The impact of enforcement campaigns on China’s legal system

Sarah Biddulph

This talk examines the role played by regulatory failure campaigns in shaping the development of China’s particular version of the ‘rule of law.’ Campaigns are employed on a regular basis to address perceived crises arising from shortcomings in the legal regulatory regime and to deal with problems that regular enforcement strategies have failed adequately to address. The regularity with which campaigns are used in the reform era poses something of a paradox in our efforts to understand the development of China’s legal system. China’s Party and state apparatus have poured both resources and political capital into the development of a comprehensive system of law-based governance, yet campaigns have now become entrenched as a regular feature in regulatory fields outside security and law and order. This talk explores two campaigns as examples: one in the area of labour law and one in the area of medical disputes. It argues that the strong ‘planned’ nature of these campaigns and their emphasis on state leadership continue to shape the development of China’s particular version of the ‘rule of law.’

About the Speaker

Sarah Biddulph is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow (2014-2018) and Professor of Law at the Melbourne Law School. Sarah’s research focuses on the Chinese legal system with a particular emphasis on legal policy, law making and enforcement as they affect the administration of justice in China. Her particular areas of research are contemporary Chinese administrative law, criminal procedure, labour, comparative law and the law regulating social and economic rights. Her recent publications include: Legal Reform and Administrative Detention Powers in China (2007) CUP, Law and Fair Work in China: Making and Enforcing Labour Standards in the PRC co-authored with Sean Cooney and Ying Zhu (2013) Routledge, The Politics of Law and Stability in China, Edward Elgar: London co-edited with Susan Trevaskes, Elisa Nesossi and Flora Sapio and The Stability Imperative: Human rights and law in China (2015) UBC Press.

After the Seminar

To allow for informal discussion, the seminar will be followed by a dinner with the guest speaker at 6:15pm. The location of the restaurant will be announced at the seminar. All are welcome, though those who attend will need to pay for their own food and drinks. As reservations must be made at the restaurant, please RSVP by noon of the day before the seminar to

The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the China Institute, the Research School of Asia and the Pacific, and the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University.


Sarah Biddulph

Dates & times

Thursday, 22 October 2015

4.00pm - 5.30pm


Seminar Rooms, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU

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