The Socialist Legal System with Chinese Characteristics: China’s Discourse for the Rule of Law and a Bitter Experience

65 Pages Posted: 13 May 2011 Last revised: 30 Jun 2011

See all articles by Mo Zhang

Mo Zhang

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: December 1, 2010

Abstract

The rule of law both as a legal concept and as a practice in China has become the subject of great attention. There is increasing international pressure on China to build a legal system that is premised on the "rule of law." Domestically, the three-decades of economic reform generated a growing demand for the production of a legal system that will secure justice and restore the public confidence in the judiciary. China's commitment to the rule of law is implicated by its effort to develop a socialist legal system that maintains Chinese characteristics.

The specifics of what is a socialist legal system and what constitutes Chinese characteristics in terms of the rule of law are subject to further debate. The Confucian heritage rooted legal tradition and the single party ruling system have significantly shaped the legal landscape of the country, making the route to the rule of law in China a long and thorny one. Despite China's socialist laurel, the civil law influence apparent since the late 19th century remains highly visible in the modem Chinese legal system.

China is determined to develop a legal system under the banner of the rule of law that is consistent with its unique philosophy of governance. Whatever difference there may exist between China's rule of law discourse and the rest of the world's, the development of a rule of law in China that incorporates Chinese characteristics signals China's determination to move the country toward a sound legal system meaningful for China and for the international community as well. Among many challenges, however, the biggest one is perhaps how to reconcile the role of the ruling communist party and the "rule of law."

Keywords: rule of law, China, legal systems, Chinese legal history, Confucianism, socialism

JEL Classification: K00, K33

Suggested Citation

Zhang, Mo, The Socialist Legal System with Chinese Characteristics: China’s Discourse for the Rule of Law and a Bitter Experience (December 1, 2010). Temple International & Comparative Law Journal, Vol. 24, p. 1, 2010, Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper 2011-22, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1839461

Mo Zhang (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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