November 27, 2017
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v2.1 Reference

Power versus Law in Modern China

Cities, Courts, and the Communist Party

Today 700 million Chinese citizens—more than fifty-four percent of the population—live in cities. The mass migration of rural populations to urban centers increased rapidly following economic reforms of the 1990s, and serious problems such as overcrowding, lack of health services, and substandard housing have arisen in these areas since. China's urban citizens have taken to the courts for redress and fought battles over failed urban renewal projects, denial of civil rights, corruption, and abuse of power.

In Power versus Law in Modern China, Qiang Fang and Xiaobing Li examine four important legal cases that took place from 1995 to 2013 in the major cities of Wuhan, Xuzhou, Shanghai, and Chongqing. In these cases, citizens protested demolition of property, as well as corruption among city officials, developers, and landlords; but were repeatedly denied protection or compensation from the courts. Fang and Li explore how new interest groups comprised of entrepreneurs and Chinese graduates of Western universities have collaborated with the CCP-controlled local governments to create new power bases in cities. Drawing on newly available official sources, private collections, and interviews with Chinese administrators, judges, litigants, petitioners, and legal experts, this interdisciplinary analysis reveals the powerful and privileged will most likely continue to exploit the legal asymmetry that exists between the courts and citizens.

About the Authors

Qiang Fang is professor of East Asian history at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He is the author of Chinese Complaint Systems: Natural Resistance and coeditor of Modern Chinese Legal Reform: New Perspectives. He is also the current president of Chinese Historians in the United States (CHUS).

Xiaobing Li
is professor of history and director of the Western Pacific Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma. He is the author or coeditor of several books, including Modern Chinese Legal Reform: New Perspectives and A History of the Modern Chinese Army.


"An important contribution to the literature on the law in the People's Republic of China (PRC), a polity which aspires to become a law-based state. The authors posit a conflict between the absolute power of the Chinese Communist Party and the constitutional guarantee of equal justice for all Chinese citizens irrespective of their station in life. They show that the power of the party consistently trumps justice."—Steven I. Levine, coauthor of Arc of Empire: America's Wars in Asia from the Philippines to Vietnam

"This work is a unique interdisciplinary scholarship in nature and can conveniently serve as such for the research in contemporary China in the fields of history, Chinese study, legal study, economics, political science, as well as sociology. While Western scholarship on China's economic reforms focus more on government policy-making, developmental process, or/and consequential achievements, very few pay close attention to the inner circle commotion and uproar often demanding legal reforms and political restructure inside China."—Pingchao Zhu, author of The Americans and Chinese at the Korean War Cease-fire Negotiations, 1950–1953

"This is an insightful look into the lives of ordinary Chinese as they sought legal means to retain the power of the Communist Party to effect rapid urbanization and its accompanying improvement in living conditions. A well-written, well-documented work"—Choice

9780813173931 : power-versus-law-in-modern-china-fang-li
286 Pages
$80.00 USD

Other Titles by Qiang Fang

Modern Chinese Legal Reform

edited by Xiaobing Li, Qiang Fang
Jan 2013 - University Press of Kentucky
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Building Ho's Army

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Modern Chinese Legal Reform

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Voices from the Vietnam War

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