Chinese Legal System

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Table of Contents in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia

Chinese Legal System in Asia

The legal system of China is mixed (Civil law/Customary). It is based on civil law, influenced by Soviet and continental European civil law systems. The Chinese legislature branch retains power to interpret statutes. The criminal procedure legislation of China was revised in early 2012.

Legal Research in China: a Guide for Lawyers

In a globalized world, lawyers outside China may come into contact with Chinese law, Chinese lawyers or Chinese clients, and the last would be better served when their lawyers have an understanding of the essential characteristics and aspects of the Chinese legal system. Likewise, in researching Chinese law, it is important for non-Chinese lawyers not to limit their inquiry to their country sources. In addition, instead of looking for precedents, in China lawyers browse first the provisions of the corresponding legislation for an appropriate legal principle applied to the case or Chinese law problem.

Any serious legal issue involving China must require consultation with a lawyer trained and licensed in China. International materials and resources, like this Encyclopedia, however, may provide some familiarity with the basic concepts of the Chinese law, a solid starting point and new perspectives and solutions that are not apparent, sometimes, from within a non-Chinese legal tradition. Their study may help the non-Chinese lawyer to determine the general nature of a problem, and can facilitate a better understanding with the Chinese colleague who may be called in to assist.

Where to Start

General Information about China and their Legal Tradition

China and their People

Read about China and their People here.

Historical Background of China

Overview of the history of China.

Legal Education

Offering a summary of the legal education, including law schools , in China.

Development of Chinese Law

Report on the development of the law in China.

Structures of Chinese Law

It offers a description of the structures of the law in China.

Sources of the Chinese Law

Summary of the sources of Law in China.

Historical Background

More about the history of the Chinese law here.

Enacted Law in China

Read more about the legislation in China.

  • The Chinese Constitution

Learn more about the Constitution of China.

  • China Codes and Statutes

Survey of Chinese Codes and Statutes.

  • China Statutory Decrees

Outline of the China Statutory Decrees.

  • China Regulations

Scope of the Regulations enacted in China.

  • China By-Laws

Observation about the By-Laws in existence in China.

Customary Law

Learn more about the customary law of China.

Case Law as a Source of Law

Analysis of the Case Law in China.

Precedents in China

Evaluation of the role of Precedents in the Chinese legal system.

Doctrine in China

Review of the legal Doctrine in China.

International sources of law

See more about the international sources of law in China and Asia, including International Treaties.

The Chinese Government System

Study of the Government system in existence in China.

Chinese Constitutional Structure

Overview of the Constitutional Structure in China.

Historical Background

Read more about the history of the Government System of the country.

General Characteristics of the Constitution

Constitution of China: the main features.

Human Rights in China

Scope of the Civil and Human rights in the country.

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch proposes laws. Find a description of the Legislative Power in China here.

Structure of the Chinese Legislative Branch

Observation of the structure of the legislative power in China.

Functions and Powers

See more about the role of the legislative power in China here.

Legislative Process

Read how the Chinese legislative procedures work here.

Supervision of the Executive

Learn how the legislative branch supervises the executive branch.

Executive Branch

The executive power proposes laws. Read more.

Head of State in China

The head of state of China is the formal head of the executive, legislature and judiciary of China.

Head of Government in China

The head of government in China is the Prime Minister of China, the political leader of the government of China.

Chinese Council of Ministers

See information about the Cabinet Ministers of China here.

Chinese Local Governments

Review of the local government powers in China. See the definition of local rule here.

Local Organizations of Central Administration

The central administration consists of a number of ministries and other organizations, including local ones. Various departments, offices and divisions are established in each ministry in China. See the definition of centralization here.

Chinese Municipalities

Outlook of the cities, towns, villages and other communities, including municipal courts (when applicable), and their legal authority in China.

Judiciary Branch

The judiciary power interprets and applies laws. Find here a review of the Judicial System in China.

Main Features of the Judiciary

Read the most important characteristics of the Judiciary system in China here.

China Judicial Structure

Report of the Court Organization and Jurisdiction in China.
The Courts in China may be divided into:

  • High Courts

Description of the functioning of high courts in China.

  • Lower Courts

Summary of the roles of courts of lesser rank.


Information about rules that influence sentencing in China.

Participants in the Administration of Justice

Survey about the players in the Administration of Justice in China and other countries.


Information about the impartial administration of justice, the independence and status of the judiciary and other issues related to Judges in China.

Public Prosecutors

The role of those government officials who represent, in China, legal authorities (often prosecuting criminal actions in China and Asia).

The practice of law

More about the practice of law in China and Asia.

The legal professions

Outline of the legal professions in China and Asia.

Practitioners (Lawyers and others)

Learn about the legal role of practitioners, specially lawyers.

Notary-Public in China

Overview about Public Notaries practising in China.

Court reporter – Clerks

Overview of Court reporters and Clerks in Chinese and Asian courthouses.

Civil Law Procedure

Outlook of the main features of the Chinese civil process, including:

Pretrial Proceedings in China

Information about what pretrial proceedings consist of.

The Trial in China

Review of the judicial examinations in civil or criminal actions in China.

Civil Litigation

Overview of the steps of litigation in China, the litigator’s role and the types of civil litigation in the country here.


Evidence law outline in China.

The Judgment

Outlook of the tribunal decisions in China. For Judgments which are of significance as legal precedents on points of law in China, see precedents.

The Effect of the Judgment

Overview of effects and recognition of a valid judgment delivered by a court of competent jurisdiction in China.

Legal Remedies in China

Enforcement of a legal right ordered by the court. See also the Judicial Relief definition.

Appeals – Judicial Review

Description of the Appeals process and the Judicial Review process of challenging the lawfulness of decisions in China.

Criminal Law Procedure

Observation of the Criminal Process.

The Investigation of Crime

Scope of the investigation of crimes:

The Prosecution of Crime

Crime Prosecution.

Criminal Trials in China

Laws and rules of the administration of justice when a person has been accused of a crime.

Appeals – Judicial Review

When a party files an appeal, asking to review the case:

Alternative Dispute Resolution in China

Method of resolving disputes out-of-court (ADR).

Private Law

Family Law in China

Guide to Marriage Law, Succession Law and other Family Law topics in China.

Contract Law in China

Contracts Law outline in China.

Tort Law in China

Regulating claims by civil wrongs that result in an injury or harm.

Property Law in China

Real property and Personal property law in China.

Copyright and Industrial Property

Survey of industrial and intellectual property laws in China.

Foreign Trade

Regulation of Foreign Trade in China and Asia.

Business Law in China

Besides commercial law and the law of corporations and other entities, this guide provides comprehensive information about:

Criminal Law in China

Penal law involves prosecution for a crime in China and Asia. Find out more.

Family Law in China

Family legal issues including:

  • Divorce and separation
  • Child protection, custody, support and access
  • Adoptions
  • Property Division

Public Law

More about Public Law here.

Administrative Law

Report of the branches of the Administrative law, including Environmental law.

Administrative Processes

Administrative Processing in China and Asia.


Taxation in China explained.

Labor Law

Overview of the labor law and social security in China.

Asia Legal Systems

Further Resources

History of the Chinese Legal System

The Chinese legal tradition has been shaped by many different influences, domestic as well as foreign. More than one different legal system has coexisted in China at various points in the long country history. The Portal of Chinese law provides introductory entries about the background and history of the law of the country.

China Law Portal

The China Law Portal provides an introductory overview of the history of legal development in China, major legal concepts, the structure of Chinese government, the Chinese judicial and court system, and peculiar characteristic of the response of the Chinese legal system to development in China.

The China Portal presents the main areas of its legal system and the wider aspects of how law is made and reformed. The entries of the China Law Portal include consideration of the primary features of the Chinese legal system, including the Chinese legal history, Chinese judicial structure and operation, the Chinese Constitution and the legislative and administrative structure and process. The contents of the China Portal also include discussion of Chinese legal actors (including Chinese lawyers), legal education, judges and other participants in the Chinese legal landscape.

The Portal introduces legal professionals, students and the general reader to terms and concepts necessary for understanding the Chinese legal system, the jurisdiction, organization and authority of courts in China, and the Chinese judicial interpretation and decision-making. The substantive areas of law such as public law, torts and product liability, property (including intellectual property rights and copyright infringements), and family law are also covered. The Portal also treats the law governing the main business legal topics: contracts, business regulation, companies and taxation. It also examines the civil, criminal and administrative processes, the procedural rights, main court opinions and the various modes of alternative dispute resolution available in China.

Useful to the reader of the Encyclopedia as a reference, the Portal provides a table of cases, indices provides even greater detail, a glossary of selected legal terms and many entries provide bibliographies for further reading.

Comparative Law and Legal Systems in Asia

One of the goals of the comparative law is to wrap up the similarities and differences among countries, including China. the different legal traditions in Asia and could be able thereby better to understand the Chinese law. to the reception of legal systems in China and other countries of Asia, with special reference to the reception of foreign law (specially English law and Islamic law) by these countries.

The Asian Encyclopedia of Law provides a survey of the legal systems of almost all the Asian jurisdictions. Being the Encyclopedia a work in progress, the length of the entries may vary considerably. Each country section includes a description of their major subject areas of law, notes on the main compilations (or official codifications), a detailed listing of legislation covering specific topics and resources for enacted laws and judicial decisions (including references to further online sources).

Conclusion about the Legal System of China

A good comprehension of the Chinese legal system requires knowledge and skill in a number of disciplines. The Chinese system itself is the result of developments in law, economy, politics, sociological change and the theories which feed all these bodies of knowledge. The law or China may be relevant in a foreign jurisdiction court proceeding involving international transactions. The Knowledge of the Chinese traditions and its legal institutions allows a good understanding of the Chinese law, its institutions and processes and sets the Chinese law and system in a social context.

This guide introduces some of the main procedural and substantive Chinese principles, with a more detailed treatment of resources in the major subject areas of the Chinese law, with access to primary materials.

The general reader and students may learn some basic legal concepts and principles of the Chinese law, to explain how the Chinese legal system operates, and to provide a sense of how the systems within China have evolved historically in China from its origins.

A globally focused guide like this site, including the legal concepts and principles of Asia, cannot
avoid taking many culture-specific elements into account.

About the Author

Salvador Trinxet Llorca is a law writer, professor and lawyer specialized in comparative and international law.

See Also

References and Further Reading

  • The Legal System of the People’s Republic of China in a Nutshell
  • Chinese Law and Legal Theory
  • Basic Concepts of Chinese Law
  • Chinese Law
  • Comparative law in a global context: the legal systems of Asia and Africa, Werner Menski
  • Asian legal systems: law, society, and pluralism in East Asia, Poh-Ling Tan
  • Philanthropy and law in Asia: a comparative study of the nonprofit legal systems in ten Asia Pacific societies, Thomas Silk
  • Law and legal institutions of Asia: traditions, adaptations and innovations, E Ann Black; Gary F Bell
  • Law, capitalism and power in Asia: the rule of law and legal institutions, Kanishka Jayasuriya
  • Asia-Pacific legal development, Douglas M Johnston and Gerry A Ferguson
  • Modern legal systems cyclopedia, Kenneth R Redden and William Emerson Brock
  • Constitutionalism in Asia: Asian views of the American influence, Lawrence Ward Beer
  • The judicialization of politics in Asia, Bjo?rn Dressel
  • East Asian Law: Universal Norms and Local Cultures
  • Law, Capitalism and Power in Asia: The Rule of Law and Legal Institutions
  • Doing Business in Asia (updated regularly)
  • Copyright Law and the Information Society in Asia
  • Insolvency Law in East Asia
  • Intellectual Property Law in Asia
  • A Legal Guide to Doing Business in the Asia-Pacific
  • Arbitration Law in China
  • China Law and Practice (updated regularly)
  • China Laws for Foreign Business (updated regularly)
  • Chinese Intellectual Property Law and Practice
  • China Law Deskbook (2nd ed.)
  • China Law Series Various titles on many different subjects, such as contracts, constitutional law, banking law, and criminal law.
  • China’s Takeover Law: Regulation and Reform
  • Chinese Contract Law: Theory and Practice
  • Civil Procedure: China (updated regularly)
  • Commercial Laws of the World: China (updated regularly)
  • Constitutional Law: China (updated regularly)
  • Contracts: China (updated regularly)
  • Criminal Law: China (updated regularly)
  • Doing Business in China (4th ed.)
  • Environmental Law: China (updated regularly)
  • Intellectual Property: China (updated regularly)
  • Intellectual Trade Regulation in China: Law and Policy
  • The PRC Property Series (updated regularly)
  • Social Security Law: China
  • Tax Laws of the World : China (updated regularly)
  • Tort Law : China (updated regularly)
  • Transport Law : China (updated regularly)


  • Asia-Pacific Development Journal
  • Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law
  • China: An International Journal
  • China Journal = Chung-kuo yen chiu (1995-2003)
  • Columbia Journal of Asian Law

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