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Does China Have Common Law? - China Law in One Minute

Mon, 09 Nov 2020
Editor: C. J. Observer

Does China have common law? - China's Law in One Minute


China has no common law. Instead, China has mainly a civil law system.

In China, the law means statutes and excludes case law. In other words, court cases are not law; only rules codified by the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary are laws.

In fact, there are four legal systems within the territory of the People's Republic of China:

(1) Mainland China: The laws of the Mainland are mainly influenced by the laws of the Soviet Union, Germany, and Japan. In the past 20 years, it has also been affected by common law in some fields.

(2) Hong Kong: Hong Kong operates on a common law system inherited from the UK.

(3) Macau: Macau operates on a civil law system inherited from Portugal.

(4) Taiwan: Taiwan operates on a civil law system influenced by German and Japanese laws.

According to China’s Constitution and the Legislation Law, in mainland China, the effectiveness levels (from high to low) and the authorities enacting the above laws and regulations are as follows: 

Level 1:

The Constitution, formulated by the National People’s Congress (NPC), prevails over all other laws and regulations.

Level 2:

The Laws are formulated by the NPC (basic laws) and its Standing Committee (general laws).

Level 3: 

(1) Administrative regulations are formulated by the State Council (i.e., the central government).

(2) Judicial interpretations are formulated by the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP). 

(3) Military regulations are formulated by the Central Military Commission (CMC).

Level 4:

(1) Local laws and regulations are formulated by the Provincial People’s Congress and its Standing Committee, with the effect covering the areas under its jurisdiction;

(2) Departmental regulations are formulated by the departments directly under the State Council, with the effect covering the national matters falling within their functions and powers.


For more about China's election and congress, please read What's Chinese Legal System?

Chinese judges only apply the Statutory law. However, China's Supreme People's Court is trying to establish a certain degree of "case law". For more about China's "case law", please read Does China have Case Law?

There are currently more than 200 laws promulgated by NPC in effect. For full texts of Chinese laws, please click the List of China's Laws.


Other articles you may also be interested in are as follows:

How Do Elections in China Work?

What is the Crime Rate in China?

How Many Crimes Are Punishable by Death in China?

What is the Court System Like in China?

What's Chinese Legal System? 

Does the Jury Exist in China?

What Are the Main Laws in China?

What is the Conviction Rate in China?

Does China Have Common Law? 

For more interesting posts about Chinese Law, please check China Law in One Minute.


Contributors: CJO Staff Contributors Team

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