Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

China’s disinterested government and the rule of law

By Joseph Mazur and Anca-Elena Ursu

This article seeks to understand how China has managed to achieve such high rates of growth over the past four decades despite the absence of a veritable rule of law. A large body of research suggests that a strong rule of law is a key prerequisite for sustained economic development, but China’s unique political economy which vests limited power in its judiciary seems to defy conventional wisdom on this count. Taking as a starting point Yang Yao’s concept of ‘disinterested government’, that is, a government that eschews differentiated interests within a society in favour of a concerted focus on national development, the authors examine the mechanisms by which Chinese leadership has maintained extraordinary growth without the benefit of the rule of law. Specifically, this article argues that the defining features of a disinterested government fulfil many of the same roles as the rule of law from a developmental perspective.

Photo: Tom Thai on flickr

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