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Lawmaking in China: Understanding Substantive and Procedural Changes

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This paper provides a sociolegal overview of law and lawmaking in China. It combines existing studies with original data published by the National People’s Congress as well as new case studies of recent lawmaking processes. The paper focuses its analysis on the development of regulatory laws that seek to prevent and control risk, including environmental, food safety, land, labor, and occupational health laws. The paper finds large changes in the substance of legislation over the past two decades. Amid generally massive growth in lawmaking at all levels, national legislation has become more ambitious, with a greater regulatory burden. It has become more specific, allowing for less discretion. And it has grown stronger teeth, with greater sanctions against violations. These regulatory laws allow for more public participation, albeit within a tightly confined authoritarian space. Such substantive changes come as the process of lawmaking has evolved. While central leadership retains strong control over lawmaking, the process has become more transparent, allowing more actors to exert influence. Successful legislative entrepreneurs are able to shape lawmaking by timing their advocacy at the right stage of the legislative process and, if possible, linking it to ongoing crises.

Affiliations: 1: University of California, Irvine, ; 2: University of Amsterdam,


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