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Overview of the Chinese Legal System

October 2011

Citation: ELR 10885

Author: Jingjing Liu

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949 by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). For almost three decades after the PRC’s establishment, there was a perception that a formal legal system for many areas of national life was unnecessary since the economy was centrally controlled and conflicts could thus be resolved through mediation or administrative means without reference to legal rights and obligations. However, the “Reform and Open Door” policy in the late 1970s, which began China’s current rapid economic development and initiated the ongoing transition to a market economy, has had enormous implications for the country’s legal development. The 1980s and 1990s saw massive and rapid enactment of laws, including many environmental laws, regulations, and rules.

Jingjing Liu is associate director of the U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law and Assistant Professor at Vermont Law School.

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