Radical Change or Conservative Setback? China's New Marriage Law (2001)
A talk by Jianfu Chen (Law, La Trobe Univ.)
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
11377 Bunche Hall
Co-sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies
and the School of Law
Professor Chen describes the subject of his talk in the following words:
The family is seen in many countries as the basic cell of society. China is not the only country that frequently resorts to promoting "family values" as a cure-all solution to many perceived or real social problems. Indeed, the Italians and the Greeks perhaps value the family as much as the Chinese do. Even in the more individualistic societies such as the UK, the U.S., and Australia, conservative politicians are not hesitant about sprinkling their campaign slogans with the words "family values." However, China perhaps is one of the few countries that has continuously been a family-oriented society throughout its history. Indeed, the concept of the family has been one of the fundamental concepts in Confucianism, and the concept of the state has often been perceived as only an extension of the family. In this tradition, individuals were no more than members of a family or a social group. It is therefore not surprising that family law (more often termed “Marriage Law”) has always been one of the first pieces of legislation enacted or revised in times of ideological change or crisis.
This talk examines the most recent revision of the China's Marriage Law. It agues that, despite its more-than-usual democratic legislative process and the various positive aspects of the revision, the 2001 revision was largely driven by the social elite, its contents sometimes blur the distinction between morality and law, its approach often fails to recognise impracticability, and the Chinese feminists largely fail their sisters in the fight against discrimination and disadvantages.
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Jianfu Chen (BSc, Dalian, China; LLM, Hon I, Sydney;, PhD, Sydney) is associate professor of law at La Trobe University (Bundoora, Australia). His research interests include international and comparative law, international business and trade, contracts, Chinese law, and human rights law. Among his publications are From Administrative Authorisation to Private Law: A Comparative Perspective of the Developing Civil Law in the PRC (Dordrecht: Martinus Nihhoff Publishers, 1995), and Chinese Law: Towards an Understanding of Chinese Law, Its Nature and Development (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1999).
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