Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Monday, March 20, 2006

Qiu He and the rule of man/rule of law controversy

The career of Qiu He (仇和), recently promoted to the rank of vice governor of Jiangsu Province, has occasioned quite a bit of controversy. The essence of the issue is that Qiu has apparently run roughshod over what might be called the legal rights of those he has governed in previous positions, but has ultimately delivered impressive economic results and introduced political reforms. Those who support him say, in the words of one blogger, "Can't one use rule by men to promote rule of law? Can't one use non-democratic means to promote democracy?" In the words of another supporter, given that there are no effective political structures, the only way to create healthy institutions is through rule by men.

Others such as Cai Dingjian of the Chinese University of Politics and Law reject these arguments: "The tragedy of strongman politics is that good officials always want to do everything themselves, to change the fate of the people, and to become the savior of the people, but they don't let people grasp their own fates." Cai argues that the test of a good official is the degree to which they contribute to the creation of institutions. Otherwise, even a good official, when he leaves his post, leaves nothing behind.

For a full discussion of the Qiu He phenomenon, to which is owed the above summary and quotations, see Joseph Fewsmith, "Promotion of Qiu He Raises Questions About Direction of Reform," China Leadership Monitor, No. 17, Winter 2006.

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