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The Re-emergence of Family Law in Post-Mao China: Marriage, Divorce and Reproduction*

  • Michael Palmer

This article examines developments in the family law of post-Mao China. The expansion of the legal regime governing Chinese family life during the past 15 years has been extremely rapid and represents an important legal advance, although to some extent the developments are old wine in new bottles - a reconstruction in legislative form of pre-existing administrative norms already governing family life. In addition, the article necessarily considers a number of significant tensions or contradictions that have become apparent in PRC family law over the past decade or so.

At one level the post-Mao growth in the corpus of family law has a fairly clear meaning. The 1950 Marriage Law and the system of family law which it attempted to put into place were important elements in the generation of political support for the new regime. However, in the post-Mao era the rapid codification of family law has been in large part prompted by the leadership's concern to ensure stability, order and continuity in social life. In addition, the family has once more been installed as the basic unit of social life, a position enhanced by the declining social significance of the danwei or unit. The law has therefore been used to reshape the family in order to make it more consistent with the new economic and social orders being created in the era of reform. There is also a concern to strengthen the rights and interests of the socially vulnerable, and this too has influenced certain areas of family law.

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1. The corpus of “family law” in existence at the end of the late 1970s was not, however, confined to these two codes because many regulations and administrative rules produced by ministries, local governments and so on remained unpublished. To some extent, the greatly increased volume of legislation issued during the 1980s and 1990s reflects not only a felt need to provide new rules on marriage and the family but also a major policy decision to make such rules publicly available. It is difficult to make precise judgments about these developments, however, if only because a significant quantity of regulation in this and other areas of law is still not available to the ordinary Chinese citizen.

2. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo hunyin fa (Marriage Law of the PRC) 1980, in Zhongguo, FalüNianjian, Bianjibu (Editorial Department of the Law Yearbook of China), Zhongguo falü nianjian 1987 (Law Yearbook of China 1987) (Beijing: Falü chubanshe, 1987), pp. 168–69.

3. For a discussion and translated text of the 1955 Marriage Registration Regulations see Van Der Valk, M., “The registration of marriage in Communist China,” Monumenta Serica, Vol. XVI, Nos. 1–2 (1957), pp. 347359.

4. By “administrative developments” I refer in particular to the administrative apparatus that has been put in place after the decollectivization of agriculture and, more specifically, to the establishment of administrative structures for such matters as birth planning, marriage registration and so on.

5. The Marriage Law 1980 and the Inheritance Law 1985 are the codes which have attracted the greatest attention. The single-child policy has, of course, given rise to a flood of writing, but surprisingly little attention has been given to the structure and wider significance of the various provincial regulations on birth limitation.

6. Marriage Law of the PRC 1980.

7. Banfa, Hunyin Dengji (Marriage Registration Regulations) 1980, in Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo fagui huibian (Collected Laws and Regulations of the People's Republic of China) (Beijing: Falü chubanshe, 1981), pp. 7071.

8. Hunyin Dengji Banfa (Marriage Registration Regulations) 1986, in Zhongguo falü nianjian 1987, pp. 283–85.

9. Hunyin dengji guanli tiaoli (Regulations for the Administration of Marriage Registration) 1994, Fazhi ribao (Legal System Daily), 27 February 1994, p. 2.

10. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Zuigao Renmin Fayuan (Supreme People's Court of the PRC). “Guanyu renmin fayuan shenli wei ban jiehun dengji er yi fu-qi mingyi tongju shenghuo anjian de ruogan yijian” (“Some Opinions regarding cases tried by people's courts in which couples have lived together as husband and wife without carrying out marriage registration”), in Falü, ZhongguoBianjibu, Nianjian, Zhongguo falü nianjian 1990 (Law Yearbook of China 1990) (Beijing: Falü chubanshe, 1990), pp. 698–99.

11. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo jicheng fa (Inheritance Law of the PRC) 1985, in Zhongguofalü nianjian 1987, pp. 257–279. On the introduction of the Inheritance Law 1985 see Palmer, Michael. “China's new Inheritance Law: some preliminary observations, “ in Feuchtwang, S., Hussain, A. and Pairault, T. (eds.), Transforming China's Economy in the Eighties, Volume I: The Rural Sector, Welfare and Employment (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988), pp. 169197.

12. Supreme People's Court, “Guanyu renmin fayuan shenli lihun anjian ruhe rending fu-qi ganqing que yi polie de ruogan juti yijian” (“Some Specific Opinions regarding the definition of genuine alienation between husband and wife in divorce cases tried by people's courts”) in Zhongguo falü nianjian 1990, pp. 697–98. New rules regarding the maintenance of children after the divorce of their parents have also recently been introduced: “Lihun an zhong: zinü rube fuyang - zuigao Renmin fayuan tichu chuli yijian” (“How to deal with the maintenance of children in divorce cases - the Supreme People's Court suggests some methods”), Fazhi ribao, 5 May 1994, p. 6.

13. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo shouyang fa (Adoption Law of the PRC) 1991, in Nianjian Bianjibu, Zhongguo Falü, Zhongguo falü nianjian 1992 (Law Yearbook of China 1992) (Beijing: Falü chubanshe, 1992), pp. 169171.

14. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo weichengnianren fa (Law of the PRC for the Protection of Minors) 1991, in Ibid. pp. 161–64.

15. Quanguo Renmin Daibiao Dahui Changwu Weiyuanhui (Standing Committee of the National People's Congress), “Quanguo Renmin Daibiao Dahui Changwu Weiyuanhui guanyu yanjin maiyin piaochang de Jueding” (“Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on the strict prohibition of prostitution and patronising prostitutes”) 1991, in Ibid. pp. 164–65.

16. Standing Committee of the NPC, “Quanguo Renmin Daibiao Dahui Changwu Weiyuanhui guanyu yancheng guaimai bangjia funü he ertong de fanzui de Jueding” (“Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress regarding the severe punishment of criminals who abduct and sell, or who kidnap, women or children”) 1991, in Ibid. pp. 165–66.

17. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo funü quanyi baozhang fa (Law of the PRC for the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests) 1992, in Nianjian Bianjibu, Zhongguo Falü, Zhongguo falü nianjian 1993 (Law Yearbook of China 1993) (Beijing: Falü chubanshe, 1993), pp. 220–22. It should also be noted that in July 1980 China signed CEDAW - the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (in force 25 November 1982).

18. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo xingfa (Criminal Law of the PRC) 1979, in Zhongguo falü nianjian 1987, pp. 142–151. Articles 179 to 184 (Chapter VII) deal with the “crimes of disrupting marriage and the family.”

19. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Xianfa (Constitution of the PRC) 1982, in Ibid. pp. 46–59. See, in particular, Chapter II; “The Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens” (Articles 33–56), especially Articles 45–50. These provisions are rather more detailed than the equivalent provisions in the 1978 Constitution, in particular in regard to the role of the family as a unit of care.

20. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo minfa tongze (General Principles of the Civil Law of the PRC) 1986, in Ibid. pp. 68–76. See, in particular, Articles 14, 16, 17 and 18 (on guardianship), 15 (domicile), 21 (the family in relation to the property of a missing person), 103 (freedom of marriage), 104 (protection of marriage, family and the socially disadvantaged), 105 (gender equality in civil rights), 147 (marriage between a citizen of the People's Republic of China and a foreigner), 148 (conflicts of law rules regarding maintenance after divorce), and 149 (conflicts of law rules on statutory succession).

21. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo minshi susong fa (shixing) (Civil Procedure Law of the PRC (for Trial Implementation)) 1982, in Ibid. pp. 186–197. See, in particular, Articles 6 and 14 (use of mediation by the courts and by people's mediation committees), 97–102 (judicial mediation rules), 30(4) (the jurisdiction of the courts in inheritance disputes), 54 (requirement of personal appearance in divorce cases), 109 (possibility of holding divorce hearings in camera), 119 (suspension of proceedings in inheritance and divorce cases), 124—27 (summary procedures), 139–140 (guardianship), 141−43 (ownerless property), and 185–205 (special provision for civil actions involving foreign parties).

22. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo minshi susong fa (Civil Procedure Law of the PRC) 1991, in Zhongguo falü nianjian 1992, pp. 134–151. See especially Articles 9, 16, 85–91, 128, 155, 180, and 216 (mediation), 22 (territorial jurisdiction in cases with a foreign element), 34(2) (territorial jurisdiction in inheritance cases), 97 (preliminary execution in cases involving overdue alimony, maintenance and child support), 111 (7) (interrupted divorce petitions), 120 (divorce cases held in camera), 121 (circuit courts which conduct on-the-spot trials), 137 (suspension or conclusion of proceedings in cases involving inheritance, divorce, maintenance and so on), and 237–269 (special provisions for civil action involving foreign parties).

23. The publication of the current draft of a eugenics law has given rise to considerable and immediate criticism by observers outside China - see below. Such criticisms will further weaken attempts to introduce a full national code of family planning.

24. On such efforts see Palmer, Michael, “Some general observations on family law in the People's Republic of China,” in Freeman, M. (ed.), Annual Survey of Family Law: 1985, Vol. 9 (1986), pp. 4168.

25. Ibid.

26. Supreme People's Court. “Some Specific Opinions on divorce,” at Article 1.

27. Marriage Law 1980, Articles 2 and 12.

28. Constitution 1982, Article 49.

29. Sichuan sheng jihua shengyu tiaoli (Sichuan Province Planned Birth Regulations) 1987, in Nianjian Bianjibu, Zhongguo Falü, Zhongguo falü nianjian 1988 (Law Yearbook of China 1988) (Beijing: Falü chubanshe, 1988), pp. 482–83 at 482.

30. The status “illegitimate children” or “children born out of wedlock” (feihunsheng zinü) was judicially defined, with reference to a 1953 Central People's Government “explanation” (Jieda), by the Supreme People's Court in 1974 in an official reply to an enquiry from the Higher People's Court of Shanxi Province. The court stated that “children who are born of a man and woman who are not yet married, or of a man or woman who is already married and who has improper sexual relations with another person, are all illegitimate children.” The court was clearly confirming the existence of a legal status in this interpretation. A judicial instruction issued by the Supreme People's Court in 1980 also dealt with a question of illegitimacy in a manner which suggests that it continues to have a formal significance in Chinese law. Finally, it is difficult to see how Article 19 can be read as abolishing the status of illegitimacy when the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children is also referred to in the Inheritance Law of the PRC 1985. Paragraph 5 of Article 10 of that law provides as follows: “the children referred to in this law include legitimate children, illegitimate children and adopted children as well as step-children who supported or were supported by the deceased.” In addition, it should be noted that the unofficial English-language text of the Inheritance Law as provided by the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress specifically translates the term “feihunsheng zinü” as “illegitimate children.”

31. For further details see Palmer, Michael, “The People's Republic of China: reacting to rapid social change” in Freeman, M. (ed.), Annual Sun-ey of Family Law: 1988, Vol. 12 (1990), pp. 438460 at pp. 445–47.

32. For example, those for Shandong which allow a married woman over the age of 30 to attempt a second pregnancy if her first child is a daughter - see Palmer, “Reacting to change,” p. 448.

33. See also the Constitution 1982 at Article 49.

34. Law of the PRC for the Protection of Minors 1991. Article 8 of the Law also prohibits discrimination against female children and “drowning or abandoning” infants. The Criminal Law 1979 at Article 182 makes abuse (nüedai) of a family member which leads to serious injury or death an offence punishable by between two and seven years’ fixed term imprisonment. According to Article 183 refusal to fulfil a duty to support a child may in serious circumstances be punishable by five years’ fixed term imprisonment.

35. Introduced at the national level primarily as a result of the work of the Communist Youth League, but its origins lie in developments at the provincial level. Various institutions in Shanghai including, in particular, the East China Institute of Politics and Law, took the lead in this field and, as a result, Shanghai Municipality introduced juvenile regulations in the mid-1980s. Many provinces followed suit and, eventually, a national law was promulgated.

36. Thus, the Minors’ Protection Law 1991 at Chapter III places obligations of protection on schools, Chapter IV (Social Protection) requires a wide variety of social institutions as well as individuals to act in a manner conducive to the welfare of children, and Chapter V (Judicial Protection) provides for the courts – including newly-established juvenile benches – a definite role in protecting minors’ interests.

37. Thereby reinforcing the provision contained in Article 182 of the Criminal Law 1979 against abuse of family members.

38. Women's Protection Law 1992, especially Articles 16 and 17 (education rights), Article 22 (prohibition of employment of girls under the age of 16) and Article 35 (prohibition of infanticide).

39. Supreme People's Court, “Guanyu guanche zhixing ‘Zhonghua renmin gongheguo jicheng fa’ ruogan wenti de yijian” (“Opinions of the Supreme Court on Some Questions Concerning the Rigorous Enforcement of the Inheritance Law”) 1985, in Suping, Liu, Hunyin faxue cankao ziliao (Reference Materials on the Study of the Marriage Law) (Beijing: Zhongguo renmin daxue chubanshe, 1989), pp. 180–88.

40. In my view this should be seen as an extension of – rather than a detraction from – the idea of the family as a unit of care. The concern is to interpose the natural family between the legal obligations which rest in the adopting family on the one hand and, on the other, possible state or collective responsibility to provide support. Article 45 of the Constitution 1982 provides that “citizens of the People's Republic of China have the right to material assistance from the state and society when they are old, ill or disabled.” It should be added here that there is no rule in PRC law requiring anonymity in adoptions. See also n. 86.

41. Nevertheless, some idea of the likely framework of rules designed to ensure that the family functions effectively as a unit of care for the elderly may be gained from an examination of the recently promulgated provincial regulations protecting the rights of the aged. See, for example, Fujian sheng laonianren baohu tiaoli (Fujian Provincial Regulations for the Protection of the Elderly), in Nianjian Bianjibu, Zhongguo Falü, Zhongguo falü nianjian 1991 (Law Yearbook of China 1991) (Beijing: Falu chubanshe, 1991), pp. 491–93.

42. Davis, Deborah and Harrell, Stevan, “Introduction: the impact of post-Mao reforms on family life,” in Deborah, Davis and Stevan, Harrell (eds.), Chinese Families in the Post-Mao Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 122 at p. 2.

43. Inheritance Law 1985 at Article 4. This extends Article 13 of the Constitution 1982 which stipulates that the “state protects, according to the law, the right of citizens to inherit private property.”

44. See Palmer, “China's new Inheritance Law.”

45. Chinese textbooks on family law tend to restrict their scope to the principal areas of marriage and family dealt with in the Marriage Law and Marriage Registration Regulations. As a result, crucially relevant areas such as birth limitation are often given little or no treatment.

46. For an earlier treatment of problems of marriage registration in the post-Mao PRC see Palmer, Michael, “China's new marriage regulations,” in Freeman, M. D. A. (ed.), Annual Survey of Family Law: 1986, Vol. 10 (1987), pp. 3957.

47. Liu Suping, Hunyin fa xue cankao ziliao, pp. 25–27.

48. That is, the formalities for that type of union characterized by Wolf and Huang as “major marriage”: see Wolf, Arthur and Huang, Chien-Shan, Marriage and Adoption in China 1845–1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1980.

49. Van der Valk, “The registration of marriage,” especially pp. 352–53.

50. See, for example, Zongshu, Cheng and Chengdong, Ma, “Shishi hunyin: yici buying luanyong” (“De facto marriage: a term which should not be used carelessly”). Shehui (Society), No. 6 (1986), pp. 3031, and Ke, Kuang, “Renkou chusheng lifa chuyi” (“My humble opinion regarding population and birth legislation”), Faxue (Jurisprudence), No. 12 (1989), pp. 8890.

51. See, for example, the case of Mr and Mrs Jian Zhiliang who early in 1991 were fined for the 12 days’ “illegal cohabitation” (feifa tongju) that had passed between the celebration in customary form and the formal registration of their marriage. “Women de hunyin shi weifa ma?” (“Is our marriage illegal?”), Fazhi ribao, 6 June 1991, p. 3. See also, for example, the account of a decision to terminate a pregnancy in a marriage celebrated by customary formalities only on the ground that failure to register meant that the mother-to-be was unmarried, in Meizhan, Zhang, “Weihun xian yun shi yuan budong hunyin fa” (“Failure to understand the Marriage Law is the sole reason for this pre-marital pregnancy”), Fazhi ribao 22 January 1990, p. 3.

52. Zhonghua suwei'ai gongheguo hunyin fa (Marriage Law of the Chinese Soviet Republic) 1934, in Liu Suping, Hunyin fa xue cankao ziliao, pp. 28–30.

53. Meijer, Marinus, Marriage Law and Policy in the Chinese People's Republic (Hong Kong: University of Hong Press, 1971), pp. 178189.

54. See, for example, the position taken in “Zuigao Renmin Fayuan guanyu nan-nü shuangfang yi da hunling wei jinxing dengji er jiehun de yifang tichu lihun shi ying ruhe chuli wenti de pifu” (“Official Reply of the Supreme People's Court regarding the question of the manner in which a request for a divorce by one party should be handled when both parties have reached marriageable age, and have contracted marriage but omitted to register it”) 1957, in Renmin, ZuigaoShenpanting, Fayuan Minshi (Civil Adjudication Chamber of the Supreme People's Court)(comp.), Minshi shouce (Handbook of Civil Affairs), Vol. 1 (Beijing: Renmin fayuan chubanshe, 1984), p. 486.

55. See, for example, the approach taken in: Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Gonganbu (Ministry of Public Security of the PRC) and Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Neiwubu (Ministry of Internal Affairs of the PRC), “Wei jiuzheng hunyin dengji wei da hunling sizi tongju deng wenti de lianhe tongzhi” (“Joint Notice regarding correction of such problems as couples who have not reached (the legal minimum) age of marriage but [nevertheless] cohabit”) 1958, in Liu Suping, Hunyin faxue cankao ziliao, pp. 193–94.

56. Note also the importance placed on appearance in person in Study, Feng Baixin's, Hunyin, jiating, falü (Marriage, Family and the Law) (Fujian: Fujian renmin chubanshe, 1986), p. 45.

57. See, for example, the unhappy story of the rural cadre from Anhui who married a sent-down youth in customary form and in subsequent attempts to get the union recognized as a legal marriage met with his objection that she had “enticed him” (gouyin) into an illicit sexual relationship: Ibid. pp. 40–41.

58. Ibid.

59. Thus in several important respects the property arrangements associated with relations of unlawful cohabitation differ sharply from those relating to marriage. For a more detailed account of the manner in which the 1989 rules disadvantage those women whose cohabitation is not characterized as de facto marriage, see Palmer, Michael, “The People's Republic of China; more rules but less law,” in Freeman, M. D. A. (ed.), Annual Survey of Family Law: 1989, Vol. 13 (1991), pp. 325342 at pp. 332–33. See also Art. 24 of the 1994 MRR.

60. For my earlier writings in this area of the law see, in particular, Palmer, Michael, “The People's Republic of China: problems of marriage and divorce,” in Freeman, M. D. A. (ed.), Annual Survey of Family Law: 1987, Vol. 11 (1988), pp. 5759, and Palmer, “More rules.”

61. Thus, the 1989 Supreme Court Opinions enumerating the grounds for divorce upon the application of one party only show a considerable degree of similarity with the very earliest Communist regulations such as the 1930 Marriage Law for Western Fujian (see especially Article 7 of the Fujian law): Minxi hunyin fa (Marriage Law for Western Fujian) 1930, in Zhengfa, ZhongguoYanjiushi, Daxue Minfa (Civil Law Research Office of the China University of Politics and Law), Hunyinfa ziliao huibian (A Corpus of Materials on the Marriage Law) (Beijing: Zhongguo zhengfa daxue minfa yanjiushi, 1984), Vol. 1, pp. 12.

62. See, for example, Palmer, “Some general observations”.

63. See Ibid. p. 63.

64. Li Jingdan, Hunyin jiating wenji (Collected Works on Marriage and the Family) (1984) at p. 14.

65. See Palmer, “Reacting to change,” p. 459.

66. On restored marriages see Palmer, “New marriage regulations,” pp. 40 and 43.

67. See Palmer, “Problems of marriage and divorce,” p. 76.

68. Supreme People's Court, “Some Specific Opinions on divorce.”

69. So sensitive, in fact, that in divorce hearings parties have sometimes attempted to bully judges into handling cases in a manner which suits them by threatening suicide in court. See, for example, Xun, Xu, “Bupa yi sixiang xie, yi fa gongzheng panjue” (“Do not be afraid of suicide threats, adjudicate fairly in accordance with the law”), Fazhi ribao, 9 August 1988, p. 1.

70. See Palmer “More rules,” pp. 334 and 336.

71. For my earlier observations on this area of family law see Palmer, “Problems of marriage and divorce,” pp. 67–71, and “More rules,” pp. 337–39.

72. The policy of encouraging all couples to restrict themselves to one child was officially announced in January 1979 at a “National Planned Parenthood Conference” held in Beijing. In addition the Central Committee of the Party published an “open letter” in September of the following year in which it announced the introduction of a drastic programme, lasting 20 to 30 years, designed to restrict population growth.

73. See, for example, the particularly interesting recent case of a prominent local Party member in Zhejiang province. This man was disciplined for his “feudal conduct” in providing a ghost-marriage cum funeral for a son who died childless following a motor-cycle accident. For further details see Palmer, “Reacting to change,” p. 458.

74. A fuller account of developments in the Sichuan Provincial Family Planning Regulations may be found in Palmer, “Problems of marriage and divorce,” pp. 67–71

75. For further details of such differences of view see: Palmer, “Reacting to change,” pp. 447–49.

76. See Ibid. pp. 442–47.

77. “Liudong renkou jihua shengyu guanli banfa” (“Measures for the administration of birth planning for the floating population”), Fazhi ribao, 27 December 1991, p. 2.

78. Palmer, “More rules,” pp. 338–39.

79. Thus, for example, in July 1988 Gansu's Seventh Provincial People's Congress introduced regulations which prohibit mental defectives from bearing children. This was done, however, in the face of fierce opposition from some Congress members dissatisfied with, in particular, provisions regarding compulsory abortion in certain circumstances. See Palmer, “Reacting to change,” pp. 449–540.

80. “Allowing second child for intellectuals proposed,” FBIS, 3 May 1993, p. 29–30.

81. Ibid.

82. Aird, John S., “The force be with you,” Far Eastern Economic Review, 27 January 1984, p. 21.

83. See, for example, Palmer, “Reacting to change,” pp. 442–51. Other reports indicate that support for such proposals is now gaining ground: see “Yizhi zancheng ‘anle si’ – zhuanjia huyu jinkuai lifa” (“Unanimous approval for ‘euthanasia’ – experts call for legislation as soon as possible”), Ming bao, 9 November 1994, p. B4.

84. See Palmer, “More rules,” pp. 337–38.

85. On economic crime see Townsend, Deborah, “The concept of law in post-Mao China: a case study of economic crime,” The Stanford Journal of International Law, Vol. 24, No. 2 (1989), pp. 227258.

86. For my earlier publications in this area see, Palmer, Michael, “Adoption law in the People's Republic of China,” in Butler, William E. (ed.), Yearbook on Socialist Legal Systems: 1986 (Dobbs Ferry, New York: Transnational Publishers, 1987), pp. 133, Palmer, Michael, “Civil adoption in contemporary Chinese law. A contract to care,” Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 22, No. 4 (1988), pp. 373410, and “Minors to the fore: developments in the family law of the People's Republic of China 1990–91,” in Freeman, M. D. A. (ed.), Annual Survey of Family Law: 1991, Vol. 15 (1992), pp. 299308 at pp. 305–308.

87. See Palmer, “Civil adoption,” p. 380. In adoptions of this nature one common arrangement was (and still is) for a young adult to be adopted by and to care for an elderly adoptant in return for the inheritance of (say) the house of the latter.

88. See Palmer, “Minors.”

89. See Palmer, “Adoption law,” and “Civil adoption,” for earlier examinations of the role of this principle in relations of adoption in PRC law.

90. “Waiguoren zai Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo shouyang zinü shishi banfa,” (“Implementing measures for the adoption of children in the PRC by foreigners”), Fazhi ribao, 13 November 1992, p. 2.

91. Article 6, The Common Programme of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, adopted by the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference, 29 September 1949. In Blaustein, Albert P., Fundamental Legal Documents of Communist China (New Jersey: Rothman, 1962), pp. 3453 at pp. 36–37.

92. See above, n. 16.

93. Meijer, Marriage Law and Policy.

94. Even an uncertain relationship may prove to be worthy of consideration. See, for example, Susan Greenhalgh's observations that in Shaanxi the effect of expressing minimum ages of marriage in legislative form was to reduce, rather than, as the legislators had hoped, to increase the ages at which couples marry: Susan Greenhalgh, “The peasantization of the one-child policy in Shaanxi,” in Davis and Harrell, Chinese Families, pp. 219–250 at pp. 233–36. For much earlier observations on the relationship between law reform and social practice in the Chinese context see Hsu, F. L. K., “Some problems of Chinese law in operation today,” Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 3 (1944), pp. 211221.

* I thank the Law in China Under Reform Conference participants for their helpful comments on the draft version of this article. Responsibility for any remaining errors is mine alone.

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