On 3 October 2012, the Center for Constitutional Transitions at NYU Law (Constitutional Transitions) and the U.S.-Asia Law Institute hosted a visiting delegation from the Vietnamese Institute of Public Policy and Law for a workshop on the upcoming revision of Vietnam’s constitution, entitled “The Vietnamese Constitutional Revision Process: An Informal Dialogue.” Moderated by Professor of Law Sujit Choudhry, Faculty Director of Constitutional Transitions, the discussion included presentations by Professors Jerome Cohen and Frank Upham, co-directors of the U.S-Asia Law Institute, Ira Belkin, the U.S.-Asia Law Institute’s Executive Director, and Thomas Kellogg, the China and Northeast Asia Program Director of the Open Society Foundations.
The discussion used China’s constitutional reform process as a platform to explore a wide range of issues—property rights, legal/social mobilization, constitutional enforcement—as applicable to Vietnam. The discussion focused on two issues: the potential for an independent institution to review and interpret the constitution, and the protection of property rights.
On China’s constitutional reforms, Thomas Kellogg offered two lessons: first, effective reform changes not just the legal texts but also the institutions that ensure the enforcement of those texts; and second, resistance to judicial reform can be mitigated by incorporating judicial practices into legislative institutions that exercise constitutional oversight (for example, decisions must be in writing and must be publicized, and the relevant legislative institutions must have independence).
Professors Cohen, Upham and Ira Belkin shared experience on land reforms in China, and emphasized the benefit of a constitutional amendment to the government itself. They noted that a strong constitution is more effective at fighting corruption, allows better governance and better relationship between central and local authorities, and enhances the government’s legitimacy in the eyes of the public.