Chinese Legal Development: The Influence of Power Struggles on the Adoption of Western Legal Concepts
Haverford College. Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Place of Publication
Table of Contents
Historically, Chinese legal governance has been through criminal codes that specify punishments for actions taken against the state or society. Following the First Opium War (1839-1842), power struggles between China and Western Powers have resulted in the adoption of Western legal concepts. The main mechanism behind this process is the negotiations of perceived positions of power that occur through power struggle dynamics. When an involved government is acutely displaced from its perceived position of power, the displaced power much accommodate a new order, typically by adopting no only the predominant group’s legal concepts but also its legal institutions. From 1842 to 1912, the Qing experienced this phenomenon, resulting from the war between China and the eight Western Powers. Eventually, the Qing’s displacement of power let to the adoption of foreign legal institutions in order to find a place within the new power structure. In particular, the power struggles primarily with Britain, Japan, and the United States have shaped and influenced China’s adoption of international law, changes to criminal law, civil and company law, and constitutional law (1908-1911). These power struggles have taken place on the field through Military displays of power, and on the court through legal confrontations between Chinese officials and representative of Foreign Powers. Accordingly, China’s legal landscape has been deeply influenced through these interactions with Western Powers and their legal concepts.