Rule of Law Development in China: Panel Discussion of Yanfei Ran Esq. and others.



On October 13, 2010, CWP, along with the Woodrow Wilson School and LAPA, held a panel discussion on rule of law development in China. Four panelists gave their views on the topic. The first panelist was Professor DeLisle, an expert on contemporary Chinese law and politics. He focuses his research on legal reform and its relationship to economic reform and political change in China, the international status of Taiwan and cross-Strait relations, China’s engagement with the international order and aspects of US-China relations. Professor DeLisle serves as Director of the Asia Program of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and Vice Chair of the Pacific Rim Interest Group of the American Society of International Law. He serves frequently as an expert witness on issues of PRC law and government policies and speaks frequently on legal reform in China. Professor Delisle graduated from Princeton with a A.B., summa cum laude, and is a Woodrow Wilson School alum. He received his JD, magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.
Our next panelist was Susan Pologruto. Ms. Pologruto just recently transitioned from the USAID Democracy and Governance Office where she was the Rule of Law Advisor. Her portfolio included Burma, Mongolia, China, and Timor-Leste and was responsible for designing the USAID rule of law program in China. Ms. Pologruto has experience in conducting workshops and case study exercises in Administrative Law, Access to Justic, and other rule of law workshops. Ms. Pologruto is currently a Program Analyst within the Bureau for Democracy Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance of USAID. Ms. Pologruto received a BA, magna cum laude in Women’s History from Rutgers University. She received a JD and MSW from the University of Pennsylvania.

Our third panelist was Ms. Yanfei Ran. She practiced law in China for 12 years and served as an assistant to the District People’s Procuratorate Office in Beijing. She has received several law degrees, an LLB from the Central University for Nationalities, an LLM from the Peking University Law School, an LLM in Intellectual property and Information Technology Law from Fordham Law School, and an LLM in International Law and Justice, also from Fordham Law.

Our final panelist was Dean Amy Gadsden from Penn Law. Dr. Gadsden is Associate Dean and Executive Director for International Programs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Prior to Penn Law, Dean Gadsden was Special Advisor for China in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. She has worked extensively on joint cooperation projects with Chinese governmental and non-governmental agencies and has done consulting work for the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations High Commissioner’s Office for Human Rights, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the National Committee on US-China Relations. She is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) and an Advisory Council member of the Women’s Democracy Network (WDN). Most recently, she served as Resident Country Director for China at the International Republican Institute (IRI), a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing democracy worldwide. Dean Gadsden has a B.A. in History and English from Yale College and a Ph.D. in Chinese history from the University of Pennsylvania.

Professor Jacques Delisle, Penn Law, gives historical overview of China's rule of law development and predictions on the future

Professor Delisle gave an overview of the rule of law in China. He first defined what rule of law means, which includes judicial review with automoous courts, quasi-independent courts, and the equal enforcement of laws on the books. He stated that China generally finds that these are not a priority and the CCP tend to give legal portfolios to ideologically ost conservative and lowest ranking members of the politburo.

Professor Delisle examined the metrics of China's rule of lwa. According to the World Bank rule of law index, China is in the mid 40s, slightly behind Eastern Europe in that respect. He also noted that China has about 4-5 million civil suits per year with abouta 40% enforcement rate of judgments in civil cases. Regarding litigant satisfaction, he noted that the most likely indicator that one would litigate in court if one knew someone else who had gone to court. Regarding administrative law, he noted that, when suing the state, about 20-40% of cases succeed.

Regarding gaps in China's legal system, Professor Delisle noted that China has many laws on the books that are world-class, but are not well implemented. The law in China continues to evolve with quite a bit of input from the international community. Professor Delisle noted that the legal infrastructure is still developing and will take some time to build. He noted for instance that there is a great variance in the quality of lawyers and judges between interior China and the coastal area. Many judges in Shanghai, for example, hold college degrees with many holding graduate degrees.

Forecasting the road ahead for China, Professor Delisle predicted that the rule of law will continue to develop because of the sheer fact that China does have so many laws on the books and that social constituencies, such as China's growing middle class, will demand more legal rights and will want such rights to be protected. As well, environmental problems and the NIMBY effect may spur litigation and the seeking of redress in courts. He noted however, the road ahead is nonetheless not without problems. The commitment to moving toward rule of law is purely instrumental and that the legal syustem is not really designed to provide a safety valve for social unrest, riots, and dissatisfaction.

Ms. Pologruto, USAID Rule of Law Advisor, spoke on the rule of law program she helped create. She noted that this recently came up as a program due to high congressional interest, which has led to consistent line-item budgeting for the development of the rule of law in China since 2006. She noted that the current budget is about $20 million USD and consists of partnerships with universities and law student exchanges, curriculum development, and legal aid clinics. USAID now partners with the Asia Foundation and the American Bar Association to provide assistance in transparenty and administrative governance, administrative law clinics, and legal aid services.

Ms. Ran spoke generally on the state of law practice in China today. She said that increasingly, more lawyers and judges are accredited and beginning to develop professional standards, but that China still had a long way to go. She noted that the law is a profession that doesn't attract too many students because more students want to go into the private sector than work on legal reform.

Dean Gadsden spoke on the US' historical interest in China's development of the rule of law. She then spoke on the many initiatives from the Clinton and Bush administrations on the rule of lw in China and executive interest in trying to engage China on this topic. She also spoke on the state of legal reform in China in that there are many lawyers and laws, but the state has yet to embrace the institutions to support the rule of law. In many cases, the rule of law is the first step, but in China's case, it may be that the rule of law will be the final step for China.