Pitman B. Potter
As legal reform lent increased regularity and formalism to an expanding range of social and economic activities, attention was directed toward regulation of administrative conduct. The Administrative Litigation Law represents the first comprehensive act of PRC legislation aimed at restraining governmental conduct through the mechanism of judicial review. This use of law to "govern the governors" represents a culmination of the legal reform effort by providing a framework for applying positivist legal regulation to administrative action.
The Administrative Litigation Law of the PRC (hereinafter the ALL) 1 establishes general principles and a procedural framework for the exercise of judicial review over administrative action. The ALL does not regulate decision making by administrative agencies or emphasize procedural protections for persons subject to such decision making, and, hence, should not be confused with administrative procedure law as conceived in industrialized democracies. Nonetheless, the ALL formalizes the right of citizens and juridical persons to appeal administrative decisions to the courts, and sets forth the procedure to be used in such cases. This represents an important development in Chinese administrative law. 2
The statute represents an effort to extend to administrative regulation the underlying principle of the legal reform effort; that greater regularity should be brought to Chinese political, economic, and social life. When directed at governmental administrative organs, however, regularity and formalism necessarily entailed a diminution in discretionary authority, and thus efforts to impose these requirements encountered resistance.
The struggle over the form and extent of bureaucratic reform was played out during the course of discussion and enactment of the ALL, and the law itself reflects a number of compromises among contending positions on the issue of