The Social Foundations of China's Living Constitution

41 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2010

See all articles by Randall Peerenboom

Randall Peerenboom

UCLA School of Law - UCLA School of Law

Date Written: January 26, 2010


The article examines the social foundations of constitutionalism in China, focusing on constitutions as a historical response to particular events. The goal is to move beyond an analysis of the constitution as a formal text to shed light on the de facto constitutional order in China, on China’s living constitution and its social, historical, cultural, economic, political and legal foundations. Part I begins with a brief historical overview of China’s constitutions. Parts II discusses the current constitution, passed in 1982, and its four subsequent amendments. Part III explores the main functions of the constitution in China today and how the constitutional order actually operates. Part IV discusses China’s living constitution. Part V concludes with some thoughts about the future of constitutionalism in China, and the possibility of a party-state alternative to liberal democratic constitutionalism.

Keywords: constituitonalism, living constitution, comparative law, law and development, public law, China

Suggested Citation

Peerenboom, Randall, The Social Foundations of China's Living Constitution (January 26, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Randall Peerenboom (Contact Author)

UCLA School of Law - UCLA School of Law ( email )

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