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June 15th, 2008
China’s Rule of Law: Changing with the Times?

With China’s continued economic growth comes significant movement toward legal reform. Establishing new law schools, increasing the number of judges and lawyers, and supporting initiatives to build people’s use and trust of the rule of law are among the efforts to strengthen the legal system. This development comes with substantial challenges and successes, especially in a nation where replacing the old with the new does not readily happen.

In this lesson, students identify and analyze the positive and negative effects of China’s changing legal system. They examine the nation’s rule of law to determine its improvement potential and build on their findings to design a program to promote a just and efficient legal system in China.

Grade Level: 9-12

Subject Matter: World History, Behavioral Studies, Economics

Time Allotment: Activities as stand-alones (other than the introductory and culminating activities) take two 50-minute class periods. Entire lesson requires six to eight class sessions.

Learning Objectives:

As a result of completing the lesson, the students will be able to:

  • recognize reforms China has made in its legal system
  • identify the benefits and deficits of China’s legal reforms
  • analyze the relationship between China’s government and legal system
  • explain how China’s judges and lawyers function under varied law-related circumstances
  • describe how China’s citizens understand, view, and negotiate the rule of law
  • predict the future of China’s legal system
  • design a project or program to further China’s legal reforms.

McREL: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning
Level IV (Grades 9-12)

Behavioral Studies

  • Standard 4: Understands conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutions
    2. Understands that social change, or the prospect of it, promotes conflict because social, economic, and political changes usually benefit some groups more than others (which is also true of the status quo)
    3. Understands that conflicts are especially difficult to resolve in situations in which there are few choices and little room for compromise
    7. Understands that even when the majority of people in a society agree on a social decision, the minority who disagree must be protected from oppression, just as the majority may need protection against unfair retaliation from the minority
    10. Understands that the decisions of one generation both provide and limit the range of possibilities open to the next generation


  • Standard 2: Understands characteristics of different economic systems, economic institutions, and economic incentives
    Benchmark: 4. Knows that property rights, contract enforcement, standards for weights and measures, and liability rules affect incentives for people to produce and exchange goods and services
  • Standard 9: Understands how Gross Domestic Product and inflation and deflation provide indications of the state of the economy
    Benchmark 5. Understands that economic growth can alleviate poverty, raise standards of living, create new employment and profit opportunities in some industries, but can also reduce opportunities in other industries

World History

  • Standard 44: Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world
    2. Understands rates of economic development and the emergence of different economic systems around the globe
    6. Understands the role of ethnicity, cultural identity, and religious beliefs in shaping economic and political conflicts across the globe
    Understands how global political change has altered the world economy
    14. Understands how specific countries have implemented social and cultural changes
  • Standard 45: Understands major global trends since World War II
    2. Understands causes of economic imbalances and social inequalities among the world’s peoples and efforts made to close these gaps
    3. Understands connections between globalizing trends in economy, technology, and culture and dynamic assertions of traditional cultural identity and distinctiveness

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