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 CBS.com.

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.

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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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Freedom’s Evolution

May 11, 2010

A debate took place on Left of the Right, not by Devin Barber, the Blog’s host, but between me and another person who called him or herself Timothy. This person made comments calling me an asshole and a propaganda spewing scumbag among other insults, because he disagreed with my opinions regarding China even though I supported most or all of my opinions with facts. You may read the entire debate by clicking on the above link to see an example of Timothy’s conservative beliefs.

One of my last responses was a comparison between America and China and the trail to freedom that both counties have followed and are still traveling. What follows is a slightly edited version.

In 1781, the American War for Independence from the British Empire ended, but there was still slavery in the Southern States.

American Revolution

In 1861 to 1865, (eight-four years after America’s revolution) America divided and fought a bloody Civil War that ended slavery. More than six hundred thousand Americans died in that conflict. 

However, women still could not own property or vote. Women were considered chattel.  The women’s rights movement started in 1848. In 1920 (seventy-two years later), the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granted women the vote.

American history is full of facts about how people of color were discriminated against and were second-class citizens until the Civil Rights Movement between 1955 to 1968.  It took one-hundred-and-three years after the end of slavery to end discrimination against people of color—at least legally.

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The bloody and painful evolutionary trail to freedom in China started in 1913 when warlords ended Imperial rule.  Eventually a dictatorship replaced the warlords.  The Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek was a dictatorship under martial law even in Taiwan until the 1980s when the first election was held there.

Another step back was World War II with the Japanese invading China that cost about 30 million Chinese their lives. That ended in 1945, followed by the revolution between the Communists and Kuomintang dictatorship.  Soon after Mao won that revolution in 1949 and took over China to become China’s modern emperor for twenty-seven years, he declared that women were equal to men.  Then there was the Great Leap Forward, which was more like two leaps back followed by the Cultural Revolution that cost another thirty-seven million Chinese their lives.

Chinese Revolution

After Mao died in 1976, the Communist Government under Deng Xiaoping’s guidance rewrote their constitution, repudiated Marxist, Maoist revolutionary doctrine and opened China to the world launching a market economy, which is on steroids today.

Since that new start, amendments have been added to the Chinese Constitution. Read it carefully and you will see that freedom of speech in China is limited by a constitution that is taught in the schools and in the factories. Although some Chinese dissidents have been arrested for speaking and jailed with other criminals, 98.8% of the population remains free and appears to have no problem obeying that law.

America’s journey to become a nation where ALL citizens are protected by the Bill of Rights took one-hundred-and-eight-seven years from 1781 to 1968.

China, after Mao, has had only thirty-four years to evolve.  Who knows where China will be in another century and a half. Timothy sees the glass half-empty. Since I watch China, I’ve seen the small steps that China has been taking, and I see the cup half-full and improving with time. I hope I’m right, because Timothy seems to believe that China is evil and will invade the United States in a few decades. What do you think?

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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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