China’s leaders are attempting to bring the country’s relationship with law into balance. The Chinese Communist party will remain supremely powerful, but the Chinese people are to have the right to seek redress through the courts. How is this balancing act to be accomplished? In truth, it is an impossible feat. The “socialist rule of law”, as the party calls it, is a political oxymoron.
At last week’s Fourth Plenum, the party elite gave its blessing to what was billed as the most comprehensive overhaul of the legal system since China opened its economy to international trade. The idea was to give a new sheen of legitimacy to a system tarnished by corruption and government dysfunction.
China’s legal system has indeed made great strides. It used to be prohibitively difficult for citizens to challenge the actions of government; now they can. In July the Supreme People’s Court announced extensive plans to expand and retool the judiciary, including the separation of local governments from the judicial bodies on which they have long had a pernicious influence.
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