Qianfan Zhang , Ph.D.

Professor of Law

Peking University

Born in 1964 in Shanghai, People's Republic of China
Studied Comparative Constitutional Law at Peking University


A Comparative Study of the Central-Local Relationship

The proposed project is to continue and expand my comparative research on the central-local relationship, focusing on the German federal system and its relevance to legalizing the central-local relation in China. The ultimate purpose of this research is to re-examine the central-local relationship that has puzzled China's governance for a long time. Although scholars in China have paid close attention to this problem, they have not been able to put forward any constitutional theory that can effectively resolve the growing central-local conflicts. Limited by its anachronistic understanding of unitary sovereign power, traditional Chinese jurisprudence has failed to recognize the need to balance the plurality of local interests against national uniformity, much less to propose a new institutional design for such balance. By contrast, the research on vertical separation of powers has produced many interesting insights in the federalist states. In Germany, for example, the central-local (i.e., federal-state) disputes are usually resolved through constitutional litigations, which has produced abundant case decisions that rather effectively resolved the conflicts between national uniformity and local autonomy. During my visit, I plan to compare the constitutional experience of Germany and other major states, e.g. the United States, Canada, Australia, and India, generalize the constitutional principles that regulate the central-local relationship, and propose plausible scenarios for the resolution of central-local conflicts in China. Preliminary study illustrates the need to legalize the central-local relationship and to allocate the central and local power most effectively. Thus, the central government should not busy itself with regulating everything; it has neither the right nor the obligation to meddle in affairs of purely local nature.

Recommended Reading

Zhang, Qianfan. "Judicial Reform in China: An Overview." In China's Socialist Rule of Law Reform under Xi Jinping, edited by John Garrick and Yan Chang Bennett, 17-29. New York: Routledge, 2016.
-. "Legalising Central-Local Relations in China." In Central-Local Relations in Asian Constitutional Systems, edited by Andrew Harding and Mark Sidel. Oxford: Hart, 2015.
-. "A Constitution without Constitutionalism? The Paths of Constitutional Developments in China." International Journal of Constitutional Law 8, 4 (2010): 950-976.

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