This post is written in response to Jean Christopher Mittelstaedt’s criticism of the paper I presented at the 2015 European China Law Studies Association Conference (here). Jean Christopher Mittelstaedt works with Stéphanie Balme at SciencesPo, in Paris. The criticism I received from him is, thus far, the best and most sophisticated criticism I have ever received. I am not posting the response he sent me. Those who are interested in the question of how we should approach Chinese law may want to get in touch to explore possible ways to start a broader public conversation on this and similar points.
In various European countries, different persons are using their own technique to read Chinese legal texts, so I thought I would share mine as I go on constructing it. This is an important endeavor: European sinologists and political scientists were perhaps the first ones who attempted to read and understand Chinese legal texts. Their techniques – as well as the ones used in Australia – however, rest for the most part upon the tacit, and practical knowledge each interpreter has acquired over the years by trial and error. This knowledge should be made explicit: multitasking and information overflow (very few people still read the paper texts of legal documents) are changing the way we read, with the result that these techniques are slowly being lost.