chapter  5
Toward regulatory neutrality in a Party-State? A review of administrative law reforms in China
Pages 25

Tainted milk powders sickening thousands of babies, frequent mine accidents killing thousands of miners, and the SARS crisis shocking the whole world; these are just among the most salient examples of China’s regulatory failures in recent years. Strikingly, all of these happened in spite of the efforts made by the Chinese government to establish an all-encompassing administrative law regime. Since the enactment of the Administrative Litigation Law in 1989, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has passed the State Compensation Law in 1994, the Law on Administrative Punishment in 1996, the Law on Administrative Supervision in 1997, the Law on Administrative Reconsideration in 1999, and the Law on Administrative Licensing in 2003. An Administrative Procedure Law is now being hotly debated and several drafts have been considered by the legislature. Scholars have identified some factors, such as culturally embedded corruption and limited resources available for law enforcement, as the reasons for the prevalent regulatory failures in China. Without disputing these arguments, this essay will take a “regulatory turn.” I will argue that the major problem with China’s regulatory regime is the lack of middle-level institutional designs to solve operational problems, rather than the absence of a comprehensive administrative law system. Concrete examples will be drawn from various areas in China’s administrative law.