Why China Slept
The book offers new perspectives on the history of China’s late imperial period and presents a much-needed novel explanation for China’s stagnation and decline in recent centuries. It begins by questioning all the conventional wisdom on the factors behind China’s relative lack of progress and subsequent decline since the 15th century and follows with a fresh interpretation of China’s past. The new vantage points provide insights into China’s resurgence in recent decades and its significance for other nations. The book also makes projections on the general direction that China’s future evolution is likely to take with respect to its market economy, rule of law and representative institutions.
The author aims to deepen international understanding of China’s past and present which will hopefully facilitate the development of more productive relationships between China and other nations. The book is written so that it appeals to students, academics as well as the general public and whoever is interested in gaining a better understanding of China’s rapid rise today. The book is relevant to third and fourth year undergraduate courses in history, economics, international relations, law and political science. It can be used as a text book for upper class core or elective courses in history and economics and as a reference book for upper class courses in international relations, law and political science. It can also serve as a reference book for graduate students in the above disciplines.
Chapter Eleven Rule of Law, Rule of Man and Rule by Law
Rule of Law, Rule of Man and Rule by Law
The rule of law is generally assumed to be a crucial enabling factor in the process of economic development which was missing in traditional China. The laws which existed in China’s dynastic period are viewed as laws made by the emperor solely to serve his own interests. Hence what traditional China had was the rule of man by his laws. This is allegedly very different from the West which has a tradition of the rule of law dating back to Greco-Roman times that is also underpinned by the West’s Judeo-Christian heritage. Hence the absence of the rule of law is often taken to be another major factor contributing to China’s stagnation and decline in the late imperial era.
This distinction between the legal traditions of China and the West is called into question in two articles authored by Stephen Holmes of New York University and Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca of the Juan March Institute in Madrid respectively.1 According to the two political scientists, pure rule of law and pure rule by law are ideal cases which do not exist in the real world. Rather, they represent the two ends of a continuous spectrum. All legal and justice systems in the world, from the beginning of history to the modern era, lie somewhere on that spectrum between the two extremes. The differences among them are differences in degree rather than differences in nature. To quote Sánchez-Cuenca:
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