SOAS University of London

School of Law

Modern Chinese Law and Institutions

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year

The first part of the module examines, inter alia, the principal features of the pre-Communist Chinese legal tradition, the impact on law of thirty years of Maoist rule, the post-Mao Chinese leadership's changing policies towards law, constitutional law and governmental structure, sources of law and law making system, court and judicial independence, and legal profession.

The second part considers the branches of law in selected key areas including, among others, law and policies in respect of crime and criminal procedures, human rights protection and development, administrative law and administrative litigation, family law, population control, general principles of civil law, civil disputes resolution, legal protection of women, elderly and child, and legal aspects of civil society.

The module presumes no prior knowledge of Chinese language, but students will be expected to familiarise themselves with Chinese legal terms.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • A familiarity with the key features of the laws and institutions and their development in the history of modern China, especially as found in late Qing, the Republican period and in the People’s Republic of China;
  •  A familiarity with the key terminologies in Chinese related to modern Chinese law and institutions;
  • A grasp of methodology for analysing modern Chinese law and institutions in their local contexts;
  • A comprehensive understanding of modern Chinese law and institutions and their developments since 1979 until present;
  • Objectives of the first part of the module focus on understanding of state and constitutional structure, legal institutions, court structure, legal profession and other personnel associated with law while the second part of the module on various substantive areas of law;
  • A broad understanding of the key areas of laws in modern China including among others constitutional law, legislation law (law-making law), laws of national autonomous region and special administrative region, criminal law and procedures, administrative law and administrative litigation, civil law and civil dispute resolution, family law, legal protection of the socially disadvantaged groups, etc.; 
  • An ability to assess the development of and specific features of modern Chinese law and institutions, as well as an ability to assess the rule of law future development in China.

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 50% (4000 words)
  • Unseen written exam: 50%

Suggested reading

  • Lubman, Stanley, Bird in a Cage:  Legal Reform in China after Mao, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999.

  • Peerenboom, Randall, China’s long march towards the rule of law, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

  • Zhu, Sanzhu (ed.) Law and Institutions of Modern China, (4 Volumes Collection. Volume I: Legal Development of the People’s Republic of China; Volume II: Legal Institutions of the People’s Republic of China; Volume III: Constitution and Basic Laws of the People’s Republic of China; Volume IV: Chinese Law and Institutions in the Twenty-First Century), Routledge, 2011.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules