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Structural Constraints on Legal Change: Chinese Lawyers in the Interaction between the State, the Market and Society

Social Sciences in China

Vol. 34, No. 1, 2013

 

Structural Constraints on Legal Change: Chinese Lawyers in the Interaction between the State, the Market and Society

  (Abstract)

 

Li Xueyao and Cheng Jinhua

 

Studies on the sources of change in the Chinese legal system are usually based on the statist epistemology, i.e. the will of the state directs and even determines all aspects of change in the legal system. Although this epistemology can partially explain the re-creation of the Chinese legal system during the earlier period of reform and opening up, it fails to provide a comprehensive picture of the present complex situation. Taking as an example the changes in the Chinese legal profession during reform and opening up, this study employs quantitative data and empirical methods to explore the multiple dynamic impacts of the state, the market and society on the Chinese legal system. The study also proposes a theoretical framework of “structural constraints” on legal change. Since reform and opening up, the Chinese legal system has undergone a transition from state dominance to multi-agent interactions between the state, the market, society, and the legal system itself.