Jianli Song


Since 1978, China has been engaged in a major reform program of economic modernization and growing openness to the outside world. The movement towards a market economy has resulted in impressive economic growth. It has also led to social change, including increasing pressure from segments of the population for greater participation in decision making and respect for human rights. The Chinese government is taking steps towards the rule of law. The legal reforms being carried out go beyond the economic sphere, and also gradually will affect the relationship between individuals and the state. Dialogue with the international community has broadened and deepened as well. In December 2001, China's accession to the World Trade Organization further stimulated China's reform of its legal systems and its interaction with international standards and norms. In this climate of prudent, cautious openness, China is beginning to build the platform for a better judicial system to protect lawful rights and to improve people's confidence in social fairness and justice. Two elements are key to this objective: (l) movement toward a rule of law to codify and enforce rights, and (2) development of a civil society that provides checks and balances between citizens and government. There are still some shortcomings in the Chinese judicial system, however. The problems for China here are immense. The fundamental challenge is to establish a fair social order with an independent judiciary and support for human rights and economic development.

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