Netherlands, Amsterdam

Law and Governance in Contemporary China

when 18 July 2020 - 1 August 2020
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 10 EC
fee EUR 1150

How would a sound ‘China Strategy’ look? Should we do business with China, or reflect instead upon its historical relationship with human rights? Is the priority of China’s President Xi Jinping to strengthen his power and position within the government, or to create and administer law? Is China’s judiciary system ineffectual , or does it sufficiently protect individual rights?

Questions such as these have become increasingly concerning to major decision-makers and opinion leaders across Europe and beyond. The answers to these questions often fall short. The predominance of stereotypes and misunderstandings are all too common, suggesting a general deficit of knowledge about China. As Chief of the British Defence Staff , General Sir Nick Carter recently claimed: “China is not a threat but a challenge. If we as a middle-sized country want to continue to prosper, we will have to learn about it and try to understand it.”

This course, which is unique in the Dutch higher-educational sector, will offer students a comprehensive breakdown of contemporary China. The course will be both objective and impartial. It will include opposing theories and important cases for conceptualising what has made China what it is today. The main aim of the course is to provide you with the fundamental knowledge that will allow you to make sense of how those in power govern China. You will also develop a keen understanding of how the country’s legal system operates.

The leading lecturers, Dr. Cong-rui Qiao and Prof. Tom Zwart, have considerable experience between them in the areas of law, governance, and human rights in China. Over the years, they have made connections with key decision-makers in China, including a few associated with the Communist Party and the State Council (i.e. China’s Central Government), as well as with some of China’s best attorneys and highly regarded human rights institutes. They have also been asked to advise by the Supreme People’s Court (i.e. China’s highest court) on how to improve the justice system in the country.

We will address the following questions during the course:
a. How does the government and the legal system work in China?
b. How are human rights protected in China?
c. How are government powers regulated in China?

During the course, the main focus will be on the contemporary period from the early 1980s to today, when China’s boldest legal and governing reforms were first initiated and implemented. We will examine and explain the essence of these reforms and then assess their effect. The course will be separated into 3 parts, in which the student will:
Part one - Become familiar with sources pertaining to Chinese law and the evolution of China’s contemporary legal and governance systems after the cultural-revolution decade.
Part two - Gain an understanding on China’s involvement in the international human rights system, and China’s domestic implementations of its own human rights obligations.
Part three - Assess to what extent government and non-government figures adhere to human rights and are held accountable for their actions. The course will end with the students giving individual presentations of their work and engaging in a group debate.

Course leader

Dr Qiao Cong-Rui and Prof Tom Zwart

Target group

This course is for Advanced Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD students as well as professionals from various backgrounds with an interest in law and governance in contemporary China. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please let us know. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students with a wide variety of backgrounds.

Course aim

You will gain knowledge about key aspects of China’s legal and governance system, so that you may better understand them. At the end of the course, each student should be able to:

- Demonstrate an understanding of both China’s major legal and governance reforms and their outcomes. Reforms which to this day have not been sufficiently addressed in the existing English-language literature.
- Explain the role of law in Chinese society, the way human rights protection has evolved within China, and how government accountability works.
- Demonstrate intellectual skills, in particular those necessary to analyse, make a good presentation and conduct a thoughtful debate.
- Show that they can explain the key issues with China’s law and governance.

Credits info

10 EC
Contact Hours: 45
Do you want to make the most out of your summer? You can combine this course with a course in session 1 to create a 4-week Summer School in Amsterdam.

Fee info

EUR 1150: The tuition fee of a two-week course is €1150. This tuition fee includes:

- Airport pick-up service
- Course excursions
- Orientation programme and welcome
- On-site support and 24/7 emergency assistance
- A transcript of records and certificate of attendance after completing the course
- Meal vouchers to be spent at the university restaurant for either lunch or dinner
- A discounted access to our sport facilities


VU Amsterdam Summer School offers three kinds of scholarships: the Academic Scholarship, the Photographer Scholarship and the Vlogger/Videographer Scholarship. More information can be found on the VU Amsterdam Summer School website.