After Difference: A Meta-Comparative Study of Chinese Encounters with Foreign Comparative Law
The American Journal of Comparative Law
36 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2020 Last revised: 14 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 11, 2020
Do comparatists based in “radically different” legal systems experience “radical difference” and its side effects—self-doubt, suspicion of cultural bias, and feelings of inadequacy—when they research American and European law? Focusing on Chinese comparative law, this Article argues that Chinese legal scholars’ attitudes to difference (and similarity) are best explained as reflections of these scholars’ ideological projects. Describing American and European legal systems in terms of similarity rather than difference supports Chinese law reformers’ efforts to advance and defend Western-style legal institutions in China. Conversely, conservative socialist and neoconservative Chinese scholars who resist Western-style legal and political reforms seek to emphasize cultural, social, and political differences between China and the West. Comparative law therefore allows legal scholars to relate to foreign law in various, ideologically meaningful ways. Statements about difference and similarity—and attitudes towards understanding, in general—should be understood in the light of such ideological projects.
Keywords: China, comparative law
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