The Politics of Law and Stability in China

The Politics of Law and Stability in China

Edited by Susan Trevaskes, Elisa Nesossi, Flora Sapio and Sarah Biddulph

The Politics of Law and Stability in China examines the nexus between social stability and the law in contemporary China. It explores the impact of Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rationales for social stability on legal reforms, criminal justice operations and handling of disputes and social unrest inside and outside China’s justice agencies.

Chapter 13: Framing the stability imperative

Susan Trevaskes, Elisa Nesossi, Flora Sapio and Sarah Biddulph

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, asian politics and policy, law - academic, asian law, human rights, politics and public policy, asian politics


The activist disposition of China’s legal institutions in the era of Harmonious Society and Stability Maintenance enabled the Party-state to legitimize important changes in the practices and policies of courts, governments and security organs. These changes were based on a certain political narrative about the relationship of social stability to China’s economic development and its reform path. According to the Party Central Politico-Legal Commission, China’s law and order (including Stability Maintenance) policies aim to promote three key elements of China’s modernization drive: stability, development and reform (Lin 2004). At the 17th Party Congress in 2007, China’s senior authorities declared ‘development is the priority task and stability the foremost responsibility’ (Kelly 2011, He 2012). But why was law drawn into this picture – as part of the reform programme and in the service of stability and development? Why was it the type of legal reform that has further politicized the legal system as we have seen through the chapters in this volume? And why was the stability imperative seen to be so pressing that it has acquired such major political proportions at this juncture in PRC history, overtaking the highly important longer-term goals of legal reform to further legitimize the law and develop a mature legal system in China. In this concluding chapter we address these questions by drawing from lessons in the studies presented across the book.

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