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Recent Work in Asian Constitutional Studies: A Review Essay

  • Andrew HARDING (a1) and Ngoc Son BUI (a2)
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Professor, National University of Singapore Faculty of Law; PhD (Monash), MA (Oxford), LLM (NUS) Solicitor (England & Wales).


Research Fellow, Centre for Asian Legal Studies, National University of Singapore Faculty of Law; PhD (HKU).

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1. CHOUDRHY, Sujit, “Bridging Comparative Politics and Comparative Constitutional Law: Constitutional Design in Divided Societies” in Sujit CHOUDHRY, ed, Constitutional Design for Divided Societies: Integration or Accommodation? (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 3 at 8 ; ROACH, Kent, “Comparative Constitutional Law and the Challenges of Terrorism Law” in Tom GINSBURG and Rosalind DIXON, eds, Comparative Constitutional Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2011), 532 at 545 ; SAUNDERS, Cheryl, “Towards a Global Constitutional Gene Pool” (2009) 4 National Taiwan University Law Review 1 at 3 .

2. For earlier publications on Asian constitutional law in this century, see CALDWELL, Ernest and NARDIN, Terry, eds, “Symposium on Methodological Approaches to Asian Constitutionalism” (2012) 81(1) Chicago-Kent Law Review 3 ; “Symposium: The Changing Landscape of Asian Constitutionalism” (2010) 8(4) International Journal of Constitutional Law 766.

3. CHANG, Wen-Chen et al., Constitutionalism in Asia: Cases and Materials (Oxford: Hart, 2014).

4. Ibid at 5.

5. DIXON, Rosalind and GINSBURG, Tom, eds, Comparative Constitutional Law in Asia (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014).

6. CHEN, Albert HY, ed, Constitutionalism in Asia in the Early Twenty-first Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

7. EHLERS, Dirk, GLASER, Henning, and PROKATI, Kittisak, eds, Constitutionalism and Good Governance: Eastern and Western Perspectives (Baden-Baden: Nomos Publishers, 2014).

8. GLASER, Henning, “Multiple Constitutionalizations – ‘Constitutionalism and Good Governance in European-Asian Perspective’” in ibid, 13 at 13-14.

9. YEH, Jiunn-rong and CHANG, Wen-Chen, Asian Courts in Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

10. YAP, Po Jen, Constitutional Dialogue in Common Law Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

11. WILLIAMS, Susan H, ed, Social Difference and Constitutionalism in Pan-Asia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

12. On legal orientalism, see RUSKOLA, Teemu, Legal Orientalism: China, the United States, and Modern Law (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2013) [Ruskola, Legal Orientalism]; TAN, Carol, ed, “Special Issue: Law and Orientalism” (2012) 7:2 The Journal of Comparative Law 1 .

13. For orientalism in general, see SAID, Edward W, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 2003).

14. See generally, HILLEMANN, Ulrike, Asian Empire and British Knowledge: China and the Networks of British Imperial Expansion (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

15. RUSKOLA, Teemu, “Legal Orientalism” (2002) 101(1) Michigan Law Review 193 [Ruskola, “Legal Orientalism”]; Ruskola, Legal Orientalism, supra note 12. For a review of the latter, and a response thereto, see Tan, Carol GS, “How a ‘Lawless’ China Made Modern America: An Epic Told in Orientalism” (2015) 128 Harvard Law Review 1677 ; RUSKOLA, Teemu, “A Response to Professor Tan’s Review of Legal Orientalism” (2015) 128:6 Harvard Law Review Forum 220 , online: Harvard Law Review Forum <>.

16. TRUBEK, David M, “Max Weber on Law and the Rise of Capitalism” (1972) 3 Wisconsin Law Review 721 .

17. Cited in Ruskola, “Legal Orientalism”, supra note 15 at 214.

18. MONTESQUIEU, CS, The Spirit of the Laws, trans by Thomas NUGENT (New York: Hafner Publishing Company, 1962) at 125 .

19. WITTFOGEL, Karl A, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1963) at 101-102 .

20. Chang et al., supra note 3 at 10.

21. Ibid at 9 [italics in original].

22. See, e.g., GINSBURG, Tom, “Constitutionalism: East Asian Antecedents” (2012) 88 Chicago-Kent Law Review 11 ; SONG, Jaeyoon, “The Zhou Li and Constitutionalism: A Southern Song Political Theory” (2009) 36(3) Journal of Chinese Philosophy 424 ; WILL, Pierre-Étienne, “Virtual Constitutionalism in the Late Ming Dynasty” in Stéphanie BALME and Michael W DOWDLE, eds, Building Constitutionalism in China (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009), 261 ; HAHM, Chaihark, “Ritual and Constitutionalism: Disputing the Ruler’s Legitimacy in a Confucian Polity” (2009) 57 American Journal of Comparative Law 135 .

23. But on the other hand it is not unusual. See e.g. the disagreement between Qianfan Zhang and Michael W Dowdle in the International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON) where Zhang rests on Western constitutionalist arguments and Dowdle rests on Chinese essentialist arguments. ZHANG, Qianfan, “A Constitution Without Constitutionalism? The Paths of Constitutional Development in China” (2010) 8(4) International Journal of Constitutional Law 950 ; Dowdle, Michael W, “Of Comparative Constitutional Monocropping: A Reply to Qianfan Zhang” (2010) 8(4) International Journal of Constitutional Law 977 ; ZHANG, Qianfan, “Of Comparative Constitutional Monocropping: A Rejoinder to Michael Dowdle” (2010) 8(4) International Journal of Constitutional Law 985 .

24. DIXON, Rosalind and GINSBURG, Tom, “Introduction” in Dixon and Ginsburg, eds, supra note 5, 1 at 10 .

25. Ibid at 11.

26. For more details, see MENSKI, Werner, Hindu Law: Beyond Tradition and Modernity (New Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) at 156-163 .

27. Dixon and Ginsburg, supra note 24 at 11.

28. JACKSON, Peter A, Buddhadāsa: Theravada Buddhism and Modernist Reform in Thailand (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2003) at 6 and ff.

29. HARDING, Andrew, “Asian Law/Public Law/Comparative Law Stir-fry: Theory and Methods” in Tania GROPPI, Valeria PIERGIGLI, and Angelo RINELLA, eds, Asian Constitutionalism in Transition: A Comparative Perspective (Milan: Giuffrè Editore, 2008), 19 at 35-36.

30. GINSBURG, Tom, “Studying Japanese Law Because It’s There” (2010) 58 American Journal of Comparative Law 25 .

31. See generally FRANKLIN, Daniel P and BAUN, Michael J, eds, Political Culture and Constitutionalism: A Comparative Approach (Armonk, NY and London: ME Sharpe, Inc, 1995).

32. GORDON, Ruth, “Growing Constitutions” (1999) 1 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 528 at 530-531 .

33. See GINSBURG, Tom, “Confucian Constitutionalism? The Emergence of Constitutional Review in Korea and Taiwan” (2002) 27(4) Law & Social Inquiry 763 .

34. WENZEL, Nikolai G, “Constitutional Culture in Japan and the Philippines: Success and Failure in Post-War Constitutional Choice” (2010) 15 Pacific Focus: Inha Journal of International Studies 396 .

35. Ibid.

36. HARDING, Andrew, The Constitution of Malaysia: A Contextual Analysis (Oxford and Portland, OR: Hart, 2012) at 2 .

37. Cited in DARLING, Frank C, “The Evolution of Law in Thailand” (1970) 32(2) The Review of Politics 200 .

38. Cited in ibid at 199.

39. See for example, BUI, Ngoc Son, “Confucian Constitutionalism in Imperial Vietnam” (2013) 8(2) National Taiwan University Law Review 373 ; AZHARI, Aidul Fitriciada, “Reconstruction of Constitutional Tradition in the Indonesian and Malaysian Constitutions: A Comparison” (2014) 2 Review of History and Political Science 105 .

40. See e.g., JACKSON, Vicki C and TUSHNET, Mark, Comparative Constitutional Law, 3rd edn (New York: Foundation Press, 2014).

41. Yap, supra note 10 at 27 (“The dialogic model of judicial review allows for the legislature and the courts to be follow collaborators in upholding the rule of law”).

42. See generally, MEUWESE, Anne, “‘Constitutional Dialogue’: An Overview” (2013) 9(2) Utrecht Law Review 123 .

43. See e.g., TUSHNET, Mark, Taking the Constitution Away from the Court (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999); KRAMER, Larry, The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Bellamy, Richard, Political Constitutionalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

44. Balkin, Jack M, Constitutional Redemption: Political Faith in an Unjust World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011).

45. Chang et al., supra note 3 at 312.

46. GINSBURG, Tom, “Constitutional Courts in Asia: Understanding Variation” in Andrew HARDING and Peter LEYLAND, eds, Constitutional Courts: A Comparative Study (London: Wildy, Simmonds & Hill Publishing, 2009), 291 at 303 .

47. See country-chapters in Chen, supra note 6.

48. See the chapters on China and Vietnam in ibid.

49. BÉJA, Jean-Philippe, Hualing, FU, and PILS, Eva, eds, Liu Xiaobo, Charter 08, and the Challenges of Political Reform in China (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012); “Focus: Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement” (2015) 45(1) Hong Kong Law Journal 189; LIM, Tai Wei and PING, Xiaojuan, Contextualizing Occupy Central in Contemporary Hong Kong (London: Imperial College Press, 2015); BUI, Ngoc Son, “Petition 72: The Struggle for Constitutional Reforms in Vietnam” I-CONnect (28 March 2013), online: I-CONnect <>.

50. HÖLLER-FAM, Manuel, “Malaysia’s Civil Society in Light of the Bersih Movement” Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia (16 December 2015), online: Heinrich Böll Stiftung <>.

51. For some relevant work, see CHUA, Lynette J, Mobilizing Gay Singapore: Rights and Resistance in an Authoritarian State (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014); CHEESMAN, Nick, Opposing the Rule of Law: How Myanmar’s Courts Make Law and Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); HARDING, Andrew and WHITING, Amanda, “Custodian of Civil Liberties and Justice in Malaysia: The Malaysian Bar and the Moderate State” in Terence C HALLIDAY, Lucien KARPIK, and Malcolm M FEELEY, eds, Fates of Political Liberalism in the British Post-Colony : The Politics of the Legal Complex (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 247 ; RODAN, Garry, ed, Political Oppositions in Industrialising Asia (London and New York: Routledge, 1996).

52. For discussions on functionalism and contextualism, see JACKSON, Vicki C, “Comparative Constitutional Law: Methodologies” in Michel ROSENFELD and Andras SAJO, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) [Jackson, “Methodologies”], 54; TUSHNET, Mark, “The Possibilities of Comparative Constitutional Law” (1999) 108(6) Yale Law Journal 1225 ; HIRSCHL, Ran, Comparative Matters: The Renaissance of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). An example of a casebook on comparative constitutional law adopting the functionalist approach is Norman Dorsen et al., Comparative Constitutionalism: Cases and Materials (St Paul, MN: Thomson/West, 2003). An example of a casebook on comparative constitutional law adopting the contextualist approach is JACKSON, Vicki C and TUSHNET, Mark, Comparative Constitutional Law, 3rd edn (St Paul, Minn: Thomson/West, 2014).

53. TUSNHET, Mark, “Some Reflections on Method in Comparative Constitutional Law” in Sujit CHOUDHRY, ed, The Migration of Constitutional Ideas (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 67 at 72 [Tushnet, “Some Reflections”].

54. Ibid at 76.

55. Ginsburg and Dixon, eds, supra note 1.

56. Dixon and Ginsburg, supra note 24 at 2.

57. Ibid at 3-16.

58. A possible exception is Victor Ramraj, an Indo-Canadian scholar who was teaching at the National University of Singapore.

59. Ibid at 16.

60. Dixon and Ginsburg, supra note 24 at 16-17.

61. Ibid at 17.

62. Ibid at 74.

63. Hirschl, supra note 52 at 211-212. Hart’s series on constitutional systems of the world does insert Russia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Indonesia, and others.

64. Dixon and Ginsburg, supra note 24 at 17.

65. Chang et al., supra note 3 at 5.

66. Ibid.

67. Ibid.

68. Tushnet distinguishes two forms of contextualism, namely institutional and expressivist contextualism. The former emphasizes the institutional and doctrinal contexts, while the latter focuses on the social and cultural contexts. See Tushnet, “Some Reflections” supra note 53 at 76-80.

69. Tan, Kevin YL, The Constitution of Singapore: A Contextual Analysis (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2015); YEH, Jiunn-rong, The Constitution of Taiwan: A Contextual Analysis (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2015). Forthcoming volumes on Asian constitutions in this series will cover the Central Asian States, India, and Pakistan.

70. LANDAU, David, “Political Institutions and Judicial Role in Comparative Constitutional Law” (2010) 51(2) Harvard International Law Journal 14 .

71. See TSAGOURIAS, Nicholas, “Introduction – Constitutionalism: A Theoretical Roadmap” in Nicholas TSAGOURIAS, ed, Transnational Constitutionalism: International and European Models (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 1 at 2 . Scott Gordon notes that the term “constitutionalism” was first used in 1832 in the US. See GORDON, Scott, Controlling the State: Constitutionalism from Ancient Athens to Today (Cambridge, Mass and London: Harvard University Press, 1999) at 5 .

72. Chang et al., supra note 3 at 6.

73. Ibid at 5.

74. Ibid at 2.

75. Chen, Albert YH, “The Achievement of Constitutionalism in Asia: Moving Beyond ‘Constitutions Without Constitutionalism’” in Chen, ed, supra note 6, 1 .

76. LANDAU, David, “Abusive Constitutionalism” (2013) 47 UC Davis Law Review 189 .

77. YEH, Jiunn-Rong and CHANG, Wen-Chen, “The Emergence of East Asian Constitutionalism: Features in Comparison” (2011) 59 American Journal of Comparative Law 805 ; TUSHNET, Mark, “Authoritarian Constitutionalism” (2015) 100 Cornell Law Review 391 ; SILVERSTEIN, Gordon, “Singapore’s Constitutionalism: A Model, But of What Sort?” (2015) 100 Cornell Law Review Online 1 .

78. See generally, HARDING, Andrew and LEYLAND, Peter, The Constitutional System of Thailand: A Contextual Analysis (Oxford: Hart, 2011).

79. Harding, Andrew, ed, Constitutionalism and Legal Change in Myanmar (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2016) (forthcoming), especially the Editorial Note on Section 59(f).

80. WECHSLER, Herbert, “Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law” (1959) 73 Harvard Law Review 1 .

81. TUSHNET, Mark, “Some Skepticism About Normative Constitutional Advice” (2008) 49 William & Mary Law Review 1473 .

82. Ibid at 1495.

83. Ibid.

84. Chen, Albert HY “Western Constitutionalism in Southeast Asia: Some Historical and Comparative Observations” in Ehlers, Glaser, and Prokati, eds, supra, note 7, 63 .

85. Ibid at 68.

86. For example, the classification of judicial review into central and decentralized models or the classification of types of government into presidentialism, parliamentarism, and semi-presidentialism. For a classificatory approach in comparative constitutional law in general, see Jackson, “Methodologies”, supra note 52.

87. K Tan, supra note 69.

* Professor, National University of Singapore Faculty of Law; PhD (Monash), MA (Oxford), LLM (NUS) Solicitor (England & Wales).

** Research Fellow, Centre for Asian Legal Studies, National University of Singapore Faculty of Law; PhD (HKU).

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Asian Journal of Comparative Law
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