China's Legal Awakening: Legal Theory and Criminal Justice in Deng's Era

By Carlos Wing-Hung Lo | Go to book overview

Conclusion

This study, covering the longest period of political stability enjoyed by China under Communist rule ( 1979-1993), has argued that China has entered an age characterized by the rule of law. A highly institutionalized legal system has been built up which functions on the basis of socialist legality. The Communist regime has undergone a legal awakening in which both Party leadership and popular masses have seen that the 'rule of law' is a sound alternative to the former disastrous 'rule of persons'. Political stability secured by legal order, above all, marks off Deng Xiaoping's era from that of Mao Zedong. Despite the events of 19891 and the fact that the current system is still plagued by political arbitrariness, there will be no return to the Maoist style of lawlessness.

During Deng Xiaoping's leadership, law has advanced beyond the instrumental functions of Marxist political rule. Law has increasingly been seen as a channel for economic modernization and as the sole means to resolve conflict and to regulate social order. Beginning his legal reform by introducing a highly institutionalized criminal justice system in 1980, Deng culminated his remarkable work on establishing the 'rule of law' by consolidating the basic framework for a comprehensive legal order at the Thirteenth Party Congress in October 1987. With Deng's encouragement, the study of law flourished, facilitating the socialization of law and the creation of a legal culture in China. As professionalism developed, legal theory and practice became more and more accepted in the socialist regime.

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1
For a detailed discussion on the 1989 student movement and its implications for current legal reform, see Chapter Nine, "The 1989 Student Democratic Movement: A Legal Perspective".

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