Legislative Interpretation by China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee

A Power with Roots in the Stalinist Conception of Law
  • Sophia Woodman


The idea that the roots of the power of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) under Article 67(4) of the Constitution to interpret the law lie in the civil-law system has featured in a number of articles on the subject.1 In statements defending the first interpretation of the Hong Kong Basic Law by the NPCSC in 1999, the Hong Kong government asserted that various European legal systems have or had an analogous power.2


Chinese Communist Party Soviet System Soviet State Soviet Society Constitutional Review 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 5.
    Cai, Dingjian, The Essence of the Constitution (Xianfa jingjie) (Beijing: Law Press, 2004), 24–26. See also,Google Scholar
  2. Hua-yu Li, “The Political Stalinization of China: The Establishment of One-Party Constitutionalism, 1948–1954,” Journal of Cold War Studies 3 (2001): 28–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 6.
    Jan F. Triska, Constitutions of the Communist Party States (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, 1968).Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Only in the Soviet Constitution of 1977 under Leonid Brezhnev was a provision added allowing the presidium to “supervise the observance of the Constitution of the USSR” (Article 121[4]). The 1977 Constitution is available in William B. Simons, The Constitutions of the Communist World (Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands/Germantown, MD: Sijthoff and Noordhoff, 1980).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    See Cai, The Essence of the Constitution, 299. The establishment of some kind of constitutional committee under the NPC has been under discussion since 1981, when the incorporation of such a body into the constitution then under discussion was proposed. Feng Lin, Constitutional Law in China (Hong Kong: Sweet and Maxwell Asia, 2000), 296–97.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Cai, Dingjian, “Functions of the People’s Congress in the Process of Implementation of Law,” in Implementation of Law in the People’s Republic of China, ed. Jianfu Chen, Yuwen Li and Jan Michiel Otto (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2002), 36–37.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Wang, Zhenmin, China’s System of Constitutional Review (Zhongguo weixian shencha zhidu) (Beijing: Chinese University of Politics and Law Press, 2004), 286, citing Xu Chongde.Google Scholar
  8. 22.
    John P. Dawson, The Oracles of the Law (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Law School, 1968), 379.Google Scholar
  9. 23.
    Alec Stone Sweet, Governing with Judges: Constitutional Politics in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 24.
    Donald D. Barry and Carol Barner-Barry, Contemporary Soviet Politics (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1978), 76.Google Scholar
  11. 25.
    Vyshinskii repeatedly cites “bourgeois” practice and then details how the same powers or devices are used for different ends in the Soviet system. Andrei Y. Vyshinkii, The Law of the Soviet State, trans. Hugh W. Babb and John N. Hazard (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    In practice, however, the USSR Council of Ministers (analogous to the State Council) issued interpretations that were considered legally binding (in the form of decrees, see note 30), and the USSR Supreme Court issued judicial interpretations that were binding on judicial agencies. The power to interpret republican law was also granted to republican presidia in their respective constitutions. F. J. M. Feldbrugge, Ger P. van den Berg and William B. Simons, eds. Encyclopedia of Soviet Law (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1985), 396–97.Google Scholar
  13. 31.
    Aryeh L. Unger, Constitutional Development in the USSR—A Guide to the Soviet Constitutions (London: Methuen, 1981), 102.Google Scholar
  14. 63.
    Jinsong Jiang, The National People’s Congress of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2002), 211–18. The NPC and the NPCSC issued 155 decisions between 1979 and 1997.Google Scholar
  15. 65.
    Karen G. Turner, “Introduction,” in The Limits of the Rule of Law in China, ed. Karen G. Turner, James V. Feinerman, and R. Kent Guy (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2000), 12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Hualing Fu, Lison Harris, and Simon N. M. Young, eds. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophia Woodman

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations