Without a developed rule of law, China’s economic plans alone will be unable to sustain the stability of the state. This is one of the main arguments in an opinion piece from Leslie Hook of the Wall Street Journal:
The current legal system grew out of the reforms of 1978, and like the economy, it has improved greatly in the past three decades, especially in the development of a commercial code. But in a Communist system there is no law apart from the state, and while China’s leaders often pay lip service to the rule of law, their actions speak louder than words.
President Hu Jintao’s catchword is “harmony,” and it’s only now, six years into his rule, becoming apparent what that means for the rule of law. Take the words of Wang Shengjun, a career bureaucrat with no formal law degree, who was named head of the Supreme Court in March. Mr. Wang has promulgated Mr. Hu’s theory of the “Three Supremes” to guide the work of the legal system. This refers to the Communist Party, the people’s interest, and the constitution and laws — in that order. During a recent visit to a court in Beijing’s Fengtai district, he said the “demand of the people” should “become the basic principle of people’s court routine.”
Nowhere is this attitude clearer than in the local bar associations. In free countries, lawyers organize via independent bar associations that govern ethics and serve as watchdogs on government abuses of the system. Not so in China. All practicing lawyers must register with and pay dues to their local lawyers’ association, which reports to the Ministry of Justice, which tacitly approves its leaders. These associations aren’t there to help lawyers or represent them to the Ministry; rather, their purpose is to control the lawyers — sometimes even telling them whom they can, and can’t, represent, according to Chinese legal scholars. Many lawyers resent paying for this “service.”