Chinese Central Government Tells Legal System to Be Leery of Constitutional Government, Separation of Powers and Judicial Independence


The Chinese central government has issued a key document on the future direction of the legal education system that makes explicit its position on key concepts in the Western political and legal traditions, and its commitment to maintaining the core leadership role of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The CPC Central Committee and the State Council recently jointly issued the “Opinions on Strengthening Legal Education and Legal Theory Research in a New Era” (关于加强新时代法学教育和法学理论研究的意见), in tandem with a directive requiring all regions and departments to implement the contents of the Opinions.

According to the Central Committee and the State Council, the Opinions are for the purpose of “strengthening legal education and legal theoretical research in a new era,” by providing a overarching framework for the content and direction of China’s legal education system.

The Opinions take a strong stand on maintaining the distinctiveness of China’s legal and political tradition, explicitly disavowing the notion of universal values when it comes to matters of law and governance.

They call for “guiding the majority of law school teachers and students and legal theory workers to take a clear stand and stand firm in the face of issues of principle and major issues of right and wrong,” and to “resolutely oppose and resist erroneous Western views on ‘constitutional government’, ‘separation of three powers’, and ‘judicial independence.'”

The Opinions also firmly reiterate the institutional leadership role of the CPC in the governance of China for the indefinite future, calling for “adhering to and strengthening the overall leadership of the party, to ensure that legal education and legal theoretical research always proceed towards the correct political direction.”

In terms of explicit goals, the Opinions outline two key targets for the development of China’s legal education system, including:

  • By 2025: The regional arrangements for law schools and the arrangements for disciplines and majors will be more balanced, the legal education management guidance system will be more complete, the quality of personnel development will steadily improve, and the supplementation of the shortfall of personnel in key areas will accelerate. The research fields of legal theory will continue to expand and research capabilities will continue to improve. Basic theoretical research and applied countermeasure research will become more diverse, and theoretical research into socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics will see more innovation and development.
  • By 2035: In line with the basic establishment of a nation ruled by law, a government ruled by law, and a society ruled by law, the Opinions call for the establishment of a cohort of world-class law schools with Chinese characteristics, as well as the training of a cohort of legal experts and scholars with international influence, and the continuous cultivation of a large volume of high-level talent with both political integrity and capability. It also calls for the establishment of a legal faculty system, academic system, and discourse system with distinctive Chinese characteristics, and the formation of a legal education system and legal theory research system with scientific content, rational structure, systematic completeness, and synergy and efficiency.