Contemporary Legal Studies in China: Introduction

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By Chen Su, translated by Bi Xiaoqing

Basically this book is divided chronologically into three parts. Part I covers the period from 1949 to 1978, Part II deals with the years between 1978 and 1992, and Part III begins with 1992 and ends with 2009.

Let's first take a look at the period from 1949 to 1978. Both the beginning and ending years of this period have special significance for modern China. The year 1949 witnessed the birth of the People's Republic of China. That turned a new page in history and everything about legal studies in China began to differ sharply from before. The year 1978, on the other hand, saw the adoption of the reform and open-up policy, where the road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics found its root. Everything about legal studies, again, began to differ sharply from before. Of course, the two brand new beginnings did not mean that Chinese legal science, after nearly 30 years of development, had come a full circle and gone back to the original point. Rather, they showed that Chinese legal studies had chosen a path different from those before 1949 and 1978, a brand new path by which Chinese legal science could both identification itself and at the same time integrate itself into the trends of the times.

Unlike the passage of time, which can be clearly demarcated, the evolution of legal science in China often can not be divided chronologically in such a clear-cut way. For example, scholars engaged in criminal law studies prefer to take the promulgation of the 1979 Criminal Law as the start of the recovery of the criminal law science while constitutional law scholars would rather take the promulgation of the 1982 Constitution as the beginning of a new era in the constitutional law science in China. However, it seems that there are no other years more suitable than 1949 and 1978 in the history of the Republic of China as the start and the end of this stage of development of Chinese legal science because the political events that occurred in these two years had fundamentally changed not only the overall social ideology and the trend of social development, but also the basic ideas and systems of legal science in China. Of course, this is only theoretical division of development stages. Because of the continuity of and linkages between historical events, the description of the development of Chinese legal science at a given historical stage may spill over the boundaries of that stage. For examples, the institutions and ideas that formed the basis of the Common Program of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference had actually already been developed before 1949; and the theoretical influence of the Soviet legal theories on the development of Chinese legal science extended to the period after 1978.

An observation of the period between 1949 and 1978 from the perspective of legal history often makes one sign with sadness because it seems that history had not showed even the basic concern for Chinese legal science during this period of time: as a result of the lawlessness of social and political life and the dominance of the ideology of "taking class struggle as the central task", Chinese legal science had neither a legal system to attach itself nor an ideological knowledge system to contain it. Actually this was not necessarily true. Although the political operation system of "taking class struggle as the central task" and highly centralized planned economic system dominated state administration and social operation, legal mechanism nevertheless played a more or less role in society at that time and there were still rooms and opportunities for the existence and development of legal science, although such rooms were extremely narrow and such opportunities fleeting.

Firstly, the laws were still in existence. For example, the Constitution was not abolished, although it existed only in name during the "Cultural Revolution", and the marriage law was still functioning. Secondly, legal science was still in existence, although it existed only within the theoretical system of "the state and law": there were still people who were diligently interpreting the current laws and painstakingly introducing Soviet legal theories; thirdly, legal education was still in existence. Law courses were still offered in some colleges and universities. Although legal education was weak and crude in content and went on only intermittently, it did enabled the thoughts of Chinese legal science to pass from one generation to another so that a vigorous Chinese law circle quickly emerged immediately after 1978. On the whole, Chinese legal science in this period showed a clearly downward path of development, with laws being increasingly fallen into disuse, the field of legal science increasingly laying waste, and the rank of legal talents increasingly shrinking. Fortunately however, Chinese legal science managed to maintain a precarious existence in and ultimately survived this period of difficult time.

The period between 1949 and 1978 was definitely a hard time for Chinese legal science. With the legal instrumentalism and legal nihilism prevailing alternately, legal theories found it difficult to exist. No consistent view of law was formed during this period, whether in terms of the governance of the state or the choice of policies. "Rule of man", on the contrary, was held in esteem. "What the leaders said is often taken as 'law', and disagreement with what the leaders said is called 'in violation of law'; 'law' changes when the leaders' words change".1 In the early 1950's, when the building of the state system began to be paid attention to, the Constitution and Marriage Law were promulgated. In the late 1950's, however, law became dispensable for the convenience of "rule of man" and on the basis of the changed social circumstances. In early 1960's, law was again paid attention to, based on the rethinking of the previous policy failures and the changed social circumstances, and legislative work was also put back on the agenda of the government; but when it came to mid-1960's, with the changed judgment of the social circumstances and the reselected strategy of governing the state, law was again deserted. Obviously, legal instrumentalism and legal nihilism are twins: law lives when it is a suitable instrument for politics, and dies when it ceases to be so. In such a social environment where legal instrumentalism and legal nihilism prevail alternately, legal science in its real sense cannot be established: legal instrumentalism makes it vulgar, while legal nihilism renders it rootless.

In this period, legal science in China had not become an independent theoretical system or disciplinary system. Indeed, a "dual lack of independence" marked the condition of legal science at that time. First, in terms of the system of knowledge, legal science was an appendage to political science and a branch of the theory of state and law. In other words, legal science was but an interpretation of law as a phenomenon of political science. That explains way legal science was called "political legal science" before 1978: political theory dominated and commanded legal theory. 2 Therefore, legal science could not have an independent existence, whether as discipline or as a theoretical system, during that period. Second, in terms of the source of knowledge, the formation of Chinese legal science was primarily attributed to the wholesale transplant of the legal theories of the Soviet Union, resulting in over-dependence of the former on the latter. Chinese scholars, lacking the ability to elaborate the socialist view of law on the direct basis of Marxism, had to accept the so-called "Marxist View of Law" elaborated by Soviet scholars, which was dogmatic and quite biased. More importantly, they lacked ability to independently construct a Chinese system of legal knowledge. A review of the legal theories in China during this period shows that all aspects of these theories, whether the definition of legal concepts, the construction of legal system, the understanding of legal mechanism, the methods by which legal science guides legal practice, or the conversion of the material carriers of legal theories, were invariably imported from the Soviet Union. In fact, almost all the 165 translated works published in the first ten years after the foundation of the People's Republic of China were Soviet legal treatises and textbooks.3 The Soviet influence on Chinese legal science was so profound and far-reaching that it was not eliminated even after the Sino-Soviet split: only the Soviet label was removed, the theoretical substance remained the same as before. Objectively speaking, the transplantation of Soviet legal theories by Chinese law circle was more or less selective. For example, very little of the Soviet theory on economic law was introduced. The reason for that is worth analyzing, but it was probably because the planned economic system in China rejected any intervention by legal mechanism from the very beginning, thereby leaving no room for economic law to play any role.

In this period, the core theoretical line, based on which Chinese legal science interpreted itself, was the concept of politics and theory of state that took class struggle as the central task. Just as law was viewed as a political tool of class struggle, legal science was also taken as the extension of the theory of class struggle, or its specialized and refined version. When class character became the essential character of law, the theory of class struggle also became the core theory of legal science and the logical foundation of legal studies. Hence, "the arguments, reasoning and conclusions of legal science, its structure and system, the collection, analysis and use of legal resources and legal literatures, and even the writing style and language, all revolved around the axis of 'class character'. Legal science in fact became 'science of class struggle'. To take 'class struggle' as the footstone category of legal science, and as the frame of reference and model of concept for legal science, will inevitably cause legal science to lose the qualification and status as an independent discipline."4 In line with this legal thinking, legal phenomena were understood as manifestations of class struggle and explained according to the doctrine of class struggle. Correspondingly, legal functions were seen as tools of class struggle and selected through the method of class struggle, and legal studies natural became theoretical activities that served the purpose of class struggle. During the "Cultural Revolution", when the law was no longer needed as the tool of class struggle, legal science was relegated to a remote corner of society.

In this period, a prominent feature of Chinese legal science in terms of theoretical formation and construction of knowledge system was the thoroughness in the demolition of the old system and the sufficiency in the construction of a new system. From the moment of the founding of the People's Republic of China, elimination of the "old legal ideas" became an important political task and theoretical precondition of the construction of a new legal system and a new legal science. The construction of a brand new political system would be inevitably accompanied by the demolition of the old political system, including the ideology attached to it. Therefore, the denunciation of the "old legal ideas" became the inevitable political choice and basic policy objective. However, the denunciation and elimination of "old legal ideas" was not necessarily accompanied by the construction of a brand-new Chinese legal science. Apart from importing legal theories from the Soviet Union, China had failed to build its own system legal science. Of course, expecting Chinese law circle of that at time to build its own system of legal theories would run counter to historical reality. Nevertheless, apart from the lack of practical experience of and theoretical preparation for the construction of the socialist rule of law, the inappropriate treatment of law and legal science in the political decision-making process had seriously impeded the independent formation and continuous development of legal science in China. In the late 1950s, legal science became an area worst-hit by the "anti-rightist movement". People who held sound views or put forward useful proposals on the construction of democracy and legal system were labeled "rightists" and persecuted for making "incorrect or offensive" remarks. Many theoretical issues of legal science, including the basic principles and concrete systems confirmed by the Constitution, became forbidden topics.5 Today, as we look for academic concerns and theoretical wisdoms of legal scholars of that period from collections of "Reactionary Remarks Made by Rightists" published at that time, we cannot but feel a tinge of sadness as if touching a historical wound.

Nevertheless, it will be partial and unfair to merely attach negative comments and critical conclusions to Chinese legal science in this period. It should be admitted that it was the most reasonable and convenient way for China to transplant the Soviet legal theories at that time, given the former's lack of practical experience of socialist rule of law and theoretical preparation of socialist legal science. The point is, however, Chinese legal science lost its ego when absorbing Soviet theories. It should also be admitted that class struggle was a necessary policy choice given China's social reality at that time and that mistakes and frustrations are inevitable when constructing a socialist legal system in the absence of relevant experience. The point is, however, why did class struggle become the "central task" and remained so for such a long time and why had China made such enormous mistakes and suffered such huge frustrations for such a long time in the construction of the legal system. It was the lawyers and legal researchers who had experienced the social events and political waves of this period to first rethink the achievements and defects of Chinese legal science in this period. Thus, despite of all the frustration and suffering, the line of thoughts of Chinese legal science never broke, and the pursuit of socialist rule of law never stopped. In fact, the fundamental theories and dominant thoughts of contemporary Chinese legal science, the many concepts and methods remaining in today's system of legal knowledge, as well as the pioneers in legal studies who have played important roles later on, all benefited from the accumulation and cultivation in this period. As successors, we shall pay our due respect to those legal scholars who made deep exploration and adhered to independent thinking at that time, as well as to their contribution to the theoretical accumulation and academic succession of Chinese legal science.

Now we come to the period between 1978 and 1992. The year 1978 was a critical turning point both in Chinese history and in the history of Chinese legal science. After the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee (herein "Third Plenary Session" ), the Party and the State completed the arduous task of setting wrong things right in terms of the guiding ideology, and the focus of work was shifted to socialist modernization. More importantly, the significance of law in the governance of the state and the society was fully recognized, and the socialist view of law began to develop in the right direction. The Communiqué of the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee states that: "In order to safeguard people's democracy, it is imperative to strengthen the socialist legal system so that democracy is systematized and written into law in such a way as to ensure the stability, continuity and full authority of this democratic system and these laws; there must be laws for people to follow, these laws must be observed, their enforcement must be strict and law breakers must be dealt with." The construction of socialist legal system was carried out in full swing, and numerous basic laws were enacted in the following few years. In the conceptual system and institutional environment reconstructed by the Third Plenary Session, Chinese legal science gained the historic opportunity to quickly develop and prosper. Some scholars held that in the first ten years after the Third Plenary Session, the fruits of Chinese legal studies had far exceeded those of the thirty years before the Third Plenary Session.6 And the reason why we choose 1992 as the ending year of this period is that in this year, the idea of "socialist market economy" was confirmed in the state policy, and immediately after that, in the Constitution. This was not only a change in the operational mechanism and management model of the economy, but also a change in the ideological form, operational mechanism and governance model of the society. Such changes awakened the awareness and sharpened the thoughts of Chinese legal scholars, and a newer world for Chinese legal science was soon to come.

The most important development for Chinese legal science in this period was that it gained "dual independence", becoming an independent theoretical system and independent discipline. On the one hand, Chinese legal science shook off reliance on Soviet legal theories and began to walk on its own road. Although remnants of the concept system, ideas and thinking method of Soviet legal theories were still exerting certain influence on China law circle and, at the beginning of this period, even remained the primary theoretical weapons of research and debate in certain sub-disciplines of legal science in China, as far as the trend of development and overall situation was concerned, Chinese legal science was no longer following the lead of Soviet legal theories, but became China-oriented, world-oriented, reality-oriented and practice-oriented and had embarked on its own road of development. On the other hand, the "theory of state and law" was replaced first by the "basic theory of law" and then by "jurisprudence", and legal science was no longer a branch of or appendage to the theory of state, but a theoretical system and discipline independent of political science. This gaining of independence had a revolutionary significance for the development and prosperity of Chinese legal science. The object of legal research had changed from "the state and law" to "law". This crystallization and specialization of the object of legal research had established the logical starting point, the evolutionary path and the scope for expansion for the specialization and systematization of legal knowledge (including the formation of concepts, the monopolization of terminologies, the determination of scopes, the derivation of theories, and construction of disciples), thereby providing disciplinary foundation, knowledge system and theoretical space for the development and prosper of Chinese legal science. The independence of legal science from the theoretical structure of "the state and law" was not a simple and absolute breaking-off process, but a process of formation of an independent theoretical system of legal science through arduous self-construction. In the numerous researches and discussions on the research objects, the basic categories and basic methods of legal science, the "theory of state and law" changed first to "basic theory of law", and then to "jurisprudence", and legal scholars gradually learnt to use special "legal language" to describe the process of legal thinking and its results. The independence of law from the theory of state could be contributed partly to the influence of and assistance by political factors, but more fundamentally to the development logic of legal science itself-only the removal of political obstacles enabled legal science to develop more smoothly.

Another important and profound change of Chinese legal science in this period was that the slogan "taking class struggle as the central task" lost its core status and faded out of the realm of legal science. At the "Third Plenary Session", the CPC resolutely abandoned the "leftist" policy of "taking class struggle as the central task", which was not suitable for socialist society, and shifted the focus of the work of the Party and the state to economic construction, thereby setting wrong things right in terms of political line.7 However, so far-reaching and profound was the influence of the doctrine of "taking class struggle as the central task" on Chinese legal science that many Chinese legal scholars, who had always took the class nature as the essential character of law, lost their academic centre of gravity once the doctrine was discarded in the political field. With the discussion of and research into the class character of law, especially with the theoretical breakthrough in such issues as the relationships between the class character and succession character of law and between the class character and the universal character or social character of law, Chinese law circle gradually clarified the relationship between the class character and other characters of law, and shook off the theoretical shackle of "taking class struggle as the central task". Not only were the conceptual system, object category and research paradigm established in the study of the basic theory of law, but also those relatively mature fields of legal science such as legal history, constitutional jurisprudence, criminal jurisprudence, civil jurisprudence, marriage jurisprudence and environmental jurisprudence all built up their respective knowledge system and research paradigm without "taking class struggle as the central task", especially the rights-oriented paradigm of analysis and research.

The main feature of the development of Chinese legal science in this period was the realization of "letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend" in legal studies, and hence a strong academic atmosphere and many academic fruits which are still quite important even viewed from today. Numerous basic and significant theoretical questions were heatedly debated, often creating theoretical "hot spots" drawing the attention of the whole law circle. Those "hot spots" included, in jurisprudence, the discussion of the nature of law, the object of legal research, the basic concepts and categories of legal science, the class character and succession character of law, the relationship between rule of law and rule of man, the idea of "all people are equal before the law", and the rights orientation of law; in constitutional law, the discussion of the essential feature of the constitution, the forms of government, and the system of the people's congress; in criminal law, the discussion of the basic theory of criminal law, and the causal link; in civil law, the discussion of the status and functions of civil law, the relationship between civil law and economic law, the state ownership and the property rights of state-owned enterprises, and foundations of the socialist marriage; in economic law, the discussion of the nature and scope of economic law, and the legal status and management model of state-owned enterprises; in administrative law, the discussion of the nature of administrative law; and in procedural law, the discussion of independent trial by the people's courts in accordance with the law. The discussions of the major theoretical issues in Chinese law circle during this period, which greatly promoted the formation and development of the theoretical system of Chinese legal science, had distinct characteristics of the times. Firstly, most of the discussions had ultimately achieved consensus in the academic circle and greatly promoted the development of the legal science and the construction of the rule of law in China, although the discussions of a very few issues, which started with vigor and vitality, gradually died out without reaching any consensus, or came to a natural end as a result of a legislative choice or policy change. Secondly, in the discussions of legal issues in this period, the clarification of confusion and bringing things back to order in the political field was often intertwined with the elimination of the false and retaining of the true in the academic field. On the one hand, this showed that the development of legal science must service the practical needs of society and the discussions of most legal issues had indeed played a positive role in promoting the reform of the economic system and the construction of the legal system. But on the other hand, the phenomenon of political labeling, or politicization, of discussions of legal issues occurred now and then, especially in the beginning of this period of time. Thirdly, the discussions of some legal issues could indeed become continuous hot spots in the entire law circle for a long period of time. Often concentrated discussion of a particular issue could last for one or two years or even longer and attract the attention of the entire law circle. For example, prolonged discussions on such issues as the class nature of law and the equality of everyone before the law had been conducted not only in the field of jurisprudence, but also in the fields of constitutional law, criminal law, civil law, environmental law and many other fields of law. On the one hand, this phenomenon reflected the high academic enthusiasm of Chinese legal scholars for participating in the discussion of major theoretical issues and their strong sense of academic responsibility for resolving problems of basic legal principles; but on the other hand, it also reflected one of the characteristics of the initial stage of development of the Chinese system of legal theories, namely a large number of basic theoretical issues remained to be solved: the more basic the theoretical issue discussed, the more participants of the discussion. The academic vision of the law circle of that time was still not broad or deep enough to carry out extensive and in-depth discussion or exploration on many of the important legal issues. And fourthly, in the discussions of theoretical hot issues, the theoretical sources of arguments were relatively concentrated and the methods of argumentation were also relatively simple. Many scholars were fond of using grand language to discuss basic issues of legal science and the concepts and methods of philosophy, political science and political economy were often introduced into the discussions of legal issues. On the one hand, such a practice strengthened the argumentation in discussions of legal issues and enriched the methodology of legal studies. But on the other hand, there are differences between law science and philosophy, political science, or political economy in basic presumptions, concepts and methodology and some discussions that ignored these differences were actually carried out between people who based themselves on different presumptions and used different conceptual systems. Therefore, it not surprising that no consensus could be reached in such discussions.

The disciplinary building of legal science made continuous progress during this period. After Chinese legal science gained its "dual independence", the lines between different sub-disciplines of legal science, such jurisprudence, conditional law, administrative law, criminal law, civil law, economic law, procedure law, and environment law, became increasingly clear, with each sub-discipline quickly completing the stages of generation of principles and construction of system and developing rapidly in breadth and depth. On the one hand, the lines between different sub-disciplines of legal science in China were still not very clear. Especially the barriers between different sub-disciplines of legal science, to which much importance is attached today, still did not exist at that time. Many scholars did not have a strong sense of belonging to a particular discipline, and often participate in the theoretical researches and academic discussions of different sub-disciplines of legal science, which had greatly enlivened the academic atmosphere and enriched results of legal researches. But on the other hand, there had always been persistent efforts to establish independent sub-disciplines of legal science. Scholars were prone to declare any law they were teaching or writing about "an independent branch of law", as if only in this way could the importance of the law or of their research area be demonstrated. The division of sub-disciplines of legal science originating from this period appears more obvious and even rigid nowadays. While such division facilitated the in-depth development of each sub-discipline, it nonetheless resulted in an "academic enclosure": exchange between different sub-disciplines became increasingly rare, scholars in one sub-discipline became increasingly unfamiliar with the terms of other sub-disciplines, and different branches within the law circle became increasingly isolated from one another. This might cost China's law circle its innovation ability for basic or significant theories in the future.

Numerous academic fruits in the forms of articles, treatises, textbooks and law-popularization works grew out of this period, and completely dwarfed those of the previous period both in quantity and in quality. Nevertheless, due to the limited publication channels at that time, it was not easy to publish even an article, not to mention a book. Since books were more difficult to publish than articles, the academic circle at that time seemed to value the former more than the latter. The books published during this period mainly took the forms of textbooks and annotations to laws. Even academic monographs mostly took the systematic introduction of basic theoretical knowledge as their main content. Actually this was an inevitable academic phenomenon at the primary stage of development of the legal science in China, because explaining basic principles and sorting out the knowledge system were the main tasks of Chinese legal science in this period. And since this period was still a period of handwriting and type printing, scholars seemed to cherish words more than people today; an article as long as ten thousand words or a book with hundreds of thousands of words was rarely seen. For China's law circle at that time, it was regular that "the whole circle knows you if you publish an article, and you astonishes the whole circle if you publish a treatise", which is hardly imaginable today.

The third period started from 1992 and ended in 2009. The year 1992 was a critical year in the history of socialist construction. The 14th CPC National Congress in October 1992 made it clear that the goal of the economic restructuring was to establish a socialist market economic system, so as to further liberate and develop the productive forces.8 The influence of the establishment of the socialist market economy was by no means limited to the economic area, but every aspect of Chinese society, and in particular the legal system, underwent tremendous changes. For example, the constitutional amendment of 1993 provided that "the State shall adopt a socialist market economic system", and the legislations and research related to the market economic system immediately followed; the 15th CPC National Congress in 1997 advanced the idea of "governing the state according to law and building a socialist country under the rule of law", which idea tallied with the development of Chinese legal science; in 2001 China acceded to the WTO, and Chinese legal studies gained a broader international perspective; the Sixth Plenary Session of the 16th CPC Central Committee decided to "build a harmonious socialist society", and looked at "democracy and rule of law" as a fundamental requirement for a harmonious society, thereby creating new expectations on and opportunities for the development of Chinese legal science. Obviously, since 1992 Chinese legal science has been in continuous development with deepening thoughts and enriched contents and the establishment of the socialist market economy was the historical trigger point of this new development. It should be noted that the selection of 2009 as the ending year of this period does not imply that this year has any special meaning in the history of Chinese legal science. We chose it simply because it was the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, a year worthy of all kinds of celebration, including this book. The development of Chinese legal science, just like the cause of the rule of law in China, has no ending.

Progressive, thriving, prosperous, these are the words regularly used to describe the condition of Chinese legal studies of this period. It is so indeed. First, the division of sub-disciplines has become increasingly fine, and an umbrella disciplinary system was formed consisting of basic second-tier disciplines, numerous third-tier disciplines and plenty of interdisciplinary subjects. Division, derivation, and combination are the three main methods of generation of sub-disciplines of Chinese legal science: a second-tier discipline can be divided into several second-tier disciplines (for example, commercial law has gradually broke-away from civil and commercial law to become an independent sub-discipline); many third-tier disciplines have derived from second-tier disciplines; and the discipline of social law was created through the combination of labor law and social security law; etc. Such division of disciplines was also reflected in the changes in academic organizations. For examples, the Civil and Economic Law Research Committee of China Law Society later broke up into three research committees: Civil Law Research Committee, Commercial Law Research Committee and Economic Law Research Committee; and the Procedure Law Research Committee of China Law Society later broke up into two research committees: the Criminal Procedure Law Research Committee and the Civil Procedure Law Research Committee. Taking the disciplinary system as its backbone, Chinese legal science has developed into a vast theoretical system consisting of various sub-disciplines and knowledge systems. Second, the fruits of legal research in this period were very abundant. For example, the year 2007 alone saw the publication of more than 400 academic books and over 70,000 academic articles (including translations).9 The carriers of the results of legal research had also been diversified. Currently there are over 200 law journals, numerous series of legal publications, and a large number of specialized law websites in China. Third, the theoretical research of Chinese legal science was developing towards the direction of multi-polarity, enriching annotatory legal study, which takes the application of law as its value pursuit, while at the same time expanding theoretical legal study, which takes theoretical construction as its value pursuit. In many sub-disciplines of law, new philosophical languages began to be used to express reflections on or analyses of legal issues and constitutional philosophy, civil law philosophy, criminal law philosophy, etc. had become popular research subjects of the time. Such a multi-polar trend of development is very necessary for the construction of a solid and rigorous system of legal theories. While attaching importance to the research of basic legal theories, legal scholars also were paying attention to offering advices and recommendations to the government on the construction of the legal system, thereby basically achieving the balanced development of the research on basic theories and research on the application of law and countermeasures. During this period, there also emerged the practice of conducting legal researches by borrowing theories, terminologies, and methodologies from other disciplines, hence the emergence of critical legal studies, economic analysis of law, law and literature, law and postmodernism, etc. Fourth, during this period, the selection of topics for legal research became increasingly sophisticated. People tended to select either very abstract or very concrete topics for their legal studies, leaving general and comprehensive introduction to legal knowledge to textbooks. Fifth, legal education blossomed in this period, which not only provided society with plenty of qualified lawyers and scholars, but also facilitated the practical application of legal theories. The steadily expanding rank of teaching staff had also become the major force in legal researches. And finally, international exchange in the forms of translation, visits and academic conference, became a regular part of the academic exchange of Chinese law circle. While the foreign exchange activities carried out by Chinese law circle in the previous period were still countable,10 those carried out during this period were already too numerous to be counted. The essential development of Chinese legal studies in this period, however, lies with the theoretical innovation and the active role it played, or the so-called "active independence". In the past, Chinese legal studies used to closely follow the changes in law and policy to choose the focus of research, with the interpretation of laws and policies being the main task of legal research. But in this period, Chinese scholars were no longer satisfied with following the footsteps of the status quo, but began to provide theoretical basis to the practice of the rule of law through the observation of the society, the analysis of things and the elaboration of theories, so as to push forward the practice of the rule of law. For example, after the establishment of the socialist market economic system, scholars of the Institute of Law of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) made systematic and in-depth analysis and research into the relationship between the market economic mechanism and the legal mechanism, and put forward the suggestion of building the legal system of socialist market economy,11 which not only became an important theoretical hotspot in the law circle at that time, but also forcefully promoted the construction the legal system of socialist market economy in China. For another example, in 1996, Chinese Journal of Law published the article "On Governing the State According to Law", sketching out the significance, conditions and conceptions of governing the state according to law. 12 Meanwhile, the CASS Institute of Law held an academic seminar entitled "Governing the State According to Law and Building a Socialist Country under the Rule of Law", where such topics as "legal system" vis-à-vis "rule of law", "governing the state by law" vis-à-vis "governing the state according to law", and "formal rule of law" vis-à-vis "substantive rule of law" were broadly discussed.13 Such discussion and promotion of the idea of governing the state according to law spearheaded and facilitated the formation and confirmation of the fundamental strategy of "governing the state according to law and building a socialist country under the rule of law". In this period, examples in terms of facilitating the construction of the legal system through legal studies were simply too numerous to enumerate. To name a few, researches on such issues as rights orientation, human rights, exercise of state power according to law, disclosure of government information, the principle of legally prescribed punishment for a specified crime, the principle of numerus clausus, the safeguarding of free and fair market competition, procedural justice and judicial justice all heralded the improvement of laws in their respective area, directly or indirectly.

This period saw an unprecedented raise in the consciousness of the Chinese law circle of participation in the practice of the rule of law. Chinese scholars had participated in legislative and legal publicity activities by various means and through various channels. The main means by which they participation in legislative activities included: becoming a member of the drafting group of a proposed law; organizing scholars to write proposed draft laws to be taken as reference by legislative organs; participating in discussions of draft laws organized by legislative organs; providing legislative proposals on a particular law of draft law; and advancing new academic opinions to indirectly influence the policy choice of legislative organs. And the main methods by which they participate in legal publicity included giving lectures on the legal system at the invitation of state organs and participating in law popularization activities organized by academic associations or by their own work units. Such activities are conductive to the popularization of ideas of socialist rule of law, the realization of the social value of legal theories as well as the fulfillment of social responsibility of legal researchers.

Also in this period, Chinese law circle began to seek "cultural independence" of Chinese legal science. There's no denial that Chinese legal science, after shaking off reliance on the Soviet legal theories, have more or less shown dependence on the Western legal theories. The views, spirits, ideas, institutional techniques, terminologies and methodologies of western legal theories were introduced on a large scale into the knowledge generation system of Chinese legal science. Although the sources of theories were thus enriched, Chinese legal science is running the risk of losing its ego. In particular, with the deepening of economic globalization, the globalization of law and its research has been an increasing trend. Such "monopoly" of Western voice over legal studies has alerted Chinese scholars to the cultural independence of Chinese legal science. Since the 1990's, Chinese law circle has shown care for its cultural subjectivity, with the awareness of cultural consciousness and cultural subjectivity gradually increasing. In their research and theory-construction, Chinese legal scholars are gradually walking out of the dominant influence of the Soviet and Western theories, and turning their eyes to the real problems and the path of legal development of China. It is a historical mission of the Chinese law circle to develop a Chinese legal science rooted in Chinese society and in the heart and soul of Chinese people. In some sense, the construction and popularization of the socialist legal ideology is also part of the efforts in establishing the cultural subjectivity of Chinese legal science. In the pursuit of cultural independence of Chinese legal science, innovation, and only innovation, is the route to take.

Since the 1990s, the circle of humanity and social sciences, especial the law circle, in China has realized the importance of academic standardization and the level of standardization of legal studies has been greatly raised. Although today the phenomenon of academic anomie and disorder is still not uncommon in Chinese law circle, it is nevertheless undeniable that the situation is much better than 20 or 30 years ago. The rise in the level of standardization of legal studies is manifested in the citation of literature, academic criticism, academic accreditation, academic ethnics and many other aspects of legal studies.14 Of course, China still has a long way to go in achieving the standardization of legal studies and concerted efforts still need to be made by the entire law circle in many respects. For examples, currently many legal scholars are still engaged in repetitive and non-innovative legal studies and many legal writings are seriously short on substance; the "herd mentality" in the choice of topics for research and writing is still common; the practice of "annotation for annotation's sake" makes people doubt the value of such annotation; the vapid narrative style of some legal scholars makes their writings a bore to read; and pseudo-innovations that are not supported by any argumentation is an especially annoying phenomenon in Chinese law circle: in the past, theoretical innovation required academic courage; today it seems that only audacious is needed.

The practice has proved, and will continue to prove, that China's practice of rule of law is still going forward, and that Chinese legal science is still in progress. The hope is always there, and for that we endeavor.

1Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping (Vol. 2), People's Publishing House, 1994, p. 146.

2See Zhang Wenxian & Huang Wenyi (ed.), Report on the Development of Philosophy and Social Sciences in Chinese Universities·Legal Science (1978-2008), Guangxi Normal University Press, 2008, p. 4.

3See Zhang Youyu & Wang Shuwen (eds.), Forty Years of Chinese Legal Science, Shanghai People's Publishing House, 1989, p. 5.

4Zhang Wenxian, "On the Category Consciousness, Category System and Footstone Category of Legal Science", Chinese Journal of Law, Issue 3, 1991.

5 See Zhang Youyu & Wang Shuwen (eds.), supra note 3, p. 6.

6See Zhang Youyu & Wang Shuwen (eds.), supra note 3, p. 1.

7See the Report of Jiang Zemin at the 14th Party Congress: To Speed up the Pace of Reform and Opening Up and the Modernization Construction, Seize Still Greater Victories in The Cause of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

8See the Report of Jiang Zemin at the 14th Party Congress: To Speed up the Pace of Reform and Opening Up and the Modernization Construction, Seize Still Greater Victories in The Cause of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

9See Zhang Wenxian & Huang Wenyi (ed.), Report on the Development of Philosophy and Social Sciences in Chinese Universities·Legal Science (1978-2008), Guangxi Normal University Press, 2008, p. 9.

10 For example, according to statistics made by some scholars, in the ten years after the "Third Plenary Session", China had received 352 legal academic delegations (3,389 person/times) from 81 countries and areas around the world; held 18 academic conferences participated by foreign legal scholars; and sent a total of 164 Chinese legal delegations (589 person/times) to various foreign countries on academic purposes. See Zhang Youyu & Wang Shuwen (eds.), supra note 3, p. 12.

11 Research Group of CASS Institute of Law, "Theoretical Reflections and Policy Suggestions on the Construction of a Legal System of Socialist Market Economy", Chinese Journal of Law, 1993 (6).

12 See Wang Jiafu, Liu Hainian, et. al., "On Ruling the Country in Accordance with Law", Chinese Journal of Law, 1996 (2).

13 See "Summary of the Academic Seminar on Governing the State According to Law and Building a Socialist Country under the Rule of Law", Chinese Journal of Law, 1996 (3).

14 See Zhang Wenxian & Huang Wenyi (ed.), supra note 9, p. 13.