China: A Nation Ruled by People With Law Degrees

... and a country whose government has little respect for rule of law. But could that change?
More
china law degress banner.jpg
Security personnel march in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 15, 2013. (Petar Kujundzic/Reuters)

Has China just become a country run by lawyers?

That does appear to be the case at first blush. Three newly-minted top leaders all have legal degrees. President Xi Jinping has an LLD from Tsinghua University, Prime Minister Li Keqiang has an LLB from Peking University, and Vice President Li Yuanchao holds an LLD from the Central Party School (where the Chinese Communist Party trains its cadres).

It is well known that lawyers are over-represented in American politics, but their presence at the pinnacle of Chinese politics is a novelty. On micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo, user @ 老大哥在看着我们 gave a cheeky summary of contemporary Chinese history: "From 1949 to 1976 we were ruled by a tyrant, from 1978 to 1989 by a strongman, from 1990 to 2012 by bureaucrats. I really hope that 2013 is the start of the rule by lawyers."

While some hold high hopes that this means China will usher in a golden age of the rule of law, others are not so optimistic. Many have pointed out that Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro also had law degrees. User @Joey_Gillatt wrote, "If those who studied law would attach more importance to law, then Hitler would have supported the arts, Mao would have supported education for teachers and Stalin would have supported the Russian Orthodox Church."

Activist Professor Yu Jianrong (@于建嵘) and others have pointed out that the names of the degrees can be deceiving. Even though Xi and Li Yuanchao have LLD degrees, they did not study the law per se, but rather Marxist theory and socialism ideology. None of the leaders have ever practiced law.

User @众里寻他千百度2000 opined:

In my view, whether the leader understands the law is not that important; the more important thing is to have a well designed system, so even those who don't know the law can carry out their duties. We cannot rely on any person, but should think about building the system; otherwise China will forever be a country stuck in the rule of man.


This post also appears at Tea Leaf Nation, an Atlantic partner site.

Jump to comments

Rachel Lu, editor and co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation, spent her childhood in southern China. She is currently based in Hong Kong.  

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in China

Just In