‘Law Does Not Come Down From Heaven’: Youth Legal Socialisation Approaches in Chinese Textbooks of the Xi Jinping Era


Schools constitute key sites for legal socialisation, the process whereby youth develop
their relationship with the law. Yet, what does legal socialisation entail in the context
of an authoritarian party-state such as China? The article examines this question by analysing Chinese citizenship education textbooks of the Xi era. The study finds that China’s current textbooks contain elements associated with both a coercive and a consensual approach to legal education. Nonetheless, it is the consensual orientation that receives greater stress, as the books highlight the positive benefits of legal compliance and
endorse the idea that youth should advance beyond the external supervisory stage to
the self-discipline level of legal consciousness. Reflecting the attempt of the Chinese
Communist Party leadership to draw on legality as a key source of legitimacy, this
approach is nonetheless undermined by the propagandist tone of the textbooks and
their ambiguous messages regarding citizens’ ability to challenge China’s existing laws.

Publisher's Version

Last updated on 08/18/2022