Rachel Stern on China’s legal system


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A leading scholar of Chinese law and politics discusses the intersection of the two.

China’s legal system is much derided and poorly understood, but its development has, in many ways, been one of the defining features of the reform and opening-up era. Rachel Stern, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Berkeley, has researched the contradictions, successes and failures of China’s changing approach to governance and legal oversight of society. She has also written a book, Environmental Litigation in China: A Study in Political Ambivalence, which examines the intersection of Chinese authoritarianism, pollution and the nation’s laws.

In this podcast, Rachel talks with Kaiser and Jeremy about her recent research, the Chinese bar exam and its politicization, the ways in which environmental litigation works (or doesn’t), and the anxious uncertainty behind much of the self-censorship in media. You can find background reading for this podcast here, which includes a curated reading list on China’s legal system. You can also learn more about Rachel in her supplementary Q&A with Jeremy Goldkorn in which they discuss comparisons between the U.S. and Chinese legal systems, the phrase “rule of law” and the Chinese citizens who are filing lawsuits.


Jeremy: Chinese politics from the provinces blog.

Rachel: The Chinese Mayor, a documentary film by Zhou Hao.

Kaiser: Moonglow, a novel by Michael Chabon.