The Socialist System of Laws with Chinese Characteristics
I. Establishment of the Socialist System of Laws with Chinese Characteristics
The socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics was formed gradually under the leadership of the CPC in the course of adapting itself to the cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics.
When the People’s Republic of China was founded, it was confronted with the difficult tasks of organizing and consolidating the new political power, restoring and developing the national economy, and realizing and guaranteeing the people’s right to be masters of the country. To meet the needs of construction of the political power, from 1949 to 1954, before the convening of the First National People’s Congress (NPC), China promulgated and implemented the Common Program of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which acted as a temporary constitution, and enacted the Organic Law of the Central People’s Government, Trade Union Law, Marriage Law, Land Reform Law, Interim Regulations on the Organization of the People’s Courts, Interim Regulations on the Organization of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Regulations on Punishment of Counter-revolutionaries, Interim Regulations on Punishment for Impairment of the State Currency, Regulations on Punishment for Embezzlement, Electoral Law of the National People’s Congress and Local People’s Congresses, and laws and regulations on the organization of local people’s governments and local judicial organs, on regional ethnic autonomy, on the management of public and private enterprises, and on labor protection. With these laws and regulations, New China embarked on its course of development of democracy and the legal system.
In 1954 the First Session of the First NPC was held. The session adopted the first Constitution of New China, which established the principles for people’s democracy and socialism, established the people’s congress system as a fundamental political system, and provided for the basic rights and obligations of Chinese citizens. The session also adopted organic laws of the NPC, the State Council, local people’s congresses and local people’s committees, people’s courts, and people’s procuratorates, thus establishing the basic principles for state affairs. In 1956 the Eighth National Congress of the CPC proposed that “the state must make a complete legal system gradually and systematically according to its needs.” Before the “cultural revolution” broke out in 1966, China’s legislature had enacted over 130 laws and decrees. The building of democracy and the legal system in this period provided valuable experiences for building a socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics. During the “cultural revolution,” China suffered grave setbacks in its work to improve democracy and the legal system, and its legislation almost came to a standstill.
In 1978 the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the CPC summarized the experience and lessons since the founding of New China, made a historic decision to shift the focus of the work of the Party and the state to economic development and to adopt the policy of reform and opening up, and stated, “To ensure people’s democracy, we must strengthen our socialist legal system, which will enable democracy to be institutionalized and codified, and ensure that such system and laws are stable, continuous and authoritative. All this will ensure that there are laws to go by, that they are observed and strictly enforced, and that violators are brought to book.” This session ushered in a new chapter in China’s history of reform and opening up, and the building of the socialist democracy and legal system. Legislation in this period focused on restoring and re-establishing state order, and carrying out and advancing reform and opening up. In 1979 the Second Session of the Fifth NPC passed a resolution concerning the amendment to several provisions of the Constitution, which provided that local people’s congresses at and above the county level established standing committees, and deputies to the people’s congresses of counties were to be elected directly by their constituencies. The meeting also enacted the Electoral Law of the National People’s Congress and Local People’s Congresses, Organic Law of the Local People’s Congresses and Local People’s Governments, Organic Law of the People’s Courts, Organic Law of the People’s Procuratorates, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Law, and Law on Chinese-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures, marking the beginning of large-scale legislation work in the new period.
In 1982, to adapt to the great changes in the economic, political, cultural and social life of China, the Fifth Session of the Fifth NPC adopted the present Constitution, establishing the fundamental system of the country and fundamental principles for state affairs, and setting basic tasks for the country, providing basic guarantees for reform and opening up, and the socialist modernization drive in the new period and symbolizing that China’s efforts to improve democracy and the legal system had entered a new era. As reform and opening up deepened, and profound changes took place in China’s economy and society, China made amendments to the Constitution in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004, respectively. These amendments affirmed the important status of the non-public sector of the economy, and wrote into the Constitution that the state “practices a socialist market economy,” “exercises the rule of law, building a socialist country governed according to law,” and “respects and protects human rights,” that “citizens’ lawful private property is inviolable,” and that “the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation led by the Communist Party of China will exist and develop in China for a long time to come.” These amendments contributed to China’s economic, political, cultural and social development and progress. During this period, to meet the needs for centering on economic development and promoting reform and opening up, the legislature enacted the General Principles of the Civil Law, Law on Industrial Enterprises Owned by the Whole People, Law on Chinese-Foreign Cooperative Joint Ventures, Law on Foreign-funded Enterprises, Patent Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law, Economic Contract Law, Law on Enterprise Bankruptcy, and some other laws. To carry out the policy of “one country, two systems,” the legislature enacted the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region. To strengthen ethnic unity, develop socialist democracy and safeguard citizens’ legitimate rights and interests, the legislature enacted the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, Organic Law of the Villagers’ Committees, Criminal Procedure Law, Civil Procedure Law, Administrative Procedure Law, and some other laws. To protect and improve the living and ecological environment, the legislature enacted the Environmental Protection Law, Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, Law on the Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution, and some other laws. To promote education and culture, the legislature enacted the Compulsory Education Law, Law on the Protection of Cultural Relics, and some other laws. These great achievements in legislation laid an important foundation for the establishment of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics.
In 1992 the 14th National Congress of the CPC made an important strategic decision to establish a socialist market economy. It expressly stated that the establishment and improvement of this socialist market economy must be regulated and guaranteed by a complete legal regime. To meet the requirements for establishing a socialist market economy, the Chinese legislature accelerated the pace of enacting economic laws; to regulate market players, maintain market order, strengthen macro-control and promote opening to the outside world, the legislature enacted the Company Law, Partnership Enterprise Law, Law on Commercial Banks, Law on Township Enterprises, Anti-Unfair Competition Law, Law on the Protection of Consumers’ Rights and Interests, Product Quality Law, Auction Law, Guaranty Law, Maritime Code, Insurance Law, Negotiable Instruments Law, Law on Urban Real Estate Administration, Advertising Law, Law on Certified Public Accountants, Arbitration Law, Audit Law, Budget Law, Law on the People’s Bank of China, Foreign Trade Law, Labor Law, and some other laws. To improve criminal laws, the legislature revised the Criminal Law, making it unified and complete, and revised the Criminal Procedure Law, improving criminal procedure. To regulate and supervise the use of power, the legislature enacted the Law on Administrative Penalty, Law on State Compensation, Judges Law, Public Procurators Law, Law on Lawyers, and some other laws. To strengthen the protection of the environment and resources, the legislature enacted the Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste, and some other laws while revising the Mineral Resources Law and some other laws.
In 1997 as the socialist market economy was gradually put in place, the level of opening up was constantly enhanced, the efforts to improve democracy and the legal system were advanced, and all undertakings were developing, to advance the cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics in all aspects in the 21st century, the CPC, at its 15th National Congress, set the first ten-year target for the national economic and social development for the new century, established a basic strategy of “governing the country according to law and building a socialist country ruled by law” and set the goal of completing the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics by the year 2010. To achieve this goal, to guarantee and promote the socialist market economy, and to meet the requirements of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Chinese legislature kept on making new economic laws. It enacted the Securities Law, Contract Law, Law on Bid Invitation and Bidding, Trust Law, Law on Individual Proprietorship Enterprises, Law on the Contracting of Rural Land, Government Procurement Law, and some other laws, while revising the Foreign Trade Law, Law on Chinese-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures, Law on Chinese-Foreign Cooperative Joint Ventures, Law on Foreign-funded Enterprises, Patent Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law, and some other laws. To regulate legislative activities and improve the legislation system, the NPC enacted the Law on Legislation, systematizing and codifying the principles, mechanism, extent of power and procedure of legislation, and the systems of legal interpretation, application of law, and registration and other systems. To develop socialist democracy, foster socialist culture, protect the ecological environment, and develop social undertakings, the legislature enacted the Administrative Reconsideration Law, Higher Education Law, Law on Prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases, and some other laws; revised the Trade Union Law, Law on the Protection of Cultural Relics, Marine Environmental Protection Law, Pharmaceuticals Administration Law, and some other laws. And to ensure that the laws are effectively carried out, the NPC Standing Committee made legal interpretations of articles in the Criminal Law, Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and some other laws. These efforts enabled a socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics to take shape.
Entering the new century, the CPC set the goal of building a moderately prosperous society of a higher level in all aspects for the benefit of over one billion people by 2020 at its 16th and 17th national congresses. To meet this goal, and to improve socialist democracy and the socialist legal system, fully carry out the basic strategy of governing the country by law, better safeguard the people’s rights and interests, social fairness and justice, and promote social harmony, the Chinese legislature strengthened legislation work and constantly improved the quality of legislation. To safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and promote the peaceful reunification of the country, the legislature enacted the Anti-Secession Law. To develop socialist democracy, it enacted the Law on the Supervision of Standing Committees of People’s Congresses at All Levels, Administrative Licensing Law, Administrative Coercion Law, and some other laws. To protect the lawful rights and interests of the citizens, legal persons and other organizations, and guarantee and promote the healthy development of the socialist market economy, the legislature enacted the Property Law, Tort Law, Law on Enterprise Bankruptcy, Anti-monopoly Law, Law on Anti-money Laundering, Enterprise Income Tax Law, Law on Vehicle and Vessel Taxation, Law on the State-owned Assets of Enterprises, Banking Supervision Law, and some other laws. To improve the social security system, and ensure and improve the people’s livelihood, the legislature enacted the Social Insurance Law, Labor Contract Law, Employment Promotion Law, People’s Mediation Law, Law on Labor Dispute Mediation and Arbitration, Food Safety Law, and some other laws. To conserve resources, protect the environment and build a resource-conserving and environmentally-friendly society, the legislature enacted the Law on Renewable Energy, Circular Economy Promotion Law, Law on Environmental Impact Assessment, and some other laws. In addition, the Chinese legislature also promulgated and revised a group of laws to strengthen social management and safeguard social order.
As the NPC and its Standing Committee enact laws, the State Council and local people’s congresses and their standing committees, based on their scope of legislative power as prescribed in the Constitution and related laws, have adopted many administrative regulations and local regulations, which play an important role in improving China’s socialist democracy and legal system, and promoting the establishment of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics.
To ensure a unified legal system and make it more scientific and consistent, legislative bodies at different levels sorted out laws and regulations on several occasions. From 2009, the NPC Standing Committee, the State Council, and local people’s congresses and their standing committees started to sort out laws and regulations in an all-round way. The NPC Standing Committee annulled eight laws and decisions about legal issues, and revised 59 laws. The State Council annulled seven administrative regulations and revised 107 administrative regulations. Local people’s congresses and their standing committees annulled 455 local regulations, and revised 1,417 local regulations. Such work has helped to solve the problem of incompatibility among laws and regulations.
Since New China was founded, and particularly since the policy of reform and opening up was introduced in 1978, China has made remarkable achievements in its legislation work. By the end of August 2011, the Chinese legislature had enacted 240 effective laws including the current Constitution, 706 administrative regulations, and over 8,600 local regulations. As a result, all legal branches have been set up, covering all aspects of social relations; basic and major laws of each branch have been made; related administrative regulations and local regulations are fairly complete; and the whole legal system is scientific and consistent. A socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics has been solidly put into place.