Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Wei Cui]

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Chinese law, rule by law, rule of law, rulemaking, informal policy documents, national


This paper documents some basic empirical facts about the issuance of formal regulations (FRs) and informal policy directives (IPDs) by China’s national ministries and agencies from 2000 to 2014. Prior scholarship (e.g. Cui 2011, Howson 2012) depicts specific instances of Chinese national agencies announcing substantive new policies (many ultra vires by statutory standards) through IPDs. I use FR and IPD quantities as measures of the agencies’ propensity to resort to legal as opposed to non-legal, merely bureaucratic mechanisms for announcing policy. I find significant variations across agencies in the quantities of FRs issued, both in absolute terms and relative to the quantities of IPDs. The variations often contradict conventional perceptions about different agencies’ political orientations. Budget fluctuations do not predict FR or IPD issuance, nor do the minister’s tenure in office. Overall, formal rulemaking has been on the decline in China, accentuating the importance of the question: Why do Chinese bureaucrats bother with rulemaking at all? I suggest a preliminary set of considerations relevant to answering this question. The study sheds new light on the different approaches taken by actors in the Chinese government to establishing basic “rule by law”.

Included in

Rule of Law Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.