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148 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995 Ronald C. Keith. China's Strugglefor the Rule ofLaw. New York: St. Martin 's Press, 1994. x, 290 pp. Hardcover. Ronald Keitii serves up this rich and diought-provoking account of China's struggle for the rule oflaw in the firm beliefthat the West can no longer ignore internal Chinese debate and diinking on such topics as the rule oflaw, the relation of law to society, the nature ofcivil society and law's role in achieving it, human rights, and the symbiotic relation between economic development as a stimulus to legal reform and legal reform as a guarantor ofproperty rights and die necessary precondition to economic development. The timeliness and importance of this book are obvious in light ofrecent watershed events diat have not only defined Sino-U.S. relations but cast new light on the evolving relations between the rapidly developing and increasingly assertive Asian countries and the largely liberal democracies of the West: Tiananmen and its aftermath; U.S. brinksmanship and its subsequent retreat on MFN; the brouhaha over the butt-lashing ofjuvenile delinquents in Singapore; and die growing economic interdependence between China and the West as foreign capital continues to flood die Pearl River Delta and products stamped "made in China" pour into Western markets. All these are legal issues and more than legal issues. Cultural, philosophical, and economic concerns are equally implicated. A narrow focus on codified law alone is not sufficient for an understanding of the depth of the differences. One must examine the theoretical underpinnings and historical conditions for the various views. The way to start to understand the Chinese view is by listening to what die Chinese are saying. Keith excels at telling us what the Chinese are saying, displaying along die way an impressive familiarity with the Chinese legal and political literature. He organizes his discussion into eight chapters. The first introduces the "Western Perspective on the Rule of Law" and then contextualizes the Chinese debate on rule of law. The basic contours of the debate are well known to China watchers: the struggle for "rule of law" versus "rule of man," where "rule ofman" refers to government by virtuous leaders, Party policy, mass-line justice, informal mediation in contrast to the rule oflaw's reliance on formal legal institutions, an independent judicial system controlled by professionally trained legal experts rather than politicians and Party-hacks, and adherence to such principles as equality before the law and the supremacy oflaw. As Keith points out, the impetus for re-© 1995 by University cent debates on rule of law versus rule of man lies not so much with die masses ofHawai'i Pressor intellectuals as with the Party. During the volatile Cultural Revolution, many Party members were purged, tormented, and abused as society was rocked by internal factionalism. Determined to avoid die excesses of diis chaotic period, Reviews 149 Party leaders emphasized die need for rule oflaw with its attendant procedural safeguards. In Chapter 2, Keith presents a rather cursory and somewhat unsatisfactory survey ofWestern and Chinese views oftraditional Chinese legal and political culture and its role in the contemporary rule oflaw versus rule of man debate. Part of the problem is that much ofthe work on traditional thought is marred by either the cultural and normative biases ofWestern commentators steeped in liberal democratic orthodoxy or the equally distorted lens of Chinese commentators raised on socialist readings of Chinese traditions. The use of tradition in the contemporary debate is often misused, as commentators distort the past to serve the present. Nevertheless, a better appreciation for China's cultural and normative traditions may prove essential if China is to build a genuine rule oflaw with Chinese characteristics. As Keith correctly notes, most in China do not favor wholesale importation ofWestern rule of law, with its liberal democratic biases toward autonomy and individualism at die expense of collective welfare. Is a synthesis possible? Those readers interested in this topic would do well to see recent Western scholarship by Tu Wei-ming, Roger Ames, and others, who find in China's traditional normative systems, particularly Confucianism, resources for a new political order. Chapter 3 examines the much...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 148-152
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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