Paradox of Legal Reform under the Kuomintang Regime in Mainland China, a Case Study in Judicial Reform and Legal Modernisation under an Authoritarian regime (1928-1948).

  • Ran Lu

Student thesis: Phd


Current research about legal modernisation in authoritarian regimes has focused on the utilitarian usage of the law, and most literatures illustrates how the law could be developed under specific demands from the ruling regimes. The KMT (Kuomintang) regime, however, showed a paradoxical path of legal development during its ruling in China: The general framework of a modernised legal system had been established, whereas the ruling of the KMT had been restricted and even undermined. Similar to other authoritarian regimes, under the KMT regime, the motivation factors in conducting legal modernisation included foreign influence, the attempts to centralise power and enhance control over the regions, ambition of promoting social reform via law instrument. However, under the specific social environment of the KMT regime, the direction of its legal modernisation was diverted from other authoritarian regimes. Through the analysis of the KMT’s law ideas, we can find out that, apart from the specific social conditions, the KMT’s legal ideology played an essential role in the process of legal modernisation. Furthermore, in the KMT’s case, although the continuous warfare and weak social infrastructure impeded the effectiveness of legal modernisation, the power struggle inside the top-tier politics, pressure from foreign countries, legal achievements and well-trained legal professionals inherited from the previous regime also contributed to the legal modernisation. These factors combined and made the KMT regime an unique case of legal modernisation among the authoritarian regimes. Based on the KMT’s case study, the research on legal development under authoritarian regimes can be enhanced. This study could offer a new perspective in understanding the historical changes in modern China.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorWilliam Hebenton (Supervisor) & Mary Vogel (Supervisor)

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