Happy Lunar New Year from the USC US-China Institute!
PRC State Council, The Socialist System of Laws with Chinese Characteristics, October 27, 2011
Governing the country by law and building a socialist country under the rule of law is a fundamental principle for the Communist Party of China (CPC) to lead the people and effectively govern the country. We need to bring into being a socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics so as to ensure there are laws to abide by for the carrying on of state affairs and social life; this is a precondition and foundation for us to implement the fundamental principle of the rule of law in all respects, and an institutional guarantee for China's development and progress.
In 1949 the People's Republic of China was founded, marking the great transition from the centuries-old dictatorial system of feudalism to the system of people's democracy, putting an end to the period of semi-colonialism and semi-feudalism in China, and enabling the people to become masters of the country, society and their own life. For over 62 years, particularly since the policy of reform and opening up was adopted in 1978, the CPC has led the Chinese people in making the Constitution and laws. With concerted and unremitting efforts, by the end of 2010 we had put in place a socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics, which is based on the conditions and reality of China, meets the needs of reform, opening up and the socialist modernization drive, and reflects the will of the CPC and the Chinese people. This legal system, headed by the Constitution, with laws related to the Constitution, civil and commercial laws and several other branches as the mainstay, and consisting of laws, administrative regulations, local regulations and other tiers of legal provisions, ensures that there are laws to abide by in economic, political, cultural and social development, as well as in ecological civilization building.
The socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics is a legal foundation for socialism with Chinese characteristics to retain its nature, a legal reflection of the innovative practice of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and a legal guarantee for the prosperity of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Its establishment is an important milestone in China's development of socialist democracy and the legal system, and showcases the great achievements of reform, opening up and the socialist modernization drive. It is of great realistic and far-reaching historic significance.
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.
The socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics is an organic integration of the related laws of the Constitution, civil and commercial laws, administrative laws, economic laws, social laws, criminal laws, litigation and non-litigation procedural laws, and other legal branches, with the Constitution in the supreme place, the laws as the main body, and administrative and local regulations as the major components.
1. Tiers of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics
The Constitution is the paramount law of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics. As China's fundamental law, the Constitution assumes the commanding position in the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics and is the fundamental guarantee of lasting stability and security, unity of ethnic groups, economic development and social progress. In China, people of all ethnic groups, all state organs, the armed forces, all political parties and public organizations, and all enterprises and institutions in the country must take the Constitution as the basic standard of conduct, and they have the duty to uphold the dignity of the Constitution and ensure its implementation.
China's present Constitution is one with Chinese characteristics and geared to the needs of socialist modernization, and is the general charter for governance of the country and good order of the nation. It was passed by the NPC in 1982 after nationwide discussion. Later, in accordance with the national economic and social development, the NPC passed four Amendments to the Constitution. China's Constitution defines the basic system and basic tasks of the state, affirms the leadership of the CPC, establishes the guiding role of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of the Three Represents, determines the state system as a people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants, and takes the system of people's congresses as the form of administration. It rules that all state power belongs to the people and that the citizens enjoy extensive rights and freedom in accordance with the law, establishes the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation led by the CPC, the system of regional ethnic autonomy and the system of primary-level self-governance, and specifies the basic economic system in which public ownership is dominant and diverse forms of ownership develop side by side and the distribution system in which distribution according to work is dominant and diverse modes of distribution coexist. While maintaining its stability, China's Constitution is constantly improving and advancing with the times, along with the reform and opening up and the progress of the cause of socialist modernization. Promptly written into the Constitution are important experience, principles and systems that have been proven mature by practice, which fully reflects the outstanding achievements of China's reform and opening up, the great achievements of the cause of socialist construction with Chinese characteristics and the self-improvement and constant development of the socialist system, providing a fundamental guarantee for the progress of the reform and opening up, and socialist modernization.
The Constitution has supreme legal authority in the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics. All laws, administrative and local regulations must be made in accordance with the Constitution and follow its basic principles, and must not contravene the Constitution.
The laws are the main body of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics. The Constitution stipulates that the NPC and its Standing Committee exercise the legislative power of the state. The laws formulated by the NPC and its Standing Committee are the main body of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics, and deal with matters of fundamental and overall importance to national development and those which affect the country's stability and long-term development. The laws are the basis of the nation's legal system, and must not be contravened by administrative or local regulations.
The Law on Legislation ensures exclusive legislative power to the NPC and its Standing Committee. The NPC enacts and amends basic laws governing criminal offences, civil affairs, state organs and other matters; the Standing Committee of the NPC enacts and amends laws other than the ones to be enacted by the NPC. When the NPC is not in session, it may supplement and amend laws enacted by the NPC, but must not contradict the basic principles of such laws. The Law on Legislation also stipulates that the following must be governed by law: affairs concerning state sovereignty; formation, organization, and functions and powers of state organs; the system of regional ethnic autonomy; the system of special administrative regions; the system of primary-level self-governance; criminal offences and their punishment; mandatory measures and penalties involving deprivation of citizens' political rights or restriction of the freedom of the person; requisition of non-state-owned property; basic civil system; basic economic system; basic systems of fiscal administration, taxation, customs, finance and foreign trade; systems of litigation and arbitration; and other affairs.
The laws enacted by the NPC and its Standing Committee establish the important and basic legal systems in the nation's economic, political, cultural, social and ecological civilization construction, are the main body of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics and provide an important basis for the formulation of administrative and local regulations.
Administrative regulations are an important component of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics. The State Council formulates administrative regulations in accordance with the Constitution and laws, which is an important form of the State Council's implementation of its responsibility endowed by the Constitution and laws. The administrative regulations may regulate matters concerning the implementation of the provisions of the laws and performance of the administrative functions and powers of the State Council. For matters that shall be governed by laws to be formulated by the NPC and its Standing Committee, the State Council may enact administrative regulations first in its place with authorization from the NPC and its Standing Committee. The administrative regulations occupy an important position in the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics by detailing the related systems stipulated by laws, elaborating and supplementing the laws.
The State Council, in accordance with the actual needs of socioeconomic development and administrative work, has enacted - within its statutory power limits and conforming to legal procedures - a large number of administrative regulations which cover all areas of administration, concerning the nation's economic, political, cultural and social matters. They play an important role in the implementation of the Constitution and laws, the guaranteeing of the reform and opening up and socialist modernization, the promotion of comprehensive, balanced and sustainable economic and social development and the advancement of administration in accordance with law of the people's governments at all levels.
Local regulations are another important component of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics. The people's congresses and their standing committees of the provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government, and the larger cities may, in accordance with the Constitution and laws, formulate local regulations, which is an important channel and form of the people's participation in the administration of state affairs and promotion of local economic and social development by law. The people's congresses and their standing committees of the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government may, in the light of the specific local conditions and actual needs, formulate local regulations, provided that they do not contradict the Constitution, the laws and the administrative regulations. The people's congresses and their standing committees of the larger cities may, in the light of the specific local conditions and actual needs, formulate local regulations, provided that they do not contradict the Constitution, laws, administrative regulations and local regulations of their respective provinces or autonomous regions. Moreover, they shall submit such regulations to the standing committees of the people's congresses of the provinces or autonomous regions for approval before implementation. The people's congresses of the ethnic autonomous areas have the power to formulate autonomous regulations and separate regulations on the basis of the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the local ethnic group(s). Where certain provisions of the laws and administrative regulations are concerned, adaptation may be made in autonomous regulations and separate regulations, but such adaptation may not contradict the basic principles of the laws and administrative regulations. However, no adaptation may be made to the provisions of the Constitution and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, or the provisions in other laws and administrative regulations that are specially formulated to govern the ethnic autonomous areas. The autonomous regulations and separate regulations of the autonomous regions shall be submitted to the Standing Committee of the NPC for approval before they go into effect. The autonomous regulations and separate regulations of the autonomous prefectures or counties shall be submitted to the standing committees of the people's congresses of the relevant provinces, autonomous regions or municipalities directly under the central government for approval before they go into effect. The people's congresses and their standing committees of the provinces and cities where special economic zones are located may, upon authorization by the NPC and its Standing Committee and in the light of specific local conditions and actual needs, formulate regulations in accordance with provisions of the Constitution and basic principles of the laws and administrative regulations, and enforce them within the limits of the special economic zones. Local regulations may be formulated to govern matters requiring the formulation of rules to implement the provisions of laws and administrative regulations, and matters pertaining to local affairs. Except for matters governed by laws exclusively formulated by the NPC and its Standing Committee, local regulations can also be made on other matters which are not yet covered by existing laws and administrative regulations. The local regulations also occupy an important position in the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics. They elaborate and supplement the laws and administrative regulations, extend and improve national legislation and accumulate useful experience for national legislation.
Local people's congresses and their standing committees, which actively exercise local legislative functions and powers, have enacted a large number of local regulations in the light of the actual conditions of local economic and social development, playing an important role in guaranteeing the effective implementation of the Constitution, laws and administrative regulations within their respective administrative regions, and promoting the reform and opening up and socialist modernization drive.
2. Branches of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics
Laws related to the Constitution. The laws related to the Constitution are the collection of legal norms supporting the Constitution and directly guaranteeing its enforcement and the operation of state power. They regulate the political relationships of the state and mainly consist of laws in relation to the establishment, organization, functions, powers and basic working principles of state organs; laws on the system of regional ethnic autonomy, the system of special administrative regions and the primary-level self-governance; laws in relation to maintaining state sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security and national symbols; and laws in relation to guaranteeing the basic political rights of citizens. By the end of August 2011 China had enacted 38 laws related to the Constitution, as well as a number of administrative and local regulations.
China has formulated electoral laws related to the NPC and local people's congresses at all levels, organic laws of local people's congresses and people's governments at all levels, and developed mechanisms for the election of deputies of the people's congresses and the leadership of state organs, providing an institutional guarantee for the people's exercise of state power and a legal basis for the formation of state organs. It has enacted organic laws of the NPC, the State Council, the People's Courts and the People's Procuratorates, and established systems concerning the organization, function and power and limits of related state organs. To implement the "one country, two systems" policy and realize national reunification, it has promulgated the basic laws of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and established the system of special administrative region which has ensured the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao. It has formulated organic laws governing urban residents' committees and villagers' committees for the establishment of urban and rural primary-level self-governance. In this way, citizens directly exercise the rights of democratic election, decision, administration and supervision by law, and implement democratic self-government of public and welfare affairs at the grassroots level, which have become the most direct and extensive democratic practices in the country. China has promulgated the Law on the Procedure for the Conclusion of Treaties, Law on Territorial Waters and the Contiguous Zones, Law on Exclusive Economic Zones and the Continental Shelf, Anti-Secession Law, Law on the National Flag, Law on the National Emblem, and other laws, and established a legal system which maintains state sovereignty and territorial integrity while safeguarding the fundamental interests of the country. It has enacted the Law on Assemblies, Processions and Demonstrations, Law on State Compensation, and other laws, as well as administrative regulations concerning ethnic group, religion, petition, and publication and registration of mass organizations, which guarantee the basic political rights of the citizens.
China fully protects its citizens' right to vote and stand for election. Elections follow the principles of universal suffrage and equality, and are carried out in the forms of direct, indirect and competitive elections. The Constitution stipulates that all citizens of the People's Republic of China who have reached the age of 18, except persons who have been deprived of their political rights in accordance with the law, shall have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic status, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status or length of residence. To guarantee its citizens' right to vote and stand for election, China is constantly modifying and improving the electoral system in accordance with the country's actual conditions, and has gradually realized the election of deputies to the people's congresses consonant with the proportion of the populations in urban and rural areas, and ensured that an appropriate number of representatives can appear at the NPC from all regions, ethnic groups and walks of life, realizing complete equality of the voting right of urban and rural residents.
China has enacted the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, which ensures the implementation of the system of regional ethnic autonomy, fully respects and guarantees the right of ethnic minorities to administer their own affairs, and protects the legitimate rights and interests of the ethnic minorities by law. According to the Constitution and laws, China has currently 155 ethnic autonomous areas, i.e. five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties (banners). In addition, there are over 1,100 villages where ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities. According to the Constitution and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, ethnic autonomous areas have extensive autonomous power. First, they have the exclusive right to govern the local affairs of their ethnic groups and other affairs within their respective administrative regions. The chairman or vice-chairmen of the standing committee of the people's congress of an ethnic autonomous area must be a member of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area, and the head of an autonomous region, autonomous prefecture or autonomous county must be a citizen of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. Secondly, the people's congresses of ethnic autonomous areas have the power to enact regulations on the exercise of autonomy and separate regulations in the light of the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the ethnic group or groups in the areas concerned, and by law may also make adaptations to the provisions of laws and administrative regulations in the light of the characteristics of the ethnic group(s) in the areas concerned. By the end of August 2011, the ethnic autonomous areas had enacted more than 780 regulations on the exercise of autonomy, as well as separate regulations, which are currently in force. Thirdly, ethnic autonomous areas use and develop their own spoken and written languages. Fifty-three of the 55 minority groups have their own languages, and there are altogether 72 languages; 29 minority groups have their own scripts. The system of regional ethnic autonomy established by the Constitution and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy is consistent with the common interests and development needs of all China's ethnic groups. It guarantees the minority groups' self-government of their own affairs by law, their democratic participation in the administration of state and social affairs, and their equal entitlement to economic, political, social and cultural rights, and maintains relations of equality, solidarity, mutual assistance and harmony among ethnic groups.
China respects and upholds human rights. The Constitution has comprehensive stipulations on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens. The state has promulgated a series of laws and regulations and has developed a comparatively complete legal system to protect human rights, and ensures the citizens' right to subsistence and development, personal rights and property rights, freedom of religious belief, of speech, of the press, of the assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration, the right to social security and education, as well as other economic, political, social and cultural rights. The Constitution stipulates that citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy the freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The State Council has also promulgated the Regulations on Religious Affairs. Currently China has a total of more than 100 million believers in various religions, and the state fully protects its citizens' freedom of religious belief. The Constitution also provides that citizens who have suffered losses as a result of infringement of their civic rights by any state organ or functionary have the right to compensation in accordance with the provisions of the law. The state has enacted the Law on State Compensation and established the system of state compensation to effectively guarantee the right to state compensation of all citizens, legal persons and other organizations in accordance with the law.
Civil and commercial laws. Civil laws adjust property and personal relationships between civil subjects with equal status, that is, between citizens, between legal persons and between citizens and legal persons, and follow the principles of equal status between civil subjects, autonomy of will, fairness, honesty and credibility, and other basic principles. Commercial laws adjust commercial relationships between business subjects, and follow the basic principles of Civil Law and the principles of the freedom of commercial transaction, compensation of equal value and convenience and safety, among other principles. By the end of August 2011 China had promulgated 33 civil and commercial laws, as well as a large number of administrative and local regulations concerning commercial activities.
The state enacted the General Principles of the Civil Law, which establishes the basic principles that shall be followed in civil and commercial activities, and defines the target of regulation and basic principles of civil laws, as well as the systems concerning civil subjects, civil activities, civil rights and civil liability. With the development of the market economy, China gradually formulated the Contract Law, Property Law, Law on the Contracting of Rural Land and other laws, and established and improved the system of creditors' rights and the system of property rights including the proprietary rights, usufructuary rights and collateral rights; enacted the Tort Law and improved the tort responsibility system; promulgated the Marriage Law, Adoption Law, Succession Law and other laws and established and improved the marriage and family system; formulated the Law of the Application of Law in Foreign-related Civil Relations and improved the legal system of civil relations with foreigners; made the Company Law, Partnership Enterprise Law, Law on Individual Proprietorship Enterprises, Law on Commercial Banks, Law on Securities Investment Fund, Law on Specialized Farmers' Cooperatives, and other laws, and established and improved the system of business subjects. It also promulgated Securities Law, Maritime Code, Negotiable Instruments Law, Insurance Law and other laws, and established and improved the system of commercial activities. The systems of maritime trade, negotiable instruments, insurance, securities and other market economic activities gradually took form and quickly developed.
China attaches great importance to the protection of intellectual property rights, and has promulgated a large number of laws and regulations, including the Patent Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law, Regulations on the Protection of Computer Software, Regulations on the Protection of Integrated Circuit Layout Design, Regulations on the Collective Administration of Copyright, Regulations on the Protection of the Right to Network Dissemination of Information, Regulations on the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, Regulations on the Customs Protection of Intellectual Property Rights, Regulations on the Administration of Special Signs, Regulations on the Protection of Olympic Symbols, and other laws and regulations, centered on the protection of intellectual property rights. The promulgation of the Trademark Law in 1982 marked the beginning of China's systematic development of a modern legal system covering intellectual property rights. To further enhance the protection of intellectual property rights in China and meet the requirements for joining the WTO, China has been constantly improving the legal system of intellectual property rights, and has made a number of amendments to the Patent Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law and other laws to highlight legal protection of the promotion of scientific and technological advancement and innovation from the perspectives of the principles of legislation, the contents of rights, the standard of protection and the means of legal remedy, among others. By the end of 2010, the state had approved over 3,890,000 patents of various types, and effectively registered over 4,600,000 trademarks, including 670,000 trademarks from 177 countries and regions. According to incomplete statistics, during the period 2001-2010 copyright administration organs at various levels confiscated 707 million pirated copies, delivered 93,000 administrative penalties and transferred 2,500 cases to judicial organs.
To promote the reform and opening up, and expand international economic cooperation and technical exchanges, China enacted Law on Chinese-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures, Law on Foreign-funded Enterprises and Law on Chinese-Foreign Cooperative Joint Ventures, with provisions on the investment conditions, procedures, operation, supervision, administration, and the protection of legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in China. The state has established the principle that foreign investors should respect China's sovereignty when investing in China and other principles, including the protection of investors' legitimate rights and interests, equality and mutual benefit, extending of preferential policies and conforming to international prevailing norms, creating a favorable environment for foreign investors in China. To better implement the principles of equality and mutual benefit and conforming to international prevailing norms, China has made several amendments to the above three laws, and fully guarantees the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in their investment and commercial activities in China. By the end of 2010 China had approved the establishment of 710,747 foreign-funded enterprises with an actual investment of US$1.107858 trillion, which fully demonstrates the constant improvement of China's legal system regarding the protection of foreign investors.
Administrative laws. Administrative laws are the collection of legal norms on the granting, execution and supervision of administrative power. They regulate the relationships between administrative authorities and subjects of administration because of administrative activities, follow the principles of statutory remit, statutory procedure, fairness and openness, and effective supervision, and guarantee the discharge of the functions and powers of administrative organs, as well as the rights of citizens, legal persons and other organizations. By the end of August 2011 China had enacted 79 administrative laws and a large number of administrative and local regulations regulating administrative power.
China attaches great importance to the regulation of the administrative organs' execution of their power, strengthens the supervision of the execution of administrative power in accordance with the law, and ensures the correct execution of administrative power by administrative organs. China has formulated the Law on Administrative Penalties, established the basic principles of penalty by law, fairness and openness, corresponding penalty for offence and combination of penalty and education, standardized the enactment rights of administrative penalties, developed fairly complete procedures of the decision and execution of administrative penalties, and established the hearing system of administrative penalties, by which an administrative organ, before making a decision on administrative penalty that may have a significance influence on the production and life of the party concerned, shall notify the party the right to request a hearing. The state has promulgated the Administrative Reconsideration Law, established the self-correction mechanism within administrative organs, and provided remedies to citizens, legal persons and other organizations for the protection of their legitimate rights and interests. Under this law, about 80,000 cases of administrative dispute are handled each year. The state has enacted the Administrative Licensing Law, which regulates the institution, executive organs and procedures of administrative licensing, standardizes the system of administrative licensing, and, in order to reduce the number of administrative licensing, defines the matters involved in the application for administrative licensing. It also stipulates that administrative licensing will not be used for matters in which citizens, legal persons and other organizations can make decisions themselves, matters which can be effectively regulated by the competitive mechanism of the market, matters which the organizations of trades or intermediary bodies can manage through self-discipline, and matters which administrative departments can solve by other administrative means such as subsequent supervision. In order to thoroughly implement the Administrative Licensing Law, the 11th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 10th NPC passed nine amendments, removing 11 types of administrative licensing. The State Council canceled 1,749 matters of administrative licensing at the central level, changed the administrative method for 121 matters and transferred 46 matters to lower administrative levels. The state has promulgated the Administrative Coercion Law, which clearly defines the principles of the institution and execution of administrative enforcement, standardizes the types, statutory limits, executive bodies and procedures of administrative enforcement, providing a legal basis for the guarantee and supervision of the administrative organs' performance of administrative functions and powers in accordance with the law, and the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organizations.
China attaches great importance to the protection of the ecological environment for mankind's survival and sustainable development. The state has promulgated the Environmental Protection Law, which lays down the basic principle of coordinated development of economic construction, social development and environmental protection, and dictates that governments at all levels, all organizations and individuals have the right and duty to protect the environment. To prevent negative impact on the environment in the course of project construction, the state has enacted the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment. The state has enacted laws for specific targets in environmental protection, such as those on prevention and control of water pollution, marine environment, atmospheric pollution, environmental noise pollution, environmental pollution by solid waste, radioactive pollution, and other laws. The State Council has formulated the Regulations on the Administration of Environmental Protection of Project Construction, Regulations on the Safe Management of Hazardous Chemicals, Regulations on the Collection and Use of Pollutant Discharge Fees, Measures on the Administration of Permits for Operations Involving Hazardous Waste, and other administrative regulations. The local people's congresses, in the light of the specific local conditions in their respective areas, have drawn up a large number of local regulations on environmental protection. China has established a system of national environmental protection standards, and had implemented over 1,300 national environmental protection standards by the end of 2010. China is also constantly strengthening the administrative enforcement of environmental protection laws. Over the past five years the state has investigated over 80,000 cases of violation of environmental protection laws, and has closed down 7,293 offending operations in accordance with the law.
China has also enacted the Education Law, Compulsory Education Law, Higher Education Law, Vocational Education Law, Teachers Law, Regulations on the Administration of Kindergartens, Regulations on the Qualifications of Teachers, and Regulations on Chinese-Foreign Cooperation in Running Schools to establish and improve its national education system. It has enacted the Drug Administration Law, Law on Maternal and Infant Health Care, Blood Donation Law, Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, Law on Physical Culture and Sport, Frontier Health and Quarantine Law, Food Safety Law, Regulations on the Supervision and Administration of Medical Devices, Regulations on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Anti-Doping Regulations to establish and improve the medical health system to ensure the people's health and safety. It has enacted the Law on Residents' Identity Cards, Law on the Control of Frontier Exit and Entry of Citizens, Law on the Control of Guns, Fire Prevention Law, Law on the Control of Narcotics, Law on Public Security Penalties, Emergency Response Law, Regulations on Detention Centers, Regulations on Safety Management of Large-Scale Mass Activities, and Regulations on the Safety Administration of Fireworks and Firecrackers to establish and improve systems aimed at maintaining social order and stability, promoting social harmony and ensuring public security. China has enacted the Civil Servants Law, People's Police Law, Law on Diplomatic Personnel, and Punishment Ordinance for Civil Servants Working in Administrative Organs to set up and improve the system of public service. China has enacted the National Defense Mobilization Law, Law on the Protection of Military Installations, Civil Air Defense Law, Military Service Law, Law on National Defense Education, Regulations on the Recruitment of Soldiers, and Militia Work Regulations to establish and improve the system of national defense and armed forces building. It has formulated the Law on Science and Technology Progress, Law on Popularization of Science and Technology, Law on the Protection of Cultural Relics, Law on the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Regulations on the Protection of Fossils, Regulations on the Protection of the Great Wall, and Regulations on the Administration of Films to establish and improve the system to promote scientific and technological progress, and protect and nourish culture.
Economic laws. Economic laws are a collection of laws and regulations which adjust social and economic relations arising from the state's intervening in, managing and regulating economic activities for the society's overall interests. They provide legal devices and an institutional framework for the state to conduct appropriate intervention in, and macro control of the market economy, thereby preventing malpractices resulting from spontaneous and blind operation of the market economy. By the end of August 2011 China had formulated 60 economic laws and a large number of related administrative and local regulations.
China has enacted the Budget Law, Price Law, and Law on the People's Bank of China to exercise macro-control and management over economic activities. It has formulated the Law on Corporate Income Tax, Individual Income Tax Law, Law on Vehicle and Vessel Taxation, Law on the Administration of Tax Collection, Provisional Regulations on Value-Added Tax, Provisional Regulations on Business Tax, and Provisional Regulations on City Maintenance and Construction Tax to improve the taxation system. It has enacted the Law on Regulation and Supervision of the Banking Industry, and Law on Anti-Money Laundering to supervise and regulate the banking industry to ensure its safe operation. It has enacted the Agriculture Law, Seed Law, and Law on Agricultural Product Quality and Safety to guarantee agricultural development and food safety of the country. It has formulated the Railway Law, Highway Law, Civil Aviation Law, and Electric Power Law to supervise and administer key industries and promote their development. It has formulated the Land Administration Law, Forest Law, Water Law, and Mineral Resources Law to regulate the rational exploitation and utilization of important natural resources. It has enacted the Energy Conservation Law, Renewable Energy Law, Circular Economy Promotion Law, and Law on the Promotion of Clean Production to promote the effective utilization of energy and development of renewable energy.
China stresses the use of laws to safeguard fair and orderly competition among market players. The Anti-Unfair Competition Law is an important law formulated by China during its transition from the planned economy to the market economy. By drawing lessons from other countries, it makes provisions to forbid counterfeiting, commercial bribery, false publicity, infringement on trade secrets, unfair lottery-attached sales and vilifying competitors to safeguard the rights and interests of commercial operators and enable them to compete fairly and justly. The Price Law stipulates that the state institutes and gradually improves a mechanism under which prices are formed mainly by the market under the state's macro-economic control. The prices of most commodities and services shall be regulated by the market while the prices of a very small number of commodities and services shall be guided or fixed by the government. The Anti-Monopoly Law has prohibitive provisions on monopolistic agreements, abuse of dominant market positions, and concentration of business operators that eliminates or restricts competition. China has carried out reforms to its fiscal, taxation, banking, foreign exchange and investment systems, establishing a macro-management system suited to the market economy. Remarkable achievements have been made in the deregulation of markets within the Chinese economy.
China actively discharges its obligations within the framework of the WTO, constantly improves its legal system regarding foreign trade, and has established a foreign trade system suited to the socialist market economy. It has clearly defined the rights and obligations of those engaged in foreign trade, and has improved the system of managing import and export of goods, technologies and the international service trade. It has established a foreign trade survey and promotion system with Chinese characteristics. In the light of WTO rules, China has improved its trade remedy system, customs supervision, and import and export commodity inspection and quarantine system, and established a unified and transparent foreign trade system. China's foreign trade has been expanding rapidly, and the ratio of its total export-import volume to the international trade volumes keeps rising. In 2010 the ratio of China's exports in the world's total was 10.4 percent.
Social laws. China's social laws are the collection of laws and regulations with respect to the adjustment of labor relations, social security, social welfare and protection of the rights and interests of special groups. It follows the principle of justice, harmony and appropriate state intervention. By performing their duties, the state and society provide necessary protection for the rights and interests of laborers, the unemployed, the incapacitated for work, as well as other special groups in need of help so as to safeguard social equity and promote social harmony. By the end of August 2011, China had enacted 18 laws in this particular field and a large number of administrative and local regulations to regulate labor relations and social security.
China's Labor Law deals with labor relations and other relationships closely related to them, such as labor protection, labor safety and hygiene, occupational training, labor disputes and labor supervision, thus establishing China's basic labor system. China has enacted the Law on Mine Safety, Law on Prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases, and Production Safety Law and some other laws, making provisions for safe production and prevention of occupational diseases, and strengthening the protection of the rights and interests of laborers. It has enacted the Labor Contract Law, Employment Promotion Law, and Law on Labor Dispute Mediation and Arbitration, thus establishing and improving the system, which is suited to the socialist market economy, of labor contract, employment promotion and labor dispute settlement. It has enacted the Red Cross Society Law, Law on Donation for Public Welfare Undertakings and Regulations on Foundation Administration, thereby establishing and improving the system that promotes the development and administration of public welfare undertakings. It has formulated the Trade Union Law and revised it twice, defining the status of trade unions in the country's political, economic and social life, clarifying the rights and obligations of trade unions, and playing an active role in safeguarding laborers' legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law.
China attaches importance to the building of its social security system. It has enacted the Social Insurance Law, established a social insurance system which covers both rural and urban residents, basic endowment insurance, basic health insurance, work-related injury insurance, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance, guaranteeing that all citizens can get necessary material aid and living allowances when they get old, sick, injured or unemployed, or give birth. It stipulates that the basic endowment funds should be managed at the national level, and other social insurance funds managed at the provincial level. It has set up a system for the inter-regional transfer of laborers' social security. The State Council has enacted the Regulations on Unemployment Insurance, Regulations on Work-related Injury Insurance, Provisional Regulations on Collection and Payment of Social Insurance Premiums, and Regulations on the Work Regarding the Rural Five Guarantees. It has decided to establish a new rural endowment insurance and new rural cooperative health care system. They all play an important role in promoting the building of a social security system. The gradual establishment of the social security system provides legal guarantee for the Chinese government to accelerate the building of the social security network in accordance with the law, safeguard social equality and build a harmonious society. At present, the coverage of China's social security is expanding from state-owned enterprises to various social and economic organizations, from workers and staff members of organizations to self-employed people and other residents, and from the urban areas to the rural areas. By the end of 2010 the endowment insurance system of urban workers covered 257 million people, an increase of 1.7 times compared with 2002, and the new rural endowment insurance system covered 103 million people. The basic health insurance for rural and urban residents covered 1.26 billion people, 13 times the number in 2002. Work-related injury insurance covered 161 million people. The coverage of unemployment insurance and maternity insurance is also expanding rapidly. The State Council has also formulated the Measures for Assisting Vagrants and Beggars with No Means of Support in Cities, Regulations on Legal Aid, Regulations on Natural Disaster Relief, and Regulations on Minimum Subsistence Allowance for Urban Residents, and has decided to set up a minimum subsistence allowance program for rural residents, thus basically establishing a social relief system covering both urban and rural areas. By the end of 2010 some 77 million residents with financial difficulties in China received minimum subsistence allowance. The level of China's social security is constantly improving, and people are sharing the fruits of development.
China pays great attention to the protection of the rights and interests of special groups. It has enacted the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons, Law on the Protection of Minors, Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women, Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, and Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency. It has developed a comparatively complete legal system to protect the rights and interests of special groups, which plays an important role in protecting the legitimate rights and interests of special groups, and in safeguarding social equity and justice.
Criminal Law. This is the law that defines crimes and penalties. It aims to punish crime and protect the people, maintain social order and public security, and safeguard national security through regulating the state's power of punishment. By the end of August 2011 China had enacted the Criminal Law and eight amendments to it, as well as decisions on punishing fraudulent purchase of foreign exchange, evading foreign exchange control, and illegal trade in foreign exchange, plus nine legal interpretations on the Criminal Law.
The Criminal Law defines clearly these basic principles: punishment of crimes is defined by law, everyone is equal before the law, and punishment should match the severity of the crime. It expressly stipulates that any act deemed by explicit stipulations of the law as a crime is to be convicted and given punishment by law, and that any act that is not deemed a crime by the explicit stipulations of the law is not to be convicted or given punishment. The law shall be equally applied to anyone who commits a crime. No one shall have the privilege of transcending the law. The degree of punishment shall be commensurate with the crime committed and the criminal responsibility to be borne by the offender. The Criminal Law of China defines various types of crime and types of punishment, including public surveillance, criminal detention, fixed-term imprisonment, life imprisonment and the death penalty. It also includes three accessory penalties - fine, deprivation of political rights and confiscation of property. In addition, it states the concrete application of punishments. It identifies ten criminal acts and corresponding criminal liability, namely the crimes of endangering national security, endangering public security, undermining the order of the socialist market economy, infringing upon the rights of the person and the democratic rights of citizens, encroaching on property, disrupting the order of social administration, endangering the interests of national defense, embezzlement and bribery, dereliction of duty, and servicemen's transgression of duties.
In the light of the actual situation brought about by economic and social development, China promptly revises and interprets its Criminal Law in an effort to improve the criminal legal system. Amendment VIII to the Criminal Law, passed in February 2011, made major revisions of the previous Criminal Law. It eliminates capital punishment for 13 non-violent economic-related offences, thus reducing the number of crimes subject to the death penalty by 19.1 percent; it improves legal provisions that give more lenient punishment and non-custodial penalties to minors and elderly people who have reached the age of 75; it stipulates that refusing to pay wages, seriously infringing upon the legal rights and interests of laborers, and drunk driving are criminal offences; it gives harsher punishment for criminal offences in violation of citizens' personal freedom, life and health. All this has improved China's criminal justice system, strengthened the protection of human rights, reflecting the development of China's social civilization and progress in the spheres of democracy and rule of law.
Litigation and Non-litigation Procedure Laws. These are laws giving standard solutions to various litigation and non-litigation activities arising from social disputes. The litigation system aims to regulate the state's judicial activities in settling social disputes, and the non-litigation system aims to regulate arbitration agencies and people's mediation organizations in settling social disputes. By the end of August 2011 China had enacted ten laws in the fields of litigation and non-litigation procedure.
China's Criminal Procedure Law stipulates the basic system and principles of criminal procedures. For instance, the law applies equally to all citizens; the people's courts and people's procuratorates exercise judicial authority and procuratorial powers independently; the people's courts, people's procuratorates and public security organs divide their responsibilities, coordinate their efforts and check each other; ensure that criminal suspects and defendants obtain defense; and no one shall be convicted without a court decision. It also specifies the procedures such as jurisdiction, withdrawal, defense, evidence, enforcement measures, investigation, prosecution, trial and execution, which effectively guarantee the correct application of the Criminal Law, protect the personal, property, democratic and other rights of citizens so as to ensure the smooth progress of the cause of socialism.
China's Civil Procedure Law stipulates the following basic principles and system: the parties to civil litigation shall have equal litigation rights; mediation shall be conducted for the parties on a voluntary and lawful basis; the court shall follow the system of public trial and the court of second instance being that of last instance. It makes clear the litigation rights and obligations of the parties concerned, the use of evidence, the civil trial procedures such as ordinary procedure of first instance, procedure of second instance, summary procedure, special procedure, procedure for trial supervision, and procedure of execution and enforcement execution measures.
China's Administrative Procedure Law defines the legal remedy system in administrative lawsuits. It explicitly stipulates that a citizen, a legal person or other organization has the right to initiate an administrative lawsuit at a people's court in accordance with this law if they believe their lawful rights and interests are infringed upon by an administrative organ or staff working in it, and the people's court exercises judicial power independently with respect to administrative cases to protect the legal rights and interests of the citizens. Since the promulgation and implementation of the Administrative Procedure Law, the people's courts have accepted over 100,000 cases annually on average, protecting the lawful rights and interests of the citizens and making the administrative organs exercise their administrative powers according to law.
China's Arbitration Law has provisions for the establishment of domestic arbitration and foreign-related arbitration agencies, stipulates that an arbitration commission shall be independent of any administrative organ, which guarantees its independence. It also specifies that arbitration should be conducted upon a voluntary and independent basis, and that a system of a single and final award shall be practiced for arbitration. It also contains details about arbitration procedures. Since the promulgation of this law over 500,000 cases of economic disputes have been handled, involving a total sum of 700 billion yuan. It has played an important role in settling civil and economic disputes fairly, promptly and effectively, protecting the lawful rights and interests of the parties concerned, maintaining social and economic stability and promoting social harmony.
People's mediation is a Chinese way of resolving contradictions and settling disputes without resorting to legal proceedings. The Constitution and Civil Procedure Law specify the nature and fundamental principles of people's mediation, and the State Council has promulgated the Organic Regulations on the People's Mediation Commissions. In 2009 people's mediation organizations mediated over 7.67 million civil disputes, with a success rate of over 96 percent. In order to further promote people's mediation work and improve the system, China has formulated the People's Mediation Law, making the good experience and practices accumulated in this field into law. At present, there are more than 820,000 people's mediation organizations in China, and 4.67 million people's mediators, forming a mediation network covering both rural and urban areas. They are playing an important role in preventing and reducing civil disputes, resolving social conflicts, and maintaining social harmony and stability.
In addition, China has formulated the Extradition Law, Special Maritime Procedure Law, Law on Labor Dispute Mediation and Arbitration, and Law on the Mediation and Arbitration of Rural Land Contracting Disputes, thereby establishing and improving the system of litigation and non-litigation procedure laws.
The above-mentioned laws and regulations made by legislative bodies cover all aspects of society, bring all the work of the state and all aspects of social life under the rule of law, laying a solid foundation for the rule of law and construction of a socialist country under the rule of law. Law has become an important means for Chinese citizens, legal persons and other organizations to resolve disputes and conflicts. It also provides an important basis for the people's courts at all levels to safeguard the lawful rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organizations.
The differences between countries in their historical and cultural traditions, actual situations and paths of development, their social, political and economic systems determine that their systems of laws have different features. The socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics is the concentrated reflection of the institutionalization and codification of China's practice in its economic and social development since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, and especially in the past 30-odd years since the adoption of the reform and opening up policy. As an important component of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, it has distinct features.
1. The socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics embodies the essential requirements of socialism with Chinese characteristics
The nature of a country's legal system depends on the nature of its social system established in law. China is a socialist country under the people's democratic dictatorship, led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants. In the primary stage of socialism, China practices a basic economic system with public ownership as the mainstay and the joint development of diverse forms of ownership, which determines that China's legal institutions are bound to be socialist ones and that China's legal system is bound to be a socialist one with Chinese characteristics. All legal norms covered in and all legal institutions established by the socialist legal system contribute to consolidating and developing socialism, reflect the people's common aspirations, safeguard their fundamental interests and make sure that the people are the masters of their own country. China proceeds from the essential requirement of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the will and long-term interests of the people in making its laws and determining the relevant provisions. The aim and outcome of all the work of the state are to realize, safeguard and expand the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people.
2. Socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics meets the demand of the reform, opening up and socialist modernization of the current times
The most salient characteristic of this new period in China is reform and opening up. The socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics comes into existence and develops along with reform and opening up, and they complement each other. The establishment of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics is the inherent requirement for the progress of reform, opening up and socialist modernization. It is carried out on the basis of in-depth analysis of those practices. At the same time, the establishment of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics provides a favorable legal environment for reform, opening up and socialist modernization, and serves as a good regulator, guide, guarantee and impetus for the latter. Meanwhile, by appropriately handling the relationship between the stability of law and the mobility of reform, the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics reflects the successful practice of reform, opening up and modernization, and leaves enough space for their future development.
3. The socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics reflects the requirements of an inherently unified and structurally multilevel legal system
The constitution of a country's legal system is determined by its legal traditions, political and legislative systems, and other factors. China is a united multi-ethnic country as well as a state with a unified governmental system. Due to historical reasons, economic and social development is unbalanced among different regions. To accommodate the requirements of this national condition, the Constitution and laws define the unified and multilevel structure of China's legislative system with Chinese characteristics, which further determines the inherently unified and structurally multilevel feature of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics. It reflects the inner logic of the legal system itself, and conforms to China's national conditions and practices. Therefore, the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics is headed by the Constitution, composed of multilevel legal norms, including laws, administrative and local regulations. The legal norms are laid down by various legislative bodies according to their respective legislative competence prescribed by the Constitution and laws. They have different legal effect, but together constitute the scientific, harmonious and unified whole of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics as its organic parts.
4. The socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics meets the cultural demand of carrying forward the fine traditions of Chinese legal culture and drawing on the achievements of human legal civilizations
All countries base and develop their legal systems on their historical and cultural traditions, and actual social conditions, and their legal systems' communication and exchange with and learning from each other as economic globalization deepens. The constitution of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics is always based on China's national conditions, combining the inheritance of historical traditions, the introduction of the fruits of other civilizations with system innovations. It attaches great importance to the inheritance of fine traditional legal culture, carries out system innovations according to the requirements of reform, opening up and socialist modernization, thus realizing the integration of traditional culture and modern civilization; at the same time, it studies and draws on the good legislative experience of other countries and learns from their legislative achievements, but never slavishly imitates their models, which makes the current legal system conform to China's national conditions and practices as well as the trend of contemporary world legal civilization. China's legal system, featuring both inclusiveness and openness, has fully demonstrated its unique cultural characteristics.
5. The socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics reflects the development demand of being dynamic and open, and of advancing with the times
A country's legal system is normally the reflection of its conditions at a specific historical stage. With the country's economic and social development, its legal system needs to be enriched and improved, and innovations introduced. Currently China is in the primary stage of socialism, and will remain so for a long time to come. The country is still in the stage of structural reforms and social transformation, and its socialist system calls for constant self-improvement and development, which determines that the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics is bound to have the features of both stability and mobility, both periodical variations and continuity, and both actuality and foresightedness. China's legal system is dynamic, open, developing, not static, closed or fixed; it will constantly improve with China's economic and social development and the practice of building a socialist country under the rule of law.
In the course of formulation of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics, China's legislative bodies have integrated the leadership of the CPC, the people's status as masters of their country and the rule of law, actively exercised their legislative power, and carried out legislative work in a planned, focused and step-by-step manner, with attention always fixed on the priorities of the country. We have thereby accumulated some precious experience and successfully blazed a new path of legislation with Chinese characteristics.
Persisting in promoting legislation in a planned and phase-by-phase manner with clear objectives. In the practice of building socialism with Chinese characteristics under the leadership of the CPC over the past 30-odd years since the adoption of the reform and opening up policies, China's legislative bodies have, on the basis of their central tasks at different stages, proceeded from reality, focused on key issues, carried out careful organization work, established priorities, and formulated scientific, rational and practical five-year legislation plans and annual legislation work plans. They have enacted laws and regulations urgently needed for economic and social development, promoted legislation actively and steadily, and gradually formulated methods of building a socialist legal system in a planned, focused and phase-by-phase manner with clear objectives. We should pool legislative resources, focus on key legislation work and promptly meet the requirements of the fast-developing reform and opening up, thereby providing an effective path for building a socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics.
Persisting in promoting the side-by-side advancement of legislation at various levels. China is a united multi-ethnic country as well as a state with a unified government system, and economic and social development is unbalanced among different regions. In accordance with the national conditions, it is stipulated in the Constitution that under the guidance of the principle of giving full scope to the initiative and enthusiasm of the local authorities under the unified leadership of the central authorities, on the condition of maintenance of a unified legal system, the NPC and its Standing Committee exercise the legislative power of the state, the State Council formulates administrative regulations in accordance with the Constitution and the law, the people's congresses of provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government, comparatively larger cities and their standing committees may adopt local regulations, the people's congresses of ethnic autonomous areas have the power to enact regulations on the exercise of autonomy and other separate regulations, and the people's congresses or their standing committees of the provinces and cities where special economic zones are located may, upon authorization by the NPC, formulate regulations and enforce them within the limits of the special economic zones. A legislation work pattern of side-by-side advancement of legislation at various levels has gradually taken shape, which greatly accelerates the building of our legal system and at the same time takes into consideration the actual needs of economic and social development in various regions. This is a practical working model for the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics.
Persisting in the combination of various legislative forms. The building of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics is a scientific and systematic project. Since the reform and opening up started, in accordance with the demands of economic and social development, China's legislative bodies have lost no time in enacting laws and regulations urgently needed for the development of all social undertakings, attached importance to their amendment or abolition, and explained and checked them in a timely manner. They have adopted various legislative forms, such as formulation, amendment, abolition and interpretation, and promoted legislation in an all-round way. In this way, we have improved the quality of legislation and guaranteed the scientific nature and harmony of the legal system while laying a solid foundation for the effective implementation of legal norms.
The task remains arduous to improve the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics which we have successfully built. To improve that system from a new starting point is an inherent requirement of promotion of the development and improvement of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics. This will also be the primary task for our legislation work in future.
China is now at a critical stage in deepening reform and opening up, and building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way, as it has established the development goal for the first 20 years of the 21st century. The need for legal system improvement is urgent in order to meet the challenges of new domestic and international situations, and new demands and expectations of the people, as well as new issues and problems facing China's reform, development and stability. To realize scientific development, accelerate transformation of the economic development mode, and further guarantee and improve the people's livelihood, all need a legal system to promote and give guidance. There is a rising demand for more scientific and democratic legislation, as increasingly diversified stakeholders and complicated interest patterns make it harder to regulate social interests through legislation.
China will endeavor to meet the requirements of its basic strategies of promoting scientific development, improving social harmony and ruling the country by law. At present and for some time to come, and in accordance with the requirements of economic and social development, as well as scientific development, China will accelerate the transformation of the economic development mode, guarantee and improve the people's livelihood, improve social harmony, and continuously improve the laws and regulations, so as to build a better socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics.
China will continuously improve legislation in the economic field. In order to meet the requirements of the development of socialist market economy, we will improve the legal institutions for civil and commercial affairs. To meet the requirements of deepening the reforms of the fiscal, taxation and financial systems, we will improve legal institutions concerned with budget management, fiscal transfer payment, financial risk control and taxation. We will, in particular, attach importance to taxation legislation, and turn taxation regulations made by the State Council on authorization into laws. We will also improve laws regarding the state's management and control of economic activities in order to safeguard the country's economic security, and promote the healthy development of the socialist market economy.
China will take active measures to strengthen legislation on socialist democracy. In order to meet the requirements of actively yet steadily advancing political reform, we will improve legal institutions concerning election, self-governance among people at the grassroots level and organization of state organs; we will improve legislation regarding administrative procedures to regulate administrative actions, and improve laws concerning audit supervision and administrative reconsideration. In order to meet the requirements of reforming the judicial system, we will revise the Criminal Procedure Law, the Civil Procedure Law and the Administrative Procedure Law, so as to improve the procedure law system. We will also improve the legal system concerning the exercise of power by state organs and the punishment and prevention of corruption, in order to expand socialist democracy, standardize and supervise the exercise of power, and continuously develop socialist democracy.
China will strengthen legislation in the social field. We will always put people first, guarantee and improve the people's livelihood, advance social undertakings, improve the social security system, encourage innovation in social management, gradually improve the legal institutions concerning employment, labor protection, social security, social assistance, social welfare, income distribution, education, medical care, housing and social organizations, constantly explore an innovative social management mechanism, and push forward the development of social undertakings.
China will attach more importance to legislation in the cultural, scientific and technological fields. In order to meet the requirements of promoting reform in the cultural system and advancing science and technology, we will improve the legal institutions which support public cultural undertakings, develop the culture industry, encourage cultural and scientific innovation, and protect intellectual property rights, so as to realize cultural prosperity and build an innovation-oriented country.
China will attach importance to legislation in the field of the environment. In order to meet the requirements of building an energy-saving and environmentally-friendly society, we will strengthen laws on energy saving and eco-environmental protection, and improve our institutions so as to accelerate the transformation of the economic development mode, solve the contradictions between socioeconomic development and environmental protection, and promote harmony between man and nature.
While improving various laws, we will attach importance to their implementation, working mechanism and supporting regulations. We will improve the channels and methods for the interpretation of laws, and make it our regular work. We will give timely legal interpretations when the specific meaning of certain provisions needs further clarification, or the application of laws in certain new circumstances needs further explanation. We need to improve the organization, mechanism and method for reviewing and filing regulations, rules, and legal interpretations. Meanwhile, we will improve the revision mechanism as applied to laws and regulations, and make it work on a regular basis in order to make our legal system more scientific and consistent.
We will work to promote scientific and democratic legislation, and improve legislation quality. We will improve the mechanism whereby NPC deputies are involved in legislation, and bring their role to the full. We will improve motion deliberation system and establish a scientific and democratic examination and voting mechanism. We will explore channels and forms for the public to participate in legislation activities in an orderly manner, improve panel discussions, feasibility study meetings, hearings on legislation and the gathering of public opinion through the publication of draft laws and regulations, and establish and improve the mechanism through which public opinion can be heard and feedback can be given, so as to let legislation reflect the will of the public. We will establish and improve a mechanism featuring feasibility studies before making legislation and evaluation after making legislation, constantly endeavor to make legislation more scientific and reasonable, and further improve the practicality of laws and regulations.
Social practice is the foundation of laws, and laws encapsulate practical experience. Social practice is endless, and legislative work should also constantly move forward with the times. Building socialism with Chinese characteristics is a long-term historic task. Improving the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics is also a long-term and arduous historic task, and it must advance in tandem with the practice of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The vitality of laws lies in their enforcement. The formation of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics has generally solved the basic problem of having laws for people to follow. Now, the problem of ensuring that laws are observed and strictly enforced and that lawbreakers are prosecuted has become more pronounced and pressing. Therefore, China will take active and effective steps to guarantee the effective enforcement of the Constitution and laws, and accelerate the advance of the rule of law and the building of a socialist country under the rule of law.
Ying Zhu looks at new developments for Chinese and global streaming services.
David Zweig examines China's talent recruitment efforts, particularly towards those scientists and engineers who left China for further study. U.S. universities, labs and companies have long brought in talent from China. Are such people still welcome?