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Tying the Autocrat's Hands
The Rise of The Rule of Law in China

Part of Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

  • Date Published: December 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107071742


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About the Authors
  • Under what conditions would authoritarian rulers be interested in the rule of law? What type of rule of law exists in authoritarian regimes? How do authoritarian rulers promote the rule of law without threatening their grip on power? Tying the Autocrat's Hands answers these questions by examining legal reforms in China. Yuhua Wang develops a demand-side theory arguing that authoritarian rulers will respect the rule of law when they need the cooperation of organized interest groups that control valuable and mobile assets but are not politically connected. He also defines the rule of law that exists in authoritarian regimes as a partial form of the rule of law, in which judicial fairness is respected in the commercial realm but not in the political realm. Tying the Autocrat's Hands demonstrates that the rule of law is better enforced in regions with a large number of foreign investors but less so in regions heavily invested in by Chinese investors.

    • Develops a novel theory of the rule of law
    • Provides a comprehensive, empirical evaluation of legal reforms in China
    • Based on extensive field research and analyses of original data
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Tying the Autocrat's Hands is a terrific study that sets out a major new thesis and makes use of several amazing sources of data to test it. It is one of the best studies of rule of law in authoritarian systems that I have seen, and a major contribution to the vast literature on the rise of China as well.' John Ferejohn, Samuel Tilden Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

    'An elegant treatment of how elements of the rule of law are taking hold in China, embedded in a fascinating discussion of just when and why authoritarian leaders give courts more room to operate in the economic than the political real.' Kevin J. O'Brien, Alann P. Bedford Professor of Asian Studies and Political Science and Director of the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley

    'Professor Wang is an able political scientist who takes China's constitutional and legal system seriously. There is a largely behind-the-scenes struggle between power and law taking place in Beijing. Its outcome will have profound implications not only for China's continuing domestic stability and prosperity but also for its participation in the world community. This book's many insights make a valuable contribution to our understanding of this crucial process.' Jerome A. Cohen, New York University School of Law, and Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia, Council on Foreign Relations

    'A theoretically elegant, evidence-rich, and persuasive explanation for why Chinese Communist Party leaders have built a legal system but kept it in their grip. One of the best books of social science on China in years.' Susan L. Shirk, Chair, 21st-Century China Program and Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations, University of California, San Diego

    'This superb volume enriches our understanding of contemporary China while providing analytic leverage on one of the most important policy questions of our time: the sources of the rule of law. A tremendous achievement that deserves to be widely read.' Tom Ginsburg, Deputy Dean, Leo Spitz Professor of International Law, Ludwig and Hilde Wolf Research Scholar, and Professor of Political Science, The University of Chicago Law School

    'Wang's important study helps us understand the ways in which deeper economic engagement with the international community may have a positive impact on legal reform in authoritarian states.' Thomas E. Kellogg, Journal of Chinese Political Science

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107071742
    • length: 216 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.46kg
    • contains: 41 b/w illus. 2 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. A demand-side theory of authoritarian rule of law
    3. Authoritarian judiciary: how the party-state limits the rule of law
    4. State-business relations in China
    5. Who bribes?
    6. When do authoritarian rulers build less-corrupt courts?
    7. When do authoritarian rulers invest in courts?
    8. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Yuhua Wang, University of Pennsylvania
    Yuhua Wang is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. His articles have appeared in the China Journal, the China Review, the China Quarterly, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, the Journal of Peking University (Beijing Daxue Xuebao), and Studies in Comparative International Development. He is a frequent commentator on political developments in China and has been featured in the New York Times, Reuters, and South China Morning Post, as well as on CNN and DR (the Danish Broadcasting Corporation).

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