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Jun 16,2023

What Legal System Does China Use? Understanding China's Legal Framework

When it comes to comprehending the legal system of any country, obtaining legal services becomes crucial. It's essential to dive deep into the laws, regulations, and overall legal system framework. As a vast and influential country, China operates under a unique legal system reflecting its rich history and cultural heritage. In this article, we will explore China's legal system, shedding light on its key components, the role of legal services and authorities, and how it differs from other legal systems worldwide.

What Legal System Does China Use?

China operates under a civil law system influenced by various traditional and modern legal principles. It primarily follows a socialist legal framework with Chinese characteristics. Unlike common law systems in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, China's legal system is not based on judicial precedents. Instead, it relies heavily on codified laws, statutes, and regulations.

The Chinese Constitution and Legal Hierarchy

At the top of China's legal hierarchy is the Chinese Constitution, which serves as the supreme law of the land. It provides a foundation for the entire legal system and outlines Chinese citizens' fundamental rights and duties. The Constitution also establishes the National People's Congress (NPC) as the highest organ of state power.

Beneath the Constitution, China has a three-tiered structure consisting of national laws, administrative regulations, and local regulations. The NPC and its Standing Committee enact the laws and regulations, while the State Council formulates administrative regulations. Local regulations, on the other hand, are created by provincial, municipal, and county-level people's congresses.

The Role of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays a significant role in shaping and influencing China's legal system. It exercises leadership over all aspects of the country, including the legal framework. The CCP's influence is especially prominent in high-profile cases and matters involving national security and political stability.

The Supreme People's Court and Judicial System

China's judicial system is headed by the Supreme People's Court (SPC), which is responsible for interpreting and applying laws in accordance with the Constitution. The SPC ensures uniformity in legal practices across the country and supervises the work of lower-level courts.

Beneath the Supreme People's Court, China has a hierarchical court system that includes:

  1. High People's Courts: These courts are located in each province, autonomous region, and centrally governed municipality. They hear appeals from intermediate people's courts and have original jurisdiction over certain cases.
  2. Intermediate People's Courts: These courts operate at the city or prefecture-level and handle appeals from basic people's courts. They also have original jurisdiction over more complex cases.
  3. Basic People's Courts: These courts are the foundation of China's judicial system and are present in every county, district, and township. They handle the majority of civil, criminal, and administrative cases.

Specialized Courts and Tribunals

In addition to the hierarchical court system, China has specialized courts and tribunals that handle specific cases. These include:

  • Intellectual Property Courts: Established to deal with intellectual property-related disputes and issues.
  • Maritime Courts: Responsible for handling maritime-related cases, including maritime commerce, accidents, and disputes.
  • Military Courts: Jurisdiction over cases involving military personnel and offenses related to national defense.


Understanding China's legal system is essential for individuals and businesses operating within the country or seeking to engage with Chinese law. It is a complex and unique framework that reflects China's cultural, historical, and political context. One can navigate the legal landscape with greater confidence and insight by delving into its key components, authorities, and principles.

Remember, the legal system of any country is subject to change and evolution, so it is crucial to consult with legal professionals and stay updated on current laws and regulations.


1. Are there any influences from other legal systems in China's legal framework?

Various legal traditions, including civil law, socialist legal theory, and traditional Chinese legal principles, have influenced China's legal system. While it has adopted some aspects from other legal systems, it retains its unique characteristics.

2. How does the Chinese legal system handle human rights?

China's legal system includes provisions for protecting human rights, as the Chinese Constitution outlines. However, the interpretation and implementation of these rights can vary, and critics argue that there are limitations on certain freedoms.

3. Can foreign individuals and businesses access the Chinese legal system?

Foreign individuals and businesses can access the Chinese legal system to resolve disputes or seek legal remedies. However, navigating the complexities and cultural nuances is essential, which may require the assistance of legal professionals familiar with Chinese law.

4. How does China's legal system handle criminal offenses?

China has a strict approach to criminal offenses, and punishments can range from fines to imprisonment and, in severe cases, even the death penalty. The legal system places a strong emphasis on maintaining social order and stability.

5. How does the Chinese legal system handle intellectual property rights?

China has made significant efforts to strengthen its intellectual property protection laws. Specialized Intellectual Property Courts have been established to handle disputes and enforce intellectual property rights.

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