Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Constitution and Culture

I have been reading the Constitution of the Republic of China promulgated in 1947, and these two articles in the section on culture and education stood out to me:
Article 164
Funds earmarked for education, science, and culture shall be, in respect of the Central Government, not less than fifteen percent of the total national budget; in respect of the Provincial Government, not less than twenty-five percent of the total Provincial budget; and in respect of the Municipal or County Government, not less than thirty-five percent of the total Municipal or County budget. Educational and cultural foundations established in accordance with law, and their property, shall be protected. 
First of all, that seems like a substantial amount of funding for education, research, and the arts and humanities. And indeed, in the 2013 budget, the expenditure by the Central Government for these categories totaled 18.9% of the budget: 12.3% for education, 5.2% for science and 1.4% for culture.
Article 166
The State shall encourage scientific discoveries and inventions and shall protect ancient monuments and ancient relics of historical, cultural, or artistic value.
The Nationalists often expressed commitment to tradition, seeing themselves as the defenders of Chinese culture. To highlight the importance of heritage protection, one may note that the director of the National Palace Museum, the repository of the world's finest collection of Chinese artifacts, holds a cabinet-level position in the Executive Yuan.

Beyond this ideological orientation, a political milieu in which scholars and intellectuals had relatively greater say, and a set of institutional checks and balances, with Article 166, we can also point to explicit constitutional reasons as to why the Cultural Revolution would not have occurred under a Nationalist regime. Law alone is not everything and politics still matter; but at the very least, the Constitution reveals the values of its authors and the things they consider meaningful and worth addressing. In the Republic of China, it would have been unconstitutional for the state to advocate the wholesale demolition and destruction of heritage sites and ancient relics, as was instigated in the PRC by Mao.

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