Chinese Legal Thought and the World: Reversing the Global Flow of Knowledge
Project Title(Chinese) :
Principal Investigator(English) :
Prof Seppaenen, Aaro Samuli
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :
Faculty of Law
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Co - Investigator(s) :
Prof Guo, Rui
Prof Lu, Nan
Dr Wang, Shucheng
Prof Zhao, Yun
Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area :
Social and Behavioural Sciences
Exercise Year :
2018 / 19
Fund Approved :
Project Status :
Completion Date :
Abstract as per original application (English/Chinese):
China is commonly seen as an importer of legal thought rather than as its exporter. Scholarship on Chinese law examines the relationship between Chinese law and global legal thought almost exclusively in terms of the reception of foreign legal thought into China. This oversight masks an important recent trend in the globalization of legal thought. Each year, the Chinese government trains hundreds of lawyers from developing countries in aspects of Chinese law and sends missions to developing countries to provide assistance on law reform. While there exists some scholarship on the global relevance of specific Chinese legal institutions and development policies, no sustained attempts have been made to assess the global relevance of Chinese legal thought.
To address this oversight, this project constructs a Chinese mode of legal thought through a comparative legal theoretical inquiry, and examines Chinese efforts to disseminate information about it in developing countries. A mode of legal thought refers to the legal vocabulary, institutional arrangements and the style of legal reasoning in a given legal system. It is, hence, a more foundational category of legal theoretical analysis than the study of particular legal rules, legal institutions, political ideology, and the rule of law. The present project constructs a mode of contemporary Chinese legal thought through: (i) a survey of theoretical and comparative Chinese legal scholarship; (ii) analysis of a selection of people’s courts’ decisions and; (iii) study of policy statements on adjudicative techniques and other elements of Chinese legal thought. The project also examines how Chinese law is actually portrayed to foreign lawyers in Chinese legal development cooperation.
This project establishes a theoretical framework for examining the global policy relevance of Chinese legal thought. Chinese legal scholars and development organizations have identified the informal use of power and the informal “local knowledge” about such uses of power as distinct elements of the Chinese legal system. In contrast to advocates of liberal legal thought in the West and in developing countries, Chinese legal scholarship and policy documents embrace this form of knowledge as a valuable governance tool in its own right. Such anti-formal pragmatism stands in stark contrast to even the most pragmatic forms of legal thought promoted in Western legal development assistance and in Western legal scholarship. Finally, the very fact that legal knowledge now flows from China to other developing countries calls for a profound perspective change to our understanding of the globalization of law.