs in the SASAC Guidelines refer the Constitution of the CCP (23 references), components of the social credit system (3 references), or Party groups (one paragraph).

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