University of Baltimore Journal of International Law


Veronica Pastor


For those steeped in the Western legal tradition, the Chinese political and legal system is, in the famous words of Winston Churchill, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.1 Of course, Churchill was describing the potential actions of Russia, not China.2 But, to continue borrowing from Churchill, perhaps there is a key – Chinese national interest and the interest of the Chinese Communist Party.3 This research explores the interaction between political, economic, and legal reform, and posits that the Chongqing incident4 was ultimately a positive turning point in the country’s institutional development. The theory presented herein is that although some argue the manner in which the Bo Xilai trial5 was conducted, and its aftermath, represents a step back in political aperture, it is actually an example of the “two steps forward, one step back”6 so closely associated with Communist political regimes in transition, and holds promise for consolidation of institutional reform in China. In exploring the riddle, this article attempts to place the Chinese legal system in its historic context before moving to the inextricable relationship between law and politics in China. Finally, it is argued that the Bo Xilai prosecution, while undeniably politically motivated and rife with retrograde elements, was also a cautious but definitive move towards the triumph of a new model of consolidated institutionalization.



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