Table of Contents

Comparative Law and Regulation

Comparative Law and Regulation

Understanding the Global Regulatory Process

Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series

Edited by Francesca Bignami and David Zaring

Governance by regulation – rules propounded and enforced by bureaucracies – is taking a growing share of the sum total of governance. Once thought to be an American phenomenon, it is now a central form of state action in every part of the world, including Europe, Latin America, and Asia, and it is at the core of much international lawmaking. In Comparative Law and Regulation, original contributions by leading scholars in the field focus both on the legal dimension of regulation and on how this dimension operates in those places that have turned to regulation to meet their obligations.

Chapter 8: The campaign enforcement style: Chinese practice in context and comparison

Benjamin van Rooij

Subjects: law - academic, comparative law, regulation and governance


Over the last three decades in China a particular form of regulatory enforcement has developed. It is best understood as a pattern of long periods of weak and lax enforcement, followed by short periods of strong and coercive enforcement. The weak periods are characterized by limited inspections, weak sanctions, and the strong influence of regulated firms. During the strong periods, enforcement is intense and coercive, entailing numerous inspections, tough sanctions, an important role for central authorities in monitoring local enforcement agents, and less influence for regulated firms. This alternating pattern of regulatory enforcement can be called a “campaign” enforcement style. The “campaign” enforcement style has some particularly Chinese characteristics. It is politically controlled, pursues salient targets, sometimes after a scandal involving those targets, and fits well with an authoritarian, but increasingly fragmented and experimental, system of government. In other ways it parallels Western law enforcement, which has employed its own brand of enforcement campaigns. This chapter provides an analysis of China’s enforcement campaigns. It seeks to understand what they are and what effects they have had. Moreover, it seeks to place them in a comparative perspective, both temporally, with respect to China’s Maoist campaigns, and geographically, with respect to politically induced law enforcement in Western contexts. The chapter argues that their continued use can be explained at least in part by China’s particular legal legacy and the political environment of authoritarianism. Campaigns, however, are not uniquely Chinese. Campaign-style enforcement also exists in the West.

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