The People's Republic of China hosts more people than any country in the world, with an estimated population of 1.4 billion. In addition to being the world's second largest economy, China is also the biggest exporter/importer of goods and has been a member of the United Nations since 1971.
Although China has focused on more capitalistic, market-oriented reforms since the 1980s, students electing to study law in China should not encounter issues that many Chinese citizens regularly deal with as a result of governmental control.
China's Legal System
The judicial system of the People's Republic of China is complex and basically consists of the Supreme People's "Procuratorate", the people's Procuratorates, the people's courts and the Supreme People's Court. According to the Article 129 of the Chinese constitution, a Procuratorate is the "state organ for legal supervision" and seems similar to the position represented by a U.S. prosecutor. However, a Chinese Procuratorate has authority that extends beyond just investigating and initiating litigation and allows for supervision and execution of courts and judgments as well as the operation of Chinese prisons.
Because of China's vast rural areas, their judicial system is hierarchical in that Basic People's Courts hold over 3000 courts in each county, which are subdivided into more than 15,000 smaller entities called "people's tribunals". These tribunals can be found in villages and towns dotting the Chinese countryside. In addition, the number of specialized courts is in the hundreds, with each of these courts dealing with forest issues, maritime problems, railway transportation and the PLA (People's Liberation Army).
China's legal system differs most prominently in the fact that they do not adhere to the concept of case law. Instead, most litigation cases are not bound to other courts' decisions and may present their own unique resolutions. Some people's court judges may try to follow previously established legal interpretations but this is entirely dependent upon the judge's beliefs regarding case law.
Chinese criminal laws dictate that reforming rather imprisoning repeat offenders is preferable and includes sentencing convicted criminals to skills, education and labor training as described by the amended Criminal Law Code of 1997.