After many bids’ China enacts its 1st Civil Code


BEIJING: Jin Ping, a 98-year-old retired law professor of Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing in southwest China, is the last surviving expert to have participated in the first three attempts to draft a civil code in China.
The three bids, in 1954, 1962 and 1979, didn’t succeed for various reasons, while the fourth undertaking, launched in 2001 with the participation of some of Jin’s students, also failed in its mission.
The Civil Code, anticipated for decades, finally came to life and was adopted at the Third Session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, on May 28. It will take effect on January 1, 2021. Jin said he was “overjoyed” at the news in an interview with Xinhua News Agency, adding that it was a “blessing” for him to see his lifelong goal come to fruition. To formulate a Chinese civil code had been a long cherished wish of generations of civil law scholars over the past few decades.
Sun Xianzhong, a research fellow at the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a deputy to both the 12th and 13th NPC, was an arduous promoter of such a code. “The current civil law system is a patchwork of fragmented legislation,” he told China Youth Daily. Since 1980, China has successively promulgated a series of separate laws including the Marriage Law, the Adoption Law, the Contracts Law and the Property Law, which for a long time have served as the basis for judicial practice in civil cases.
The General Principles of the Civil Law, enacted in 1986 as the foundation for the civil law system, could hardly meet the demand of a fast developing society, Sun explained. After in-depth fieldwork, he found that among its 156 articles, less than 20 could be applied to modern society. The other articles have either been replaced by separate laws or left behind.
Some articles in the General Principles even contradict other laws. For example, Article 136 states that the limitations of action concerning sales of substandard goods without proper notice shall be one year. However, Article 45 in the Product Quality Law states that the limitations of action for damage arising from a defective product is two years.
“There are gaps and inconsistencies that exist among the separate laws,” Sun said. “To set up an overarching framework for civil rights to refine the country’s basic legal system had become an urgent issue for the Chinese law-making community.”
In 2013, the first year he served as an NPC deputy, Sun took the lead and submitted a proposal for compiling a Civil Code. In 2014, he submitted the same proposal. That same year, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee called for progress in drafting a unified Civil Code.
Jin was excited at the news. “This is a turning point in China’s civil law history,” he said. “I am very confident that the Civil Code can be compiled successfully this time.”
Shortly afterward, a two-step strategy was adopted. The NPC would first enact the General Provisions of the Civil Law, which would be followed by a review of each section of the Civil Code by the NPC Standing Committee. Finally, the General Provisions would be combined with the drafts of individual sections to form a draft Civil Code, which would be submitted to the NPC for final deliberation.In March 2015, the NPC Standing Committee set up a special work group for the drafting. In June 2016, it deliberated on the first draft of the General Provisions of the Civil Law, and on March 15, 2017, the General Provisions was passed at the annual NPC session, marking a milestone in the progress toward a full-fledged Civil Code.
– The Daily Mail-Beijing Review News exchange item