Comparative Constitutional Law in Asia

Comparative Constitutional Law in Asia

Edited by Rosalind Dixon and Tom Ginsburg

Comparative constitutional law is a field of increasing importance around the world, but much of the literature is focused on Europe, North America, and English-speaking jurisdictions. The importance of Asia for the broader field is demonstrated here in original contributions that look thematically at issues from a general perspective, with special attention on how they have been treated in East Asian jurisdictions.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Rosalind Dixon and Tom Ginsburg

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, law - academic, asian law, comparative law, constitutional and administrative law


The newly revitalized field of comparative constitutional law has tended to let North America and Europe dictate the agenda. From one point of view, this is understandable, of course: modern written constitutions were first developed in the Atlantic world and spread to the new nation states of Latin America, well before Japan adopted the first national constitution in Asia in 1889. But Asia has also been home to vibrant constitutional discourses for 150 years, as indigenous elites sought to fuse Western institutional forms with the grand East Asian legal and political traditions. This discourse is now returning to the fore with speculation about China's ongoing experiment in developmental authoritarianism. In South Asia and Southeast Asia, too, old traditions of government informed constitutional discussions, although the experience of colonialism was a more immediate factor. In the early 21st century, Asian countries have developed increasingly vibrant practices of constitutional law. Written constitutions are now the norm, and routinely influence the politics even of authoritarian states including Myanmar or China. Constitutional courts have spread throughout the region, and are deciding many of the major social and political questions of the day. And social and political movements invoke the constitution at key junctures in many countries. The timing is good for an examination of constitutional law in Asia. One of the great themes of constitutions in Asia is their basic stability (Yeh and Chang 2011). Vibrant constitutional democracies are now well established in Japan, South Korea, Mongolia and Taiwan.