Law and Governance in Contemporary China

A Multi-disciplinary Introduction

How would a sound ‘China Strategy’ look? Should we do business with China, or reflect instead upon its historical relationship with human rights? Is the priority of China’s President Xi Jinping to strengthen his power and position within the government, or to create and administer law? Is China’s judiciary system ineffectual , or does it sufficiently protect individual rights?

Questions such as these have become increasingly concerning to major decision-makers and opinion leaders across Europe and beyond. The answers to these questions often fall short. The predominance of stereotypes and misunderstandings are all too common, suggesting a general deficit of knowledge about China. As Chief of the British Defence  Staff , General Sir Nick Carter recently claimed: “China is not a threat but a challenge. If we as a middle-sized country want to continue to prosper, we will have to learn about it and try to understand it.”

Course levelAdvanced Bachelor/Master, open to PhD staff and professionals
Session 2
18 July to 1 August 2020
Recommended session 2 course combination
International Criminal Justice
Co-ordinating lecturersDr Qiao Cong-Rui and Prof Tom Zwart
Other lecturerstba
Form(s) of tuitionLectures, excursions, discussions, group work
Form(s) of assessmentParticipation, book or journal article review, presentation
ECTS3 credits
Contact hours45
Tuition fee€1150, read more about what's included.
This course is for Advanced Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD students as well as professionals from various backgrounds with an interest in law and governance in contemporary China. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please let us know. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students with a wide variety of backgrounds.
How would a sound ‘China Strategy’ look? Should we do business with China, or reflect instead upon its historical relationship with human rights? Is the priority of China’s President Xi Jinping to strengthen his power and position within the government, or to create and administer law? Is China’s judiciary system ineffectual , or does it sufficiently protect individual rights?

Questions such as these have become increasingly concerning to major decision-makers and opinion leaders across Europe and beyond. The answers to these questions often fall short. The predominance of stereotypes and misunderstandings are all too common, suggesting a general deficit of knowledge about China. As Chief of the British Defence  Staff , General Sir Nick Carter recently claimed: “China is not a threat but a challenge. If we as a middle-sized country want to continue to prosper, we will have to learn about it and try to understand it.”

This course, which is unique in the Dutch higher-educational sector, will offer students a comprehensive breakdown of contemporary China. The course will be both objective and impartial. It will include opposing theories and important cases for conceptualising what has made China what it is today. The  main aim of the course is to provide you with the fundamental knowledge that will allow you to make sense of how those in power govern China. You will also develop a keen understanding of how the country’s legal system operates.

The leading lecturers, Dr. Cong-rui Qiao and Prof. Tom Zwart, have considerable experience between them in the areas of law, governance, and human rights in China. Over the years, they have made connections with key decision-makers in China, including a few associated with the Communist Party and the State Council (i.e. China’s Central Government), as well as with some of China’s best  attorneys and highly regarded human rights institutes. They have also been  asked to advise by the Supreme People’s Court (i.e. China’s highest court) on how to improve the justice system in the country. 

We will address the following questions during the course:
a. How does the government and the legal system work in China?
b. How are human rights protected in China?
c. How are government powers regulated in China?

Overview
During the course, the main focus will be on the contemporary period from the early 1980s to today, when China’s boldest legal and governing reforms were first initiated and implemented. We will examine and explain the essence of these reforms and then assess their effect. The course will be separated into 3 parts, in which the student will:
Part one - Become familiar with sources pertaining to Chinese law and the evolution of China’s contemporary legal and governance systems after the cultural-revolution decade.
Part two - Gain an understanding on China’s involvement in the international human rights system, and China’s domestic implementations of its own human rights obligations.
Part three  - Assess to what extent government and non-government figures adhere to human rights and are held accountable for their actions. The course will end with the students giving individual presentations of their work and engaging in a  group debate.

Session
Topic
One: An Introduction 
Lecture Day (LD) 1: Sources of Chinese Law
--> Concepts of law and administration of justice in ancient China
--> Evolution of a modern legal system in China

LD 2: Legal Reforms in Contemporary China
--> Debates and practices concerning the rule of law
--> Professionalisation of China’s judicial organs
Two: A Human Rights PerspectiveLD 3: Human Rights (HR): Theories and Practices
--> Universalism and relativism
--> International, regional and national mechanisms

LD 4: China’s Role in the International HR System
--> Chinese sources of HR
--> China’s involvements in the international HR system

LD 5:HR Issues in China (I)
--> Right to fair trial and judicial independence
--> Religious tolerance and religious freedom

LD 6 : HR Issues in China (II)
--> States of emergency and counter-terrorism
--> Right to equality and non- discrimination
Three: A government-controlling perspectiveLD 7: Gov. Accountability: Norms and Mechanisms
--> Principle of transparency
--> Principle of impartiality
--> Principle of proportionality

LD 8: Challenging Gov. Actions: A Procedural Perspective
--> Internal mechanism: administrative reconsideration
--> External mechanism : administrative litigation
--> Alternative option: political petition

LD 9: Protection of Personal Data in A Digitalising Context
--> Substance and scope of China’s social credit system
--> Remedies for the violation of personal privacy
--> Experiences of the European Union
Final day: Is the Chinese Governance Model Unique?
LD: 10: Final presentation and group debate
*Note: course outline is provisional

You will gain knowledge about key aspects of China’s legal and governance system, so that you may better understand them. At the end of the course, each  student should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of both China’s major legal and governance reforms and their outcomes. Reorms which  to this day have not been sufficiently addressed in the existing English-language literature.
  • Explain the role of law in Chinese society, the way human rights protection  has evolved within China, and how government accountability works.
  • Demonstrate intellectual skills, in particular those necessary to analyse, make a good presentation and conduct a thoughtful debate. 
  • Show  that they can explain the key issues with China’s law and governance.

The reading material is dependent on the prior knowledge level of students regarding the topic. Changes may be made after registration has closed.
1. Books  

  • Jinfan ZHANG: The Tradition and Modern Transition of Chinese Law, translated by ZHANG Lixin, et al, Springer, 2014 (Print ISBN: 978-3-642-23265-7)
  • Daniel Bell and Joanne Bauer: The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights, Cambridge, 1999 [in particular, Joseph Chan, A Confucian Perspective on Human Rights for Contemporary China, page 212-223]

2. Academic journals

  • Yujun Feng, Legal Culture in China: A Comparison to Western Law, (2010) 16, Revue Juridique Polynesienne, page 115-123
  • Qianfan ZHANG: “A Constitution without Constitutionalism? The Paths of Constitutional Development in China”, the International Journal of Constitutional Law, Volume 8, Issue 4, October 2010, page 950–976

3. News reports
This course will also offer you the opportunity to discuss relevant, current events in China. When appropriate, news reports will be recommended to and circulated among the students.

TZWART
Tom Zwart
focuses on the interplay between law and culture, which includes religion. His research includes the following questions: Which value does the local culture accord to formal state law? Which other legal systems are recognised by local culture? Does local culture act as a building block or a stumbling block for compliance with formal state law? Which - invisible - cultural assumptions underlie formal state law? Which role is assigned to culture in the area of comparative law?
Zwart focuses in particular on human rights, especially concepts and ideas developed in the Global South, and the mutual acculturation of minorities, especially Muslims, and the societies of which they are part. In the field of human rights Zwart developed the so-called receptor approach to human rights, which regards culture and religion as building blocks rather than stumbling blocks for human rights protection and promotion. His reserach in this area was awarded with a 1 million Euro grant by the Dutch Foreign Office.

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