Cultural Differences and China’s Changing Laws

September 27, 2010

A colleague and friend sent me a link to a post about a Chinese blind activist lawyer released from prison. Isolda Morillo, for the Associated Press, wrote the post that appeared on

Chen Guangcheng was the blind lawyer. In 2006, he was sent to jail after documenting forced late-term abortions and sterilizations and other abuses in his rural east China community.

Morillo wrote that Guangcheng was an “inspirational figure to others in China”.

According to the AP reporter, Guangcheng is under house arrest and, along with his family, is watched closely.  The piece points out how horrible he was treated by Chinese authorities.

One fact stood out, “He expanded his activism after hearing complaints from people living in nearby villages that family planning officials were forcing women to have late-term abortions and sterilizations to enforce the government’s one-child policy.”

I’m sure there will be people who will see me supporting China’s government when I do not condemn China for how Guangcheng was treated.

With more than 1.3 billion people and only 16% of the land capable of growing food crops and a looming shortage of fresh water, China is facing a possible melt down in a few decades that could dismantle all the progress made since the 1982 Constitution.

To understand China better, it would help to learn that China’s legal system is reinventing itself.

Up until 1911 when the Qing Dynasty collapsed, Chinese law leaned heavily toward Legalism influenced by Confucianism.

Near the end of the Qing Dynasty, efforts were made to reform the law by mainly importing German codes with slight modifications.

After 1911, the Nationalists continued this effort. When Mao and the Communists came to power in 1949, the ranks of intellectuals and legal professionals was devastated during the purges. A Soviet-style legal system was then adopted but that system suffered due to political turmoil that ended with the Cultural Revolution.

It wouldn’t be until 1982, that the idea of individual rights would reemerge as a signify influence on Chinese Law. Even then, business law developed much faster than civil law, which is the laws of a state or nation that deals with the rights of private citizens.

In an interview with James Zimmerman, about China’s Changing Legal System, Megan Rhodes wrote, “China is transforming its legal system at an amazing rate.” 

When Rhodes asked Zimmerman if foreign law has influenced Chinese law, he answered “Yes, absolutely.”

At the end of the interview, Zimmerman says, “China is going through remarkable times, and should be proud of its ongoing judicial and legislative reforms. It has developed—and continues to develop—a legal system from scratch in just over 30 years.”

American law also evolved and reading Law and History: The Evolution of the American Legal System might give you a better understanding of what is going on in China. 

In 1783, America signed a peace treaty with the British Empire and the U.S. officially became a nation state. However, slavery wouldn’t be abolished for eighty-two years in 1865, after the bloody American Civil War.

In addition, women in America even after the Civil War, were still second-class citizens. Source: Women’s history in America

Forms of child labor, including indentured servitude and child slavery, have existed throughout American History. In fact, it wasn’t until 1938 that the US had, for the first time, Federal regulations for minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children. Source: Child Labor in U.S. History

Then Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

China has had about thirty years to change since 1982 while America took 182 years to cover the same ground. However, there may be another reason why the American media and so many Americans condemn China so often, and that can be explained by the history of Discrimination Against the Chinese in America. Maybe that discrimination is not dead yet.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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Democratic Confucianism

May 22, 2010

I heard from a reliable source that the Communist Party had been moving cautiously toward implementing a form of democracy  systematically just as they have  done to build the highly successful market economy that is driving China’s prosperity today.

Then in 2008, the last year of the G.W. Bush presidency, lack of government oversight and greed from Wall Street and American banks almost crashed the world economically and China’s leaders reeled in shock—cancelling their plans.

I read Moving China Toward Democracy: A Confucian Framework written by Kyle Baxter.  It is a thoughtful piece. If Baxter’s ideas will work is still to be determined.

What has been the cornerstone of most Chinese governments has been a form of Legalism, with its harsh punishments.

If Confucianism were to be the bedrock of  a democratic government in China, China’s critics in the West would have nothing to complain about. 

China has never really adopted Confucian principles for political rule. Since Confucianism values individual rights along with family values, this transition would pave the way for China to retain its cultural identity and join the world as a democratic partner.

Deng Xiaoping

Deng Xiaoping said it best, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.”

See the Influence of Confucius


Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. He also Blogs at The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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Negotiating with the Chinese

April 28, 2010

From what I’ve read so far at “Chinese Negotiation”, the Blog offers sound advice for dealing with the Chinese in business or politics.

China’s historical and cultural foundations come from a different source than America and Europe.  People that come from Western democracies are also different and alien to the Chinese since Western roots grow deep into Judean Christian values, Roman and Greek philosophy and British Common Law, which also has its roots from the Romans and Greeks.

The Great Wall of China

Don’t forget, China’s roots grow deep in different soil and they stem from Confucius and Legalism. The Great Wall did more than attempt to keep out the barbarians. It also protected Chinese civilization from foreign devils and their strange ways.

“When Americans negotiate with Chinese counter-parties, they often run into the ‘Frenemies’ dilemma. US dealmakers in China are sometimes so concerned with building good relations that they don’t perform proper due diligence until it is far too late. They end up losing money, time, IP – and destroy the very friendships that they worked so hard to develop.” To discover more, visit the source at Chinese Negotiation.

Also see “Understanding How to do China Business”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning My Splendid Concubine and writes The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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Blending the Law

April 21, 2010

The legal system in the United States comes primarily from English Common Law (influenced by Roman law and Greek teachings). English Common Law is a system based on the principle that the rulings made by the King’s courts were according to the common custom of the realm. Common law is grounded in precedent and local tradition stressing community and individualism.

Is Justice Blind?

Legalism, the foundation of Chinese law, emphasizes the need for order above all other human concerns. The founder of the Legalistic school was Hsün Tzu (312–230 BC). He believed that humans are inherently evil and inclined toward criminal and selfish behavior. Since morality does not exist in nature and humans are part of nature, the only way to control behavior was through habit and harsh punishment. Without this, the result would be conflict and social disorder.

Even though both Confucianism and Legalism called for tradition and governmental control, the difference between the two is that Confucius (551–479 BC) advocated ruling benevolently by example. Both theories still play an important role in the cultural and legal development of China.

However, the legal system in the People’s Republic of China is currently undergoing gradual reform since international trade and globalization are influencing changes. What is evolving is a blending of English Common Law and Legalism.

Here is a good Blog to learn how to navigate through China’s legal system:
See “China Law and Justice System”

Sources used for this post:

The First Emperor: The Man Who Made China – Part 6/9

April 21, 2010

The totalitarian philosophy in the new Chinese empire was called legalism. There are rules that govern every part of every citizen’s daily life with the punishment spelled out. Physical punishment could mean mutilation. For example, if two are caught having sex, they will be beheaded. Every aspect of private life is part of Qin law.

In 220 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi goes on an inspection tour of his empire.  With the major wars over, millions of troops are put to work finishing the Great Wall of China to stop the nomadic tribes to the north from raiding into China, which they have done for centuries.

The Great Wall of China is the greatest engineering project of the ancient world. It is thirty feet high and more than three thousand miles long. At one point, over a million people are working on the wall and about a quarter of them will die.

The emperor makes more demands. He sends hundreds of thousands to build a tomb that fits his rank as the first divine emperor of China. The burial mound, larger than the largest pyramid in China, is at the center of an above ground and underground city. His tomb is made of bronze surrounded by mercury rivers and oceans.

Recently, using ground penetrating radar and other instruments, a three dimensional model is built of the underground complex.

Go to Part 7 for the Man Who Made China or return to Part 5

View as Single Page


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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