The Wikipedia gives its own definition of the Rule of Law according with the following ideas: "The rule of law implies that government authority may only be exercised in accordance with written laws, which were adopted through an established procedure. The principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary rulings in individual cases. Thus, those who make and enforce the law are themselves bound to adhere to it." (Wikipedia, 2006).
This last point is very important in order to understand the significance of the Rule of Law. The lawmakers have to obey the law. That point is the main characteristic of the Rule of Law, because there are some countries in which the government officials behave as if they shouldn't obey the law. In undemocratic societies the people from the government are above the law. That is a very serious situation. That is why they don't have democracy and many times that is why they are underdeveloped countries. Later on we will take a look at some examples in the case of China regarding this topic.
During the last decades a lot of money has been spent trying to apply the Rule of Law in countries with undemocratic societies and in underdeveloped countries. The People's Republic of China is one of those countries. As we can see, the Rule of Law is a very conflictive topic for a lot of people in our present society. We really think that the Rule of Law is very important in order to establish democracy and development in any country. But first let's see what the Rule of Law is. Tom Glass defines the Rule of Law according to the following concepts: "Government decisions are made according to written law and rules; Government sanctions cannot be made up after the fact (ex post facto); Rules are applied as much as possible consistently to all; Courts provide citizens consistent, written process (due process) before life, liberty, or property is taken; Courts provide reasons based upon the law for their decisions." (Glass, 2005).
Chinese people couldn't get the ideas behind these points due to the fact of their Confucian background in which there was a heavy dependence upon the clan or the group. As the UN China puts it: "Under the philosophy that the government represents the people, internal government procedures regulated conflicts between the government and the individual, not laws." (UN China, 2001). There was a rule of man, rather than a rule of law until recently when Chinese leaders have recognize the rule of law as necessary for the establishment of a democratic society.
The Rule of Law is extremely important as a pre-requisite for democracy and development in any country. In a society with a solid Rule of Law we can trust the government officials and everybody feels secure in such an environment where the Law rules. People who opposed the Rule of Law like China's leaders were in favor of the Rule by Law, or in other words, the Rule by Power, or the Rule of Power. For example, general elections are held commonly in China, but only in rural areas, not on a nation-wide level, just on the village level. For example, free expression, association and assembly are constitutional right