New Book: Authoritarian Legality in Asia: Formation, Development and Transition

A cluster of Asian states are well-known for their authoritarian legality while having been able to achieve remarkable economic growth. Why would an authoritarian regime seek or tolerate a significant degree of legality and how has such type of legality been made possible in Asia? Would a transition towards a liberal, democratic system eventually take place and, if so, what kind of post-transition struggles are likely to be experienced? This book compares the past and current experiences of China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Vietnam and offers a comparative framework for readers to conduct a theoretical dialogue with the orthodox conception of liberal democracy and the rule of law.

Book available from Cambridge University Press here.


authoritarian legality


Weitseng Chen is Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law.

Hualing Fu holds the Warren Chan Professorship in Human Rights and Responsibilities at The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Law and is Interim Dean of The University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law.


Weitseng Chen, Hualing Fu, Jacques deLisle, Michael Dowdle, Eva Pils, Thomas E. Kellogg, Richard Cullen, David Campbell, Michael C. Davis, Kevin Y. L. Tan, Tom Ginsburg, Do Hai Ha, Pip Nicholson, Jianlin Chen, Yen-Tu Su, Koichi Nakano, Erik Mobrand.



"This important volume shows how authoritarian regimes in Asia use the law strategically. Legality and democratic transition need not go together, and if a transition occurs, it may be fragile and subject to reversal—a lesson illustrated not only by the book’s Asian cases, but also by other transitional regimes. The contributions will interest scholars of comparative law and politics everywhere and should inform legally motivated reformers." - Susan Rose-Ackerman, Yale Law School

"Why (and when) do authoritarian governments limit their own power by adhering to the rule of law? What happens when they do? What effects does authoritarian legality have on transitions away from authoritarianism? The thought-provoking essays in this collection, relying on perspectives from several disciplines and case studies of six Asian jurisdictions, probe those questions in an important contribution to the examination of one of the main questions in comparative constitutional law today." - Mark Tushnet, Harvard Law School

"From the 19th Century Meiji Constitution that helped structure Japanese economic growth and political development 150 years ago to contemporary Vietnam’s attempts to create a legal and bureaucratic structure for development within the confines of one-party socialist rule, this volume provides an overview, with occasional deep dives into fascinating detail, of the evolution of the legal systems of the most economically and socially dynamic region of today’s world. No one interested in the present and future of law in changing societies can ignore this book." - Frank K. Upham, New York University School of Law