The Shanghai Winter School is an intensive three-week introduction to Chinese Law and provides students with an opportunity to study, on an intensive and introductory basis, the laws and legal system of China whilst experiencing life in that country.

The Winter School is jointly organised by Sydney Law School and the East China University of Political Science and Law (ECUPL) and is held on the campus of ECUPL in Shanghai. Lectures are given in English by Chinese professors and the program is supervised by academic staff from Sydney Law School. Representatives of the Law School will be in residence in Shanghai for the duration of the course.

The aims of the Winter School are:

  • to provide an introduction to the Chinese legal system and Chinese laws
  • to encourage independent research into specific areas of Chinese law.

It is hoped that the Winter School will stimulate interest in, and analysis of, Chinese legal styles, attitudes and structures, including traditional Chinese legal values and processes, as significant factors in the understanding of modern Chinese law and the legal system.


Interest in Chinese society and law increased in the wake of the “Open Door Policy” announced at the end of 1978 and expanded with the growth of the Australia-China economic relationship. Since 1979, China has embarked on the development of a modern legal system. While geared expressly to meet the needs of its new economic policies, this development has had profound implications for civil, criminal and administrative law and other aspects of social and political life.

Both investors and scholars are now confronted by a China which appears to seek to do things differently from the past – to use and rely on law, to spell out in codes and other enactments legal rights and duties, and to encourage citizens to turn to courts for resolution of their disputes and for remedies for injuries to their rights.

How successful has China been in building a legal system? What sort of legal and judicial system has been created? What is the nature and what are the characteristics of the laws passed? To what extent do past institutions and traditions affect present laws, their implementation and citizens’ perceptions of and attitudes to the law? How are the laws and legal institutions affecting citizens, foreign business interests and investors? How do Chinese courts function? How do Chinese lawyers operate and organise themselves?

These are some of the questions that will be raised in this unit. Considering them will help you to understand more about the character of law and the way legal systems develop. It will help you to acquaint yourself with the formal structure of the legal system, the legislative process, and the hierarchy of legal authority, courts and laws and to compare and contrast the operation of law in China and its operation in other countries. It will also help those who intend to undertake commercial activities in China to understand the political, legal and cultural context in which you will be operating and the conditions in which you will be interacting, negotiating and trading.

The unit will provide you with an overall picture of the modern Chinese legal system. It will develop a perception of its unique character by tracing its role through major social epochs and the role of law in a socialist market economy, it will examine the concept of law as a political function and the implementation of law.

Lecture topics may include:

  • Chinese legal history
  • The Chinese legal system
  • Constitutional law
  • Administrative law
  • Criminal law and procedure
  • Civil law and procedure
  • Contract law
  • Company law
  • Financial law
  • Foreign trade law
  • Foreign joint venture law
  • Intellectual property law
  • Environmental law
  • Property law
  • Arbitration
  • People's mediation
  • The lawyer system

There will also be a visit to a Chinese law firm and/or a Chinese court.

Students are provided with copies of English translations of relevant legislation and a selection of readings to complement the lectures. Lecturers will also issue additional materials to students in Shanghai.