China’s Schizophrenic Legal System

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A post on the China Law blog makes a good point about an article I wrote recently for Time (the old media, paper one, that is). The story is about China’s dysfunctional legal system and focuses on one particularly egregious miscarriage of justice, which symbolizes the sorry state of the whole. But the China Law post points out (and yes, I am quoting them quoting me etc etc but isn’t that the fun of blogging?) that on the commercial side, which I didn’t mention, the system is working fine. As the post notes:

The Party also knows improving China’s legal system is good for foreign business.
My fear is that it China is managing to achieve both its goal for increased legal justice and control at the same time, by essentially choosing justice for business disputes and choosing control for other court actions.

In fact, that’s not an uncommon result in authoritarian states, a couple of which manage to have fair and relatively clean and impartial dispute settlement mechanisms in place while at the same time ensuring that when it comes to politics or anything relating to government power, the courts are essentially at the establishment’s beck and call. Presumably that’s the aim here, too.