Book Review - Renmin Chinese Law Review: Selected Papers of "The Jurist," Volume 2

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Renmin Chinese Law Review: Selected Papers of "The Jurist," Volume 2. Jichun Shi, ed. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2014. 360p. Hardcover. $130.50. (Also available as an eBook for subscribing libraries.)

This is the second volume of selected papers from The Jurist, a law review edited by the Renmin University of China Law School. Although The Jurist has been in publication for over 25 years, it was only in 2013 that selected papers from the review first became available in English translation. That 2013 selection (Volume 1 of this series) covered a wide range of subjects—including finance, criminal law, civil procedure, and international trade—and the selection in Volume 2 is equally wide-ranging. Topics covered here include the use of non-binding “judicial suggestions” by the Chinese Supreme People’s Court, confiscation of property under Chinese criminal law, attribution of authorship for copyright purposes, the international-law principle of non-intervention, and China’s withdrawal of its reservation to Article 1(b) of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods. There are also two articles on China’s Anti-Monopoly Law, a hot topic in the U.S. now that China is investigating Microsoft for alleged violations of the statute.

China is in a transitional phase of its history, and the book’s preface acknowledges the difficulty of adapting the current legal system to the needs of “an increasingly ‘modern’ and complicated economic and social reality.” This theme is reflected throughout the book. In search of new legal models to suit the new reality, many of the authors draw on foreign and international sources to support their arguments. Wang Qian, for example, in her article on the attribution of authorship, cites both the UCC and the United States Copyright Act in order to clarify the meaning of the “©” symbol, an issue that has caused some confusion in Chinese courts. In the articles by Meng Yanbei and Jiang Yanbo (chapters 7 and 8, respectively), we find that antitrust law is another area in which U.S. jurisprudence has had a significant influence in China.

Not being a scholar of Chinese law, I am unable to comment on the significance of these articles as scholarship. As a general reader, however, I felt like I learned a few things about the Chinese legal system, even though I probably could have gotten much of that information elsewhere, and in a more digestible form. If there is one overarching problem with this book, it is the poor quality of the translation, which is likely to test the endurance of even the most determined reader. Chinese-to-English translations are notoriously difficult, and here that difficulty is apparent on nearly every page. In some passages, the prose is so opaque that you almost have to diagram the sentences in order to figure out what the author is trying to say. To take a particularly egregious example, here is the sentence that opens the second chapter: "Article 12, Section 1 of the Criminal Law establishes the principle of ‘applying the old law with exception of less punishment in the new law’ in terms of the application of old and new law, but Section 2 of this article, which states that ‘the effective judgments made in accordance with the laws in force at the time before the entry into force of this Law shall continue to be effective,’ embeds an exception in this principle."

Feeling dizzy yet? Another problem, though less pervasive than the garbled translation, is that some of the authors assume highly specialized knowledge in the reader. Jiang Yanbo, for example, uses economic terms like “cross-elasticity of demand” and “transfer ratio analysis” without bothering to explain what they mean.

Overall, this book will be of interest primarily to specialists in Chinese, foreign, and comparative law. The stilted prose and specialized nature of the articles make it a poor choice for the general reader.

Reviewed by Robert Clark, 2014. Reference/Research Librarian, O’Quinn Law Library, University of Houston Law Center. rnclark@central.uh.edu

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