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Politics
Heralding an Era of Civil Code
New preamble shows commitment to rule of law and the market economy
By Ma Xiaowen | NO. 13 MARCH 30, 2017

Officials at the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee answer questions on the draft general provisions of civil law and legislation of the NPC at a press conference on March 9 (XINHUA)

The National People's Congress, China's national legislature, approved the General Provisions of Civil Law at the close of its annual session on March 15.

The General Provisions of the Civil Law, based on the 1986 General Principles of the Civil Law, constitute the framework of China's first comprehensive civil code, which is due to come out in 2020.

The adoption is of historic significance for China's legal system development. It is also part of President Xi Jinping's efforts to update China's law system to meet modern realities. China has developed at a speed the world has rarely seen in the past 30 years. The transformation toward a modern society and the market economy calls for a freshly minted civil law system.

The General Provisions define and protect the civil and commercial rights of individuals, business entities and other institutions. Health, reputation, image, name and freedom are included in an individual's rights.

Once the General Provisions are released, follow-up chapters on contract, property, tort liability, marriage and inheritance will be included in the finalized civil code, which will modernize state governance and act as a crucial move in building China into a moderately prosperous society by 2020.

Besides being a declaration of civilian rights, the provisions also add momentum to China's market economy.

The civil code is referred to as the basic law of the market economy. The General Provisions embody the concept of private law autonomy, thus safeguarding innovation and market development. This is reflected by various principles to protect civilians' freedom to act.

The General Provisions confirm "the green principle," the principle of environmental protection and ecological conservation, as one of the basic rules.

It elaborates on the subjects of intellectual property and protection of online data and recognizes "virtual property" rights, echoing market economy rules and the Chinese Government's innovation-driven development strategy initiated in 2012. This will help legally secure the booming e-commerce and Internet development in China.

The civil code is expected to touch on everything in daily life, from child custody to protection for rescuers, people who help strangers in urgent situations.

In China, every law must go through a public consultation process, during which drafts are released to solicit public opinions. Drafting the General Provisions has not been easy, considering the time and effort spent already. The remaining chapters will have to touch on all sorts of things and the process will become more difficult as legislators ponder specific laws for contentious issues. The compilation of the civil code is like a reshuffle of all civil laws rather than establishing laws from scratch.

With a sound civil law system taking shape, China has made great progress in building a socialist law system with Chinese characteristics.

Copyedited by Sudeshina Sarkar

Comments to maxiaowen@bjreview.com

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