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Rule of law promotes development

By Kong Qingjiang | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-08-22 07:23
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Editor's note: Much progress has been made in advancing the rule of law in China over the past decade. Top-level designs and major plans have been put forward to ensure sound legislation, strict law enforcement and fair justice. Three experts share their views on the issue with China Daily.

By emphasizing that "reform and the rule of law are like two wings of a bird and two wheels of a cart", President Xi Jinping has highlighted the correlation between reform and rule of law in China. As a result, recent years have seen China advancing reform in accordance with the rule of law and improving the rule of law in the course of reform.

Previously, reform measures were often implemented regardless of the contradictory provisions in the existing laws and regulations. Laws used to be enacted to legitimize the reform measures which had proven successful after trials. Strictly speaking, such an approach contradicts the rule of law principle.

Over the years, as the central authorities developed a better understanding of the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, as well as legislation and its role, they adopted a top-down design to promote economic and social reform. Accordingly, now they enact and implement a piece of law, which serves as a road map for upcoming reforms in a given field, before undertaking major reforms.

The new approach not only helps safeguard the rule of law principle, but also avoids the extra costs that the trial measures for the proposed reform would have incurred. The following selected cases show how legislation guides reform and shapes the reform agenda.

Codifying the country's civil law was a remarkable reform agenda proposed by the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. After five years of strenuous efforts, the Civil Code was passed on May 25, 2020. The Civil Code incorporates the General Principles of Civil Law, Property Law, Contract Law, Guarantee Law, Marriage Law, Adoption Law, Inheritance Law and Tort Liability Law.

In fact, the adoption of the Civil Code of the People's Republic of China was a landmark in China's legislative history, signaling the dawn of the civil code era.

In the past decade, effective reforms have been implemented to build a cyberspace and data security system. From the Cybersecurity Law of 2017 to the Data Security Law and Personal Information Protection Law of 2021, China has built a legal system that covers network security, data security and personal information protection.

While the Cybersecurity Law involves the overall governance of cyberspace, focusing on systems such as critical information infrastructure protection, cybersecurity review, and cross-border data flow, the Data Security Law regulates data protection, development and use, and the Personal Information Protection Law determines the basic principles and institutional rules for the protection of personal information.

The Cybersecurity Law, Data Security Law and Personal Information Protection Law, which constitute the three pillars of information security in China, have shaped the reform agenda in the field of cyberspace, by regulating cross-border flow of data, curbing the misuse and abuse of personal information via the cyberspace, as well as disciplining online platforms. These reforms are essential for economic development in the digital context.

The Foreign Investment Law came at the right time, in 2019, to guide the institutional reform, as investment liberalization and facilitation became the thrust of the reform tailored to facilitate high-level opening-up. Replacing the previous "three laws on foreign-invested enterprises", China's first unified basic law in the field of foreign investment established the basic institutional framework for admission of foreign investment, and investment promotion, protection and management, with pre-entry national treatment and negative list for foreign investment as its core.

By benchmarking the best practices related to the business environment, and referencing the international advanced economic and trade rules embodied in the investment agreements, the Foreign Investment Law has not only helped address the concerns of foreign businesses, but also paved the way for the unfolding of the reform agenda that centers on the establishment of a stable, transparent, predictable business environment, and the institutionalization of investment liberalization and facilitation.

And the Hainan Free Trade Port Law, adopted on June 10, 2021, lays the legal foundation needed to transform the entire island of Hainan into a globally influential free trade port (FTP), and provides a blueprint for the highest-level institution-building in the FTP and further economic opening-up. As such, it is expected to boost a far-reaching round of reforms.

The author is dean of the School of International Law, China University of Political Science and Law. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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