Rule of Law is Only As Good as the Cops

In the Hutong
Listening to Harry Shearer
1756 hrs.

Using Chinese New Year to catch up with my reading, I came across this short jewel by Maureen Fan over at the Washington Post. Maureen reported on the current environmental protection plan.

The money quote comes from the plan itself:

“Laws and regulations are not respected. It’s very hard to punish those who violate the law and law enforcement is not strict enough.”

Spot on. And it’s nice to know that the government realizes it, too.

China has made immense progress over the past three decades in terms of putting Of course, it doesn’t take rocket science – only the experience of driving on China’s roads for more than about five minutes – to recognize that law in China is worthless without enforcers who can do their jobs without fear of reprisals from above.

(One guy here in the Hutong cracked recently that Beijing could probably pay for the Olympics with traffic citation revenues if they’d let slip 40 or so California Highway Patrol cars and officers on Beijing’s streets for a year. My back-of-napkin calculations figure he’s off by a few zeros, but his point is well-taken. I figure an honest, intrepid cop willing and able to pursue violators without fear of getting fired for doing so could probably deliver $360,000 – $500,000 per year in citations. That’s US$.)

Why is this important?

There are indications that some senior people in the Hu administration are pushing hard for better training and management of the nation’s law enforcement agencies. This group understands that there will be no “Harmonious Society” without entities that are empowered to enforce the laws on the books.

At some point in the next 18 months – though probably not during March’s First Plenary Session of the 11th National People’s Congress – we’re gong to start hearing more about law enforcement. Some of it will be cosmetic, but we will see the start of a clear movement to improving law enforcement at all levels, beginning with a few high-profile cases.


About David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.
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