Jerome Cohen: Thirty Years of Chinese Legal Reform

From the Wall Street Journal:

As the 30-year anniversary of China’s reform and opening draws near, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong Thursday hosted China legal expert extraordinaire Jerome Cohen, who discussed the development of China’s legal system over the last three decades and its future.

Below are some highlights from the talk:

Thirty years ago if you looked around it was hard to find any of the conventional indicia in China of what constitutes a legal system. You couldn’t find much legislation…there was nothing in terms of guiding norms, there were no relevant international agreements…. The courts were in shambles after the Cultural Revolution and the legal profession was demolished….Bookstores had no sections for law. It was hard to say China had a legal system.

[…] Now thirty years later, we look and we find a vastly different formal and actual situation.

If you look at personnel, China now has roughly 200,000 judges…. 160,000 procurators (prosecutors), 150,000 lawyers…. And they have a legal education system that is growing — maybe too fast — with over 600 law departments and law schools cranking out several hundred thousand law graduates, and several hundred thousand people are taking the bar examination every year.

[…] You have an interest group …that’s promoting something called a credible rule of law [and] Western-style rule of law, at least in form.

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