This volume continues a new series entitled "How They're Governed". Directed by Carlo Fusaro, the series aims to explore the political and institutional culture of different countries in order to understand how they're governed and organised. The entries will be written by experts in comparative constitutional law and adopt an interdisciplinary approach. The series is intended for: students and scholars eager to develop their knowledge about a specific country; people who for professional reasons have relationships with foreign countries and need to be familiar with their institutional arrangements; curious travellers; anyone concerned about democracy and its future. Each volume will share the same basic structure: a concise geographical and economic overview; elements of history, especially as regards the development of the constitution; political context since the end of World War II; power distribution (who does what and who decides); acknowledged rights and freedoms and the corresponding safeguards; essential readings and useful websites.
China is a great civilisation that has evolved independently from Western Europe, speaks a language of non-Indo-European origin and has a history that, unlike the Arab and Hebrew worlds, has not had major contacts and interrelations with Europe. The idea of democracy, in both the classic and the modern sense, is not a part of Chinese culture. Features such as single-party rule, centralisation rather than separation of powers, the marginal role of law with respect to politics, and the subordination of the judiciary system to the administrative bureaucracy are considered useful conditions for securing good government, achieving order against chaos, safeguarding the country's stability and unity. For a European observer, such traits usually incite criticism in that they are interpreted according to standards of western civilisation. Over the last two decades, however, China has attempted to approach western principles, interpreting western models with its own conceptual categories, preferring not to reproduce them but rather to revise them, thus producing a complex system of government and consolidated models of political power. This system's transformation - which undoubtedly moves forward, if one considers constitutional reform, for instance - is however very gradual as compared to the rapid evolution of the country's economy, and appears to cater to the needs of new markets rather than to political convenience.
Angelo Rinella teaches Italian and Comparative Constitutional Law at the LUMSA University in Rome.