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Michigan State International Law Review





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More than two thousand years ago, Confucius transformed and perfected an institution for governing Chinese people, which has been religiously replicated by subsequent dynasties. Within the Confucian institution, the King, at the pinnacle of the pyramid, held absolute authority; regional lords were loyal to the King; and commoners were submissive to the privileged. Confucius held that peace and order could only be achieved when people acted according to their hierarchical worth assigned by the ruler. This article offers an overview of the transformation of Confucianism. It then examines competing schools of thought-Legalism and Taoism-and explains why Confucianism triumphed to become the official Chinese ideology. Through a series of case studies, the article theorizes that the central theme of Confucian-inspired laws was the perpetuation of inequality. With the declining influence of Marxism, the Communist Party has revived the Confucian tradition to maintain its legitimacy and project its "soft power" to the world. This article concludes that, against the massive weight of tradition deeply ingrained in the people's minds and souls, the rule of law and equality will unlikely be an important force in China.

Recommended Citation

Chenglin Liu, Confucius and the Chinese Legal Tradition, 28 Mich. St. Int’l. L. Rev. 477 (2020).

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