Introduction: Critical Legal Thinking on China

by | 17 Oct 2021

The return of China to the centre of international affairs invites a critical examination of its articulation of ‘law and the political’. In a world of nation-states, the Chinese ‘party-state’ is a singular political form that has been aptly described as a having a ‘dual’ or ‘doubled’ nature. Here, social order is achieved through a regime of surveillance and oppression organised through the party machinery. With this, the political has taken on a decidedly Schmittian tenor, expressed in stark terms of ‘friends and enemies’, with forms of legitimation reliant on both a virulent nationalism and the promotion of so-called ‘socialist core values’. In addition to this, an alternative normativity has been developed within an increasingly sophisticated legal system which maintains a free market economy ‘with Chinese characteristics’. This, in part, aims to ensure an unabated flow of cheap, and compliant, labour as China persists as the ‘factory of the world’. What is unfolding in China, then, is both a sui generis form of social ordering but also recognisable continuities and correspondences with liberal, colonial and capitalistic forms of rule. In the coming days we will post the following four pieces that engage with these themes.

Schmitt in Beijing” by Ryan Martínez Mitchell (Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Observations on Hong Kong” by Scott Veitch (Paul KC Chung Professor in Jurisprudence, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong)

The Social Reproduction of the Informal Migrant Workforce in China” by Yiran Zhang (SJD candidate at Harvard Law School)

Crits and the Chinese Party-State” by Samuli Seppänen (Associate Professor, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Taken together, these posts reaffirm the essential contribution of critical legal thought to understanding the unique constellation of powers operative within the Chinese state.


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