Rule of Law Ambassador and Legal Educator – Professor Jiang Ping 江平 (1930–2023)

Chinese legal academia is mourning the loss of one of its ‘three elders of the rule of law’.[1] Professor Jiang Ping, an eminent figure acknowledged as perhaps the most prominent rule of law ambassador and an esteemed legal educator in the modern history of Chinese law, passed away in Beijing on December 19, 2023, a few days short of his 94th birthday.[2] The entrance of the funeral assembly hall at Babaoshan, where the final respects were paid to Professor Jiang Ping, bore a poignant inscription:

Having diligently cultivated the teaching profession for seventy years, the admiration for the teacher is endless, and all the people look up to him | His sermons on the rule of law reached far, and his conduct and achievements will be cherished by the next generations.[3]

Young Professor Jiang Ping, source

Jiang Ping was born in Dalian, Liaoning province in 1930. In 1948 he was admitted to Yenching University to study journalism. Later, he also studied law at Moscow State University where he graduated in 1956. As the chairman of the Chinese Students’ Association, he also interacted with Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet Communist Party General Secretary, as they were involved in some capacity in the student union and the Youth League Committee of the Law Department at the University of Moscow.[4] It therefore comes with no surprise that he eventually became fluent in Russian and later worked as a translator ––most notably for the first minister of justice of the PRC, Shi Liang (史良). He learned Roman law through the Russian, and in 1994 he delivered a keynote speech in Russian titled “The Revival of the Spirit of Roman Law in China” at the World Congress of Roman Law. With strong support from Jiang Ping, the Research Center for Roman Law and Italian Law was established in 1992. Today, it has become one of the most important bases in China for translation, research, and teaching of Roman law.[5] After graduation, what appeared to be a bright future, Jiang Ping instead faced two decades of hardship and several strokes of misfortune during an era marked by upheaval and discord. He was labeled a “rightist” for his political recommendations and had to conduct punitive physical work.[6] In just a short period of time his first marriage failed and he lost one leg in a train accident.[7] Encountering these challenges, his resilient attitude towards life –– “being able to view everything with an ordinary heart” –– has instilled in him a notable sense of humility and pragmatism.[8] His own self-reflections mirror the particular character of Professor Jiang Ping:

我不是一个真正意义上的法学家,因为我没有认真读过多少法学名著,也没有写出什么像样的法学专著。我是一个法学教育家,我以学校为舞台,努力培育一代具有现代法治观念的,具有民主、自由开放思想的法律工作者、法律家、法学家。我是一个法律活动家,我以社会为舞台,在立法、司法、 政府部门、企业等诸多领域为建立现代法治国家助推了一把力。
I cannot be considered a legal scholar in the truest sense, as I have not devoted significant time to eagerly study numerous masterpieces of legal literature, nor have I written myself any such outstanding legal monograph. I am an educator in legal studies, using school as my stage, striving to cultivate a generation of legal professionals and scholars having modern concepts of the rule of law, who are equipped with democratic, free, and open-minded thinking. I am a legal activist, using society as my stage, contributing to the establishment of a modern rule of law in many areas, such as legislation, the judiciary, government departments, and businesses.[9]

Jiang Ping’s primary research encompassed a collection of innovative works promoting China’s progression toward the rule of law, which he viewed as being a fundamental component of a civilized society, emphasizing principles such as “personal dignity and self-governance.”[10] During the economic reforming process of the 1980’s he spent a considerable time on the production and dissemination of normative knowledge including the drafting of the General Principles of Civil Law (中华人民共和国民法通则), Corporation Law (中华人民共和国公司法), Property Law (中华人民共和国物权法), and recently the Civil Law Code (中华人民共和国民法典). He was one of the early scholars to advocate an individual rights-based approach to civil law and intensely explored the people–state relationship in depth.[11] But he also trailblazed the reform-legislation in the area of administrative law as he became the head of the Administrative Legislation Research Group (行政立法研究组) in 1986 advising the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee the National People’s Congress in the national administrative law legislation.[12]

Jiang Ping as Tenured Professor of the China University of Political Science and Law, source.

Jiang Ping spent considerable time in the study of foreign law, especially in Anglo-American law. In over 40 years since the founding of New China, just over 10 foreign legal works had been translated. In order to create a bridge between China and other countries, Jiang Ping organized the translation project of the “Collection of Foreign Laws” in the 1990s, translating more than 30 titles. After that, he also presided over the translation project of the “Collection of American Laws” to implement the “Presidential Rule of Law Initiative” which was reached by the Chinese and American heads of state in October 1997.[13] Within his legislative activities he cultivated a legal pragmatism and advocated “[…]the development from procedural law to substance law” “as a rule of legislation”.[14] This model of legislation served the needs of 1980s China, where a transforming (legal) society and economy lacked the pre-requisite conditions for full codification. It was only in 2020 that the Chinese Civil Code was finally enacted, while an Administrative Basic Code (行政基本法典)is yet still to be drafted.

As president and later tenured professor at the renowned China University of Political Science and Law, Jiang Ping actively contributed to the professionalization and reestablishment of legal education since Deng-era China. He was not only considered the “soul and conscience of Chinese civil law,” a renowned scholar of Roman law, and a legislative expert, but also personifies the particular character of Chinese law.[15] In order to adhere to his motto “bowing only to the truth”, Professor Jiang Ping was and will remain an important authority to past and future law students, scholars, and legal professionals in and outside China.[16]

[1] “一位特殊重要的法科知识人——悼江平先生 [A Special and Important Legal Intellectual – Mourning Mr Jiang Ping ].”, last accessed 15 January 2024.

[2] New York Times calls Jiang Ping an „relentless advocate for rule of law“,, last accessed 30 December 2023; also his characterization as “conscience” of the legal profession in China is stressed in numerous obituaries, i.e., the New York Times and South China Morning Post,, last accessed 30 December 2023.

[3] 明报新闻网 [] “数千人告别法学界良心江平” [Thousands of people bid farewell to the conscious of the legal profession Jiang Ping],, last accessed 23 January 2024.

[4] “江平自传节选:列宁曾是我“学长” “[Excerpts from Jiang Ping’s Autobiography: “Lenin was my senior”.]”,, last accessed 23 January 2024.

[5] “江平自传节选:罗马法精神在中国 [Excerpts from Jiang Ping’s Autobiography : The Spirit of Roman Law in China].” 法制日报 [Legal Daily],, last accessed 13 January 2024.

[6] Nongji Zhang (2022) Legal Scholars and Scholarship in the People’s Republic of China, Leiden: Harvard University Asia Center, p. 172.

[7] Jiang Ping (江平) (2014), (ed.), 20世纪中国知名科学家学术成就概览 法学卷第三分册 [Overview of 20’th Century Chinese Famous Scientist’s Learning Achievements, Third Volume: jurisprudence], p. 293.

[8] Ji Weidong (季卫东) (2023), “法不阿贵 方成公器——关于宪治之路与江平先生风骨的随想原创“,, last accessed 30 December 2023.

[9] Jiang Ping (江平), “七十回首 [Seventy Years Looking Back]”, excerpt from his monograph 江平文集 [Jiang Ping’s Colelcted Works],, last accessed 30 December 2023.

[10] Nongji Zhang(2022) Ibid. p. 175.

[11] Jiang Ping (江平) Ibid. p. 300.

[12] He Haibo (何海波) (2019), 行政法治奠基时:1989年《行政诉讼法》史料荟萃, 中国政法大学 [When the Foundations of the Administrative Rule of Law were Laid: A Collection of Historical Materials on the 1989 Administrative Litigation Law], Beijing: 法律出版社 [Law Press], p. 405.

[13] Long Weiqiu (龙卫球), “江平先生的法学教育之路 [Mr. Jiang Ping’s Path to Legal Education]”,, last accessed 13 January 2024.

[14] “从程序法发展到实体法,是一条立法规律,” Zhang, Wei (张维) (2016) “法学界一个战斗团队–行政立法研究组成为30周年掠影 [A fighting group in the world of legal profession – a glimpse at the 30th anniversary of the Administrative Legislation Research Group]”, 法制日报 (Legal Daily), 14 October 2016, (accessed 21 December 2023).

[15] “[…] 中国民法学界的灵魂和良心”, in: Xie Zhihao (谢志浩) (2010) “令人崇敬的江平先生” [The Respectable Mr. Jiang Ping], 选举与治理网 [China Digital Space], reprinted.

[16] He Weifang pictured this particular spirit of Jiang Ping by characterizing him as „one of the most influential teachers [––] the law teacher of our nation“, He Weifang (贺卫方), “江老师的精 [The Spirit of Professor Jiang].” 法治必胜 [The Rule of Law Must Succeed] 1–3, referenced by Nongji Zhang Ibid. p. 176.

Cite as: Röseler, Sandra Michele: Rule of Law Ambassador and Legal Educator – Professor Jiang Ping 江平 (1930–2023),, 24.01.2024,

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