The past century has witnessed an apparent development that has increasingly complicated the dynamics of human life, especially with regard to the advancement in such media systems as currency, power, and technology that drives forward institutional evolution by traversing distances that are not only spatio-temporal, but also cultural and national (based on the nation-state sovereignty). The 21st century also opens up an ever-intensifying degree of social risks, relativity and uncertainty.
It is against this general background that the existing model of law and judiciary in China has been subject to cross-cutting pressures. A better analysis, understanding and reflection of the general social milieu thus becomes a matter of necessity should law-makers, law-enforcers, judges, prosecutors and lawyers seek better solutions in practice. An pragmatic adjustment of legal institutions to contemporary needs, be it by means of learning from other countries or of the trial-and-error process of innovation, will not be possible unless we are equipped with better social knowledge and greater familiarity with the history of thoughts.
Needless to say, the Chinese society is a super-large-scale complex system, of which cross-cutting social networks play an ultimately important role of self-organisation. Here, individual or group-based ways of conduct and thinking are culturally distinctive, albeit with consistent practical reason of universal implications – a basis upon which there arise such comparative-law prototypes as of the constitution of social norms, the design of legal institutions, judiciary practice, the awareness of rights, justice-related social psychology, and the mechanism of ordering. With a “law and society” perspective, this module aims to put the Chinese social structure and its function under microscopic observation through legal lens, while as its obverse, to interpret legal phenomena in the Chinese social context. In particular, daily routines, facts and concrete cases will be used to map the evolution of legal traditions, analyse the conditions for constituting a rule-of-law order, and reveal the value implications on our networked and risk society of a new rule-of-law paradigm with “principles” embedded within rational actions.