Surpassing the West’s path to the rule of law

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-16 17:43:01

Editor's Note:

The fourth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China issued a decision announcing that it would comprehensively advance the rule of law in this country, which has sparked widespread debate. How should China push ahead with the rule of law? What kind of problems may emerge during this process? In what way is China's rule of law distinct from Western practices? The Global Times invited several scholars to share their insights into these questions.

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Feng Yue, director of the Information Section of the Institute of Political Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)

The rule of law stresses building a law-based society, but this is not an easy task under current circumstances.

We will be confronted with various problems when we carry out macro-policies, such as a lack of public legal awareness.

Therefore, long-term education and publicity in this regard is urgently needed to make more people respect the law.

In the 1960s, some political scholars studied failed democracy movements in many countries at that time and concluded that it takes at least three generations of educational and administrative modernization to finally set up a modernized system in a country, including the rule of law.

For a nation such as China with a variety of circumstances, it may take far more time to advance the rule of law in a comprehensive way.

Wang Hongwei, associate professor of public security at the Renmin University of China

In today's China, there are a host of questions worth discussing that require systemic thinking to find a solution. They cannot be resolved simply by law, but it is still critical to make the Chinese people realize the authority of laws. This is very significant, particularly for the generations to come.

China's current organizational pattern works well in handling regular affairs. However, with incomplete industrialization and bureaucratization, in addition to the challenges of the post-industrialized era, many problems facing China are uncertain and highly complex. My concern is, in what way should China deal with these problems with industrialized thinking?

It's not difficult to build a legal system or issue new laws. But China has to think about how to make its citizens possess the spirit of the rule of law and reshape the culture behind the system within a short-time span. This, to a great extent, decides whether the rule of law will be fully carried out.

Zhi Zhenfeng, associate research fellow with the Institute of Law at CASS

What we are seeking to build is an upgraded version of the rule of law that draws upon the West's experiences and meanwhile considers China's reality and practical needs. It is different from and actually surpasses the Western rule of law. Basically, the Western version has two features. When it protects citizens' rights by restricting power, this may lead to a vetocracy and hence decreases government efficacy. Besides, while the Western emphasis on procedures demonstrates its procedural justice, which is conducive to protecting citizens' rights, a combination of such justice with adversarial lawsuits will bring inefficiency and high costs to the judicial system.

The upgraded Chinese version actually transcends the rule of law itself, because a strong government, coupled with a powerful rule of law, can ensure individual autonomy, particularly with protection in the aspect of basic rights to life and property that offers people certainty. 

On this basis, there should be some room left for political decisions to prevent society from becoming static and rigid, which may be resistant to reforms.

China's reforms manifest a typical scenario in which economic and social development synchronizes with the progress of citizens' rights. This is unimaginable in the West.

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