Wei Zhang, ‘The Evolution of the Law of Torts in China: The Growth of a Liability System’

During the “Reform and Opening-up” years, tort disputes have become one of the main types of cases litigated in Chinese courts, and tort law has been playing a significant role in carving out the incentives of businesses and individuals in China. Since the formal legal rules on torts came into being in 1986, a large number of changes have occurred in the law of torts. The transformation of the rules, however, has eluded previous introductory works on Chinese tort law written in English. This paper is devoted to delineating these changes, which present the growth of a liability system moving predominantly in favor of tort victims. Unlike most existing English literature on Chinese tort law that survey primarily the major civil statutes, this paper places commensurate emphasis on the rules dealing with tort liabilities embedded in the administrative laws and regulations as well as the judicial interpretations. In addition, this paper also makes a rough assessment of the efficiency implications of the evolution of tort law in China. Given the exceptionally low point where the increment of victim protection in tort law started, the change of rules in China is, by and large, moving in the direction of cost internalization as required by efficiency. However, the potential improvement in efficiency is perhaps a byproduct of the development of tort law in China. The motivation behind the rule change is more likely to be loss redistribution rather than efficiency upgrade. In light of the policy-implementing orientation of the Chinese legal system and the collectivistic propensity rooted in the law of torts, political and institutional perspectives might bring us better insights into the driving force of change of law in China.

Zhang, Wei, The Evolution of the Law of Torts in China: The Growth of a Liability System (August 15, 2014).

First posted 2014-10-28 07:26:21

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