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Constructing a new form of modern Chinese rule of law civilization

Li Lin | 2022-09-19 | Hits:
Chinese Social Sciences Today

The rule of law civilization is an important symbol of the progress of human civilization. China is an ancient civilization with a 5000-year history, and the Chinese civilization of rule of law dates back to ancient times. Early customary law emerged in China in the 21st century BCE. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (770-221 BCE), written laws were formulated and a self-contained written code appeared in China. The traditional Chinese legal system took form in the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE), gradually matured in the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907), and declined after the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). 

Differing from the continental law system and the common law system, the traditional Chinese legal system, which formed under specific historical conditions, shows the great creativity of the Chinese nation and has profound connotations. The new form of modern Chinese rule of law civilization is a comparative concept. 

Firstly, compared with the traditional Chinese legal system, it highlights characteristics of the times, innovation, and modernization, promotes the creative transformation and innovative development of an excellent Chinese legal culture,  advances the critical inheritance and modern revival of the traditional Chinese legal system, and endows the traditional Chinese civilization of rule of law with connotations of the new era. 

Secondly, compared with the contemporary Western continental legal system and Anglo-American legal system, it highlights the inclusiveness, national quality, Chinese characteristics, and cultural aspects of the Chinese rule of law civilization in the new era. Based on China’s national conditions and realities, it draws lessons from the achievements of rule of law civilizations of all mankind, as well as value from the legal civilization of the two major Western legal systems. 

Thirdly, compared with the previous rule of law, the PRC pays more attention to law-based governance in all respects, and aims to construct a modern system for the Chinese rule of law civilization, characterized by the unity of law and morality, good laws and good governance internally, and inclusiveness and uniqueness externally, so as to create a new situation when building the rule of law in China. 

The path to a uniquely Chinese modern rule of law is the path to the socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics. It is a new way to build the modern Chinese rule of law civilization. Adhering to the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and implementing the theory of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics, are the core of China’s path to the rule of law. 

Combining the rule of law and the rule of virtue is the distinctive feature of this path to the rule of law, as well as the most remarkable characteristic of modern China’s rule of law civilization. Building a uniquely Chinese modern rule of law system means building a socialist rule of law system with Chinese characteristics, which is an important and original legal proposition. Adhering to the close combination of law-based governance in the country and rule-based governance over the Party, restricting and supervising power with state laws and Party rules, and putting power in the cage of the rule of law, are the major creations of China’s rule of law system. 

In practice, building a system of the rule of law is the key to comprehensively promoting law-based governance. China has made an overall planning for, and comprehensively promoted, sound lawmaking, strict law enforcement, impartial administration of justice, and the observance of law by everyone. There has also been concurrent advancement of law-based governance, law-based exercise of state power, and law-based government administration, as well as the integrated development of the rule of law for the country, the government, and society. China’s development of the legal norms system, the implementation system for the rule of law, the rule of law supervision system, the rule of law guarantee system and the Party regulations system, as well as the domestic rule of law system and the foreign-related rule of law system, have basically shaped the overall pattern of law-based governance in all respects. 

China will uphold common values of humanity, such as peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom, promote the internationalization and the integration of the modern Chinese rule of law civilization into the world, and facilitate exchanges and mutual learning with, as well as the inclusive development of, different rule of law civilizations in the world, so as to contribute to the maintenance of world peace and the realization of international fairness and justice.

Li Lin is a research fellow from the Institute of Law under Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This article was edited from his paper submitted to the forum.

Edited by WENG RONG