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China's Legal System

Pitman Potter

ISBN: 978-0-745-66269-5 October 2013 Polity 200 Pages


China’s struggle for the rule of law is at a critical juncture. As a key element of governance in the PRC today, China’s legal system affects not only domestic affairs but also China’s engagement with the world. But can a credible legal system emerge which protects the rights of citizens and international partners without undermining the power of the Party State? And is the Chinese Communist Party willing to embark on judicial reforms that may jeopardize its very survival?

Understanding the PRC legal system is increasingly important as China rises to prominence in the world. In this compelling analysis, noted legal scholar Pitman Potter examines the ideals and practices of China’s legal regime, in light of international standards and local conditions. Against a rich historical backdrop, Potter explains how China’s legal system supports three key policy objectives; namely, political stability, economic prosperity, and social development. In exploring these competing policy goals and the tensions between them, he also raises fundamental questions about government expectations of the role of law in regulating local and international socio-economic and political relationships.

This wide-ranging and readable introduction will be an invaluable guide for students and non-specialists interested in China’s ongoing process of legal modernization.
  • List of Tables
  • Chronology
  • Introduction
  • 1: Development of the Socialist Legal System
  • 2: Political Stability
  • 3: Economic Prosperity
  • 4: Social Development
  • 5: International Engagement
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
"China is the most populous nation today; the rapid pace of development of its legal system in the last few decades is an extraordinary phenomenon in the world's legal history. Professor Potter's book provides an excellent introduction to what he calls 'the foundations of the PRC legal regime'. It surveys the history of this legal system, discusses the role of contemporary Chinese law in promoting political stability, economic prosperity and social development, and also looks at China’s participation in the international legal order. The book is an impressive testimony to current Chinese legal developments as 'a work in progress'."
Albert H.Y. Chen, University of Hong Kong

"Potter's acute insights into the normative and structural underpinnings of China's legal system are on display in this new text. By placing an examination of law in its political, economic and social contexts, this text provides the tools necessary for a critical evaluation of legal reforms."
Sarah Biddulph, University of Melbourne

"A thought-provoking discussion of the role of law in a dynamic and changing society."
LSE Review
  • Provides a compelling, wide-ranging introduction to the problems and opportunities associated with China’s ongoing legal modernization
  • Rich with historical detail, and places China’s current legal regime in a global context
  • Written by a leading scholar of Chinese law, and based on the latest detailed research