Abstract: Since the early 1990s, China has come a long way in legislating the foundational rules for its reformed economy. Virtually all of the important areas-contracts, business organizations, securities, bankruptcy, and secured transactions, to name a few – are now covered by national legislation as well as lower-level regulations. Yet an important feature of a legal structure suited to a market economy is missing: the ability of the system to generate from below solutions to problems not adequately dealt with by existing legislation. The top-down model that has dominated Chinese law reform efforts to date can only do so much. What is needed now is a more welcoming attitude to market-generated solutions to the gaps and other problems that will invariably exist in legislation. The state’s distrust of civil-society institutions and other bottom-up initiatives suggests, however, that this different approach will not come easily.