China's Communist Party Central Committee concluded its
Fourth Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee on 23 October 2014,
with a communique which declared sweeping judicial reforms while
hailing the overarching role of the Constitution in the
country's legal system.
The Fourth Plenum announcements focus on "the rule of
law" for the first time and represent a key milestone in the
Party's history. As a result, China will begin to undergo
significant judicial reforms based on the blueprint set out under
communique, implementing changes which are likely to reshape
China's political, economic and legal environment.
It is expected that these changes will have a significant impact
on China's long term economic growth and political stability,
and are likely to positively benefit those doing business in China
and with China.
Significant legal reform
The communique affirms that 'governing by law' should
put governing in line with the Constitution, which is at the
forefront, and that China will work to build a law-abiding
government. This echoes the theme used in speeches by President Xi
Jinping in which he emphases the importance of respect for law and
The communique specifies some promising legal reforms for the
judicial system and government administrators, including:
Efforts to ensure that the country is governed under the
Constitution and the law. This will include the establishment of a
complete legislative system, efficient enforcement mechanisms, a
rigorous supervision system and a strong safeguarding system for
Building a legal system which ensures justice, fairness and
transparency and ensuring that administrative authorities operate
according to the law. Increased scrutiny of government
decision-making will be implemented, with lifelong accountability
for major decisions by officials and a public record set up to name
officials who have interfered in judicial cases.
Developing a competent team of legal professionals and
recruiting legislators, judges and prosecutors from the legal
The setting up of circuit courts by the Supreme People's
Court. The establishment of cross-administrative region courts will
be explored (a move most likely directed at curbing regional
protectionism and the influence of local governments).
There is no doubt that the endorsement of the rule of law by the
Chinese central authority is significant in instilling public
confidence, both domestically and abroad, in China's legal
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