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The German-Chinese Rule of Law Dialogue

Originally proposed by the Federal Government in 1999, the German-Chinese Rule of Law Dialogue is underpinned by the “Agreement on Exchange and Cooperation in the Legal Field” which was signed by both governments on 30 June 2000.

A german and a chinese flag on a table. When the German-Chinese Rule of Law Dialogue was first launched, it broke new ground in the relations between the two countries. Source: shutterstock

Apart from cooperation in the legal field, the agreement also envisages dialogue on the development of the rule of law – conducted in a spirit of equality and mutual respect with the aim of consolidating the understanding and traditional friendship between the two countries. According to the terms of the agreement, both sides should aim to utilise the shared experiences to ensure that “the people enjoy extensive rights and freedoms under the law, that human rights are respected and guaranteed, and that all state activity is carried out in accordance with the law”. The dialogue's national coordinators are the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, and the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.

Core element of the Rule of Law Dialogue

One core element of the Rule of Law Dialogue is the annual symposium which is conducted at the ministerial level and held alternately in Germany and China. This symposium gives leading politicians, specialists, and academics from both countries an opportunity to exchange views on mutually agreed subjects. The 13th symposium was held in April 2013 in Hangzhou, with experts discussing issues of administrative procedural law, administrative jurisdiction, and civic participation.

In addition to the ministerial-level symposium, there are also numerous meetings, workshops, seminars, and university events which focus on a range of current subjects related to legislation and legal reform – often with high-ranking participants. These events are based on the two and three-year programmes agreed between Germany and China that outline the envisaged content and subject areas of the cooperation work. The most recent work programme to be adopted covers the 2013–2015 period. The project partners of this latest three-year programme include the competent ministries and other state institutions in the two countries, as well as social organisations, political foundations, universities and colleges. Another component of the Rule of Law Dialogue is the Human Rights Dialogue conducted with China under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office. In order to coordinate and network the different German partner organisations that work with China in the legal field, the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection holds a round table discussion each year on the subject of legal cooperation with China.

A key role in the implementation of the German-Chinese Rule of Law Dialogue is played by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and its Legal Cooperation Programme in China which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The GIZ – which has been running legal advisory programmes in China since 1986 and continues to foster well-established links with Chinese partner organisations – supports and advises the Federal Government on the Rule of Law Dialogue. Its further activities in China include the provision of legislative advice and the training of judges and officials.

When the German-Chinese Rule of Law Dialogue was first launched, it broke new ground in the relations between the two countries. It has since become one of the most important platforms for dialogue between Germany and China. No other country maintains such an extensive dialogue of this kind with the People's Republic of China.