Michigan Conference on “China’s Legal Construction Program at 40 Years”

Posted on: October 3, 2019

On October 11-13, the University of Michigan Law School and the Lieberthal Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan will be convening a conference entitled “China’s Legal Construction Program At 40 Years: Towards An Autonomous Legal System?”

Four scholars from the Allard School of Law, Professors Jie Cheng, Wei Cui, Li-Wen Lin and Pitman Potter are presenting their research at this conference. It might be noted that this is one of the largest contingent of Chinese law scholars sent to the conference from any single institution. The only other universities that are represented by more authors at the conference are Harvard, NYU, Peking University, and the University of Hong Kong.

Below are the titles and abstracts of some papers that Allard Law scholars will be presenting. Stay tuned for upcoming presentations by CALS faculty members will be giving here in Vancouver!

Li-Wen Lin, Corporate Social Responsibility in China: Good or Bad for the Rule of Law?

CSR is commonly understood as the voluntary commitment of a company to take social and environmental actions beyond legal requirements or the expectations that companies shall comply with labor, environmental and human rights laws and do better than what the laws require. This common understanding of CSR suggests that CSR and the rule of law are compatible with each other and promote each other.  Yet, the relationship between CSR and the rule of law is probably not that straightforward. It is important to note that both CSR and the rule of law are broad, vague and contested concepts. Their substantive meanings need to be developed and implemented, subject to institutional forces including politics. Therefore, the relationship between CSR and the rule of law in China may be different from that in Western countries. This paper shows how the Chinese government uses CSR to promote and sometimes undermine the rule of law in both the thin and thick senses.

Jie Cheng, Modernity, Identity and 40 Years’ Debates About Constitutionalism in China

This paper reviews debates about and developments in constitutionalism, or constitutional government, in China for the past 40 years. It argues that the debates are the continuation of debates that have taken place in China since the late 19th century about modernity and identity. The contemporary constitutionalism debates have gone through three stages. The first stage was between 1979 and 1999 and the major concern was devolution and marketization. The second stage was from 2000-2012 and the main themes broadened to internationalization and restoration of legal order. Both stages recognized the universal value of modernization and the rule of law and downplayed traditional social norms. The turning point came in 2013, which marked the beginning of the third stage that focuses on the “Chineseness” of legal system. Although the shift was intended by the government for legitimacy concerns, I argue that the agenda has also been echoed or even advocated by intellectuals concerned with cultural identity.

Wei Cui, When Do Chinese National Ministries Make Law?

This paper documents some basic empirical facts about the issuance of formal regulations (FRs) and informal policy directives (IPDs) by China’s national ministries and agencies from 2000 to 2014. Prior scholarship (e.g. Cui 2011, Howson 2012) depicts specific instances of Chinese national agencies announcing substantive new policies (many ultra vires by statutory standards) through IPDs.  I use FR and IPD quantities as measures of the agencies’ propensity to resort to legal as opposed to non-legal, merely bureaucratic mechanisms for announcing policy. I find significant variations across agencies in the quantities of FRs issued, both in absolute terms and relative to the quantities of IPDs. The variations often contradict conventional perceptions about different agencies’ political orientations. Budget fluctuations do not predict FR or IPD issuance, nor do the minister’s tenure in office. Overall, formal rulemaking has been on the decline in China, accentuating the importance of the question:  Why do Chinese bureaucrats bother with rulemaking at all? I suggest a preliminary set of considerations relevant to answering this question. The study sheds new light on the different approaches taken by actors in the Chinese government to establishing basic “rule by law”.