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A Guide to Chinese Legal Research and Global Legal Collection Highlights: Official Publication of Chinese Law

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If you got a chance to read my previous posts on Chinese legal research, Who Makes What? and Administrative Regulations and Departmental Rules, you know that under China’s Law on Legislation, the National People’s Congress (NPC) and its standing committee make laws; the State Council makes administrative regulations; and the ministries and commissions under the State Council make departmental (administrative) rules.

When researching Chinese law, do not expect something similar to the United States Code.  The statutory laws are not codified, nor is there a government printing office.  So how are the laws, administrative regulations, and departmental rules published? And more importantly, which sources could be deemed official when your research calls for an official publication of law?


According to the Law on Legislation, the laws, regulations, and rules are to be published in the gazette of the body that creates the document.  They will also be disseminated to the general public through certain newspapers.  The versions published in gazettes are the official versions.  (Law on Legislation, arts. 52, 62, 77.)

Therefore, laws made by the NPC and its standing committee are published in the Gazette of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and the administrative regulations are published in the Gazette of the State Council, both collected by the Law Library of Congress up to 2014.  Departmental rules may be published in the Gazette of the State Council or the gazette of the department or committee itself.  We do not actively collect the departmental gazettes, while some of them are now available online.  For example, the gazette of the Ministry of Commerce on foreign trade, China Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Gazette is now only available online.

Statutory Compilations

Although the gazette versions are designated as standard versions, researchers may find comprehensive statutory compilations containing laws, administrative regulations, and departmental rules, often organized by subjects, more helpful.  Not all statutory compilations are official publications of law, however.  Before the Law on Legislation was enacted, in 1990 the State Council issued the Regulation on the Administration of Statutory Compilation and Publishing to regulate publication of official statutory compilations. (Fagui Huibian Bianji Chuban Guanli Guiding (State Council Order [1990] No. 63, effective July 29, 1990), Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Fagui Huibian 237 (1990)).  This Regulation sets up standards for official statutory compilations — the most important standard is who compiles the publication.  The Regulation provides specific authorities that may compile statutory compilations and their respective power.  To be specific:

The NPC Standing Committee Legislative Affairs Commission (NPCLAC) may compile laws and comprehensive compilations of laws, administrative regulations, local regulations, and administrative rules.  Here are examples of such official compilations available in the collections of the Law Library of Congress:

The State Council Legislative Bureau (currently Legislative Affairs Office) (SCLAO) may compile administrative regulations, and comprehensive compilations of laws, administrative regulations, local regulations, and administrative rules.  Examples:

Each of the departments of the State Council may compile its own department rules, and comprehensive compilations of laws, administrative regulations and department rules within its area of power and responsibility.  Examples:

A quick look on the cover of a statutory compilation may offer researchers a hint as to whether it is an official publication.  Most official ones bear the national emblem while unofficial ones should not, because the Regulation allows only official statutory compilations to bear the national emblem on the cover.

There are also statutory compilations that are not compiled by the above authorities — some are quite complete, such as the Collected Edition of Laws and Regulations compiled by the Law Press —  which should not be deemed official publication of law in accordance of the Regulation, even it does bear the national emblem on the cover.

Statutory Compilations in English

According to the Regulation, the official publication of the English translations of laws must be compiled by the NPCLAC, or with it involved in the editorial process.  Official publication of English translations of administrative regulations must be compiled by the SCLAO, or with it involved in the editorial process.  Examples:

Note: English translations of the statutes have no legal effect as the Chinese original, even if they are translated and published by the above authorities.


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