The Socialist System of Laws with Chinese Characteristics
China actively discharges its obligations within the framework of the WTO, constantly improves its legal system regarding foreign trade, and has established a foreign trade system suited to the socialist market economy. It has clearly defined the rights and obligations of those engaged in foreign trade, and has improved the system of managing import and export of goods, technologies and the international service trade. It has established a foreign trade survey and promotion system with Chinese characteristics. In the light of WTO rules, China has improved its trade remedy system, customs supervision, and import and export commodity inspection and quarantine system, and established a unified and transparent foreign trade system. China’s foreign trade has been expanding rapidly, and the ratio of its total export-import volume to the international trade volumes keeps rising. In 2010 the ratio of China’s exports in the world’s total was 10.4 percent.
Social laws. China’s social laws are the collection of laws and regulations with respect to the adjustment of labor relations, social security, social welfare and protection of the rights and interests of special groups. It follows the principle of justice, harmony and appropriate state intervention. By performing their duties, the state and society provide necessary protection for the rights and interests of laborers, the unemployed, the incapacitated for work, as well as other special groups in need of help so as to safeguard social equity and promote social harmony. By the end of August 2011, China had enacted 18 laws in this particular field and a large number of administrative and local regulations to regulate labor relations and social security.
China’s Labor Law deals with labor relations and other relationships closely related to them, such as labor protection, labor safety and hygiene, occupational training, labor disputes and labor supervision, thus establishing China’s basic labor system. China has enacted the Law on Mine Safety, Law on Prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases, and Production Safety Law and some other laws, making provisions for safe production and prevention of occupational diseases, and strengthening the protection of the rights and interests of laborers. It has enacted the Labor Contract Law, Employment Promotion Law, and Law on Labor Dispute Mediation and Arbitration, thus establishing and improving the system, which is suited to the socialist market economy, of labor contract, employment promotion and labor dispute settlement. It has enacted the Red Cross Society Law, Law on Donation for Public Welfare Undertakings and Regulations on Foundation Administration, thereby establishing and improving the system that promotes the development and administration of public welfare undertakings. It has formulated the Trade Union Law and revised it twice, defining the status of trade unions in the country’s political, economic and social life, clarifying the rights and obligations of trade unions, and playing an active role in safeguarding laborers’ legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law.
China attaches importance to the building of its social security system. It has enacted the Social Insurance Law, established a social insurance system which covers both rural and urban residents, basic endowment insurance, basic health insurance, work-related injury insurance, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance, guaranteeing that all citizens can get necessary material aid and living allowances when they get old, sick, injured or unemployed, or give birth. It stipulates that the basic endowment funds should be managed at the national level, and other social insurance funds managed at the provincial level. It has set up a system for the inter-regional transfer of laborers’ social security. The State Council has enacted the Regulations on Unemployment Insurance, Regulations on Work-related Injury Insurance, Provisional Regulations on Collection and Payment of Social Insurance Premiums, and Regulations on the Work Regarding the Rural Five Guarantees. It has decided to establish a new rural endowment insurance and new rural cooperative health care system. They all play an important role in promoting the building of a social security system. The gradual establishment of the social security system provides legal guarantee for the Chinese government to accelerate the building of the social security network in accordance with the law, safeguard social equality and build a harmonious society. At present, the coverage of China’s social security is expanding from state-owned enterprises to various social and economic organizations, from workers and staff members of organizations to self-employed people and other residents, and from the urban areas to the rural areas. By the end of 2010 the endowment insurance system of urban workers covered 257 million people, an increase of 1.7 times compared with 2002, and the new rural endowment insurance system covered 103 million people. The basic health insurance for rural and urban residents covered 1.26 billion people, 13 times the number in 2002. Work-related injury insurance covered 161 million people. The coverage of unemployment insurance and maternity insurance is also expanding rapidly. The State Council has also formulated the Measures for Assisting Vagrants and Beggars with No Means of Support in Cities, Regulations on Legal Aid, Regulations on Natural Disaster Relief, and Regulations on Minimum Subsistence Allowance for Urban Residents, and has decided to set up a minimum subsistence allowance program for rural residents, thus basically establishing a social relief system covering both urban and rural areas. By the end of 2010 some 77 million residents with financial difficulties in China received minimum subsistence allowance. The level of China’s social security is constantly improving, and people are sharing the fruits of development.
China pays great attention to the protection of the rights and interests of special groups. It has enacted the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons, Law on the Protection of Minors, Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women, Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, and Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency. It has developed a comparatively complete legal system to protect the rights and interests of special groups, which plays an important role in protecting the legitimate rights and interests of special groups, and in safeguarding social equity and justice.
Criminal Law. This is the law that defines crimes and penalties. It aims to punish crime and protect the people, maintain social order and public security, and safeguard national security through regulating the state’s power of punishment. By the end of August 2011 China had enacted the Criminal Law and eight amendments to it, as well as decisions on punishing fraudulent purchase of foreign exchange, evading foreign exchange control, and illegal trade in foreign exchange, plus nine legal interpretations on the Criminal Law.
The Criminal Law defines clearly these basic principles: punishment of crimes is defined by law, everyone is equal before the law, and punishment should match the severity of the crime. It expressly stipulates that any act deemed by explicit stipulations of the law as a crime is to be convicted and given punishment by law, and that any act that is not deemed a crime by the explicit stipulations of the law is not to be convicted or given punishment. The law shall be equally applied to anyone who commits a crime. No one shall have the privilege of transcending the law. The degree of punishment shall be commensurate with the crime committed and the criminal responsibility to be borne by the offender. The Criminal Law of China defines various types of crime and types of punishment, including public surveillance, criminal detention, fixed-term imprisonment, life imprisonment and the death penalty. It also includes three accessory penalties - fine, deprivation of political rights and confiscation of property. In addition, it states the concrete application of punishments. It identifies ten criminal acts and corresponding criminal liability, namely the crimes of endangering national security, endangering public security, undermining the order of the socialist market economy, infringing upon the rights of the person and the democratic rights of citizens, encroaching on property, disrupting the order of social administration, endangering the interests of national defense, embezzlement and bribery, dereliction of duty, and servicemen’s transgression of duties.
In the light of the actual situation brought about by economic and social development, China promptly revises and interprets its Criminal Law in an effort to improve the criminal legal system. Amendment VIII to the Criminal Law, passed in February 2011, made major revisions of the previous Criminal Law. It eliminates capital punishment for 13 non-violent economic-related offences, thus reducing the number of crimes subject to the death penalty by 19.1 percent; it improves legal provisions that give more lenient punishment and non-custodial penalties to minors and elderly people who have reached the age of 75; it stipulates that refusing to pay wages, seriously infringing upon the legal rights and interests of laborers, and drunk driving are criminal offences; it gives harsher punishment for criminal offences in violation of citizens’ personal freedom, life and health. All this has improved China’s criminal justice system, strengthened the protection of human rights, reflecting the development of China’s social civilization and progress in the spheres of democracy and rule of law.
Litigation and Non-litigation Procedure Laws. These are laws giving standard solutions to various litigation and non-litigation activities arising from social disputes. The litigation system aims to regulate the state’s judicial activities in settling social disputes, and the non-litigation system aims to regulate arbitration agencies and people’s mediation organizations in settling social disputes. By the end of August 2011 China had enacted ten laws in the fields of litigation and non-litigation procedure.
China’s Criminal Procedure Law stipulates the basic system and principles of criminal procedures. For instance, the law applies equally to all citizens; the people’s courts and people’s procuratorates exercise judicial authority and procuratorial powers independently; the people’s courts, people’s procuratorates and public security organs divide their responsibilities, coordinate their efforts and check each other; ensure that criminal suspects and defendants obtain defense; and no one shall be convicted without a court decision. It also specifies the procedures such as jurisdiction, withdrawal, defense, evidence, enforcement measures, investigation, prosecution, trial and execution, which effectively guarantee the correct application of the Criminal Law, protect the personal, property, democratic and other rights of citizens so as to ensure the smooth progress of the cause of socialism.
China’s Civil Procedure Law stipulates the following basic principles and system: the parties to civil litigation shall have equal litigation rights; mediation shall be conducted for the parties on a voluntary and lawful basis; the court shall follow the system of public trial and the court of second instance being that of last instance. It makes clear the litigation rights and obligations of the parties concerned, the use of evidence, the civil trial procedures such as ordinary procedure of first instance, procedure of second instance, summary procedure, special procedure, procedure for trial supervision, and procedure of execution and enforcement execution measures.
China’s Administrative Procedure Law defines the legal remedy system in administrative lawsuits. It explicitly stipulates that a citizen, a legal person or other organization has the right to initiate an administrative lawsuit at a people’s court in accordance with this law if they believe their lawful rights and interests are infringed upon by an administrative organ or staff working in it, and the people’s court exercises judicial power independently with respect to administrative cases to protect the legal rights and interests of the citizens. Since the promulgation and implementation of the Administrative Procedure Law, the people’s courts have accepted over 100,000 cases annually on average, protecting the lawful rights and interests of the citizens and making the administrative organs exercise their administrative powers according to law.
China’s Arbitration Law has provisions for the establishment of domestic arbitration and foreign-related arbitration agencies, stipulates that an arbitration commission shall be independent of any administrative organ, which guarantees its independence. It also specifies that arbitration should be conducted upon a voluntary and independent basis, and that a system of a single and final award shall be practiced for arbitration. It also contains details about arbitration procedures. Since the promulgation of this law over 500,000 cases of economic disputes have been handled, involving a total sum of 700 billion yuan. It has played an important role in settling civil and economic disputes fairly, promptly and effectively, protecting the lawful rights and interests of the parties concerned, maintaining social and economic stability and promoting social harmony.
People’s mediation is a Chinese way of resolving contradictions and settling disputes without resorting to legal proceedings. The Constitution and Civil Procedure Law specify the nature and fundamental principles of people’s mediation, and the State Council has promulgated the Organic Regulations on the People’s Mediation Commissions. In 2009 people’s mediation organizations mediated over 7.67 million civil disputes, with a success rate of over 96 percent. In order to further promote people’s mediation work and improve the system, China has formulated the People’s Mediation Law, making the good experience and practices accumulated in this field into law. At present, there are more than 820,000 people’s mediation organizations in China, and 4.67 million people’s mediators, forming a mediation network covering both rural and urban areas. They are playing an important role in preventing and reducing civil disputes, resolving social conflicts, and maintaining social harmony and stability.
In addition, China has formulated the Extradition Law, Special Maritime Procedure Law, Law on Labor Dispute Mediation and Arbitration, and Law on the Mediation and Arbitration of Rural Land Contracting Disputes, thereby establishing and improving the system of litigation and non-litigation procedure laws.
The above-mentioned laws and regulations made by legislative bodies cover all aspects of society, bring all the work of the state and all aspects of social life under the rule of law, laying a solid foundation for the rule of law and construction of a socialist country under the rule of law. Law has become an important means for Chinese citizens, legal persons and other organizations to resolve disputes and conflicts. It also provides an important basis for the people’s courts at all levels to safeguard the lawful rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organizations.