According to Xinhua, late last month, China and ASEAN issued a joint statement declaring their intent to cooperate in the fight against organized crime. The statement came out of the China-ASEAN Prosecutors-General Conference, established in 2004 to provide prosecutors a regional forum to discuss mutual legal cooperation.
While the statement itself isn’t revolutionary, it could well be harbinger of changes to come. Some Western law and development specialists are already speculating that the emergence of China could change the rules of the game. Indeed, Western law and development assistance often comes with strings attached, whether a new institution or liberal ideology. China could offer legal assistance to non-democratic countries that seek to professionalize their services but have not desire to unleash an activist court. Indeed, in China the capacity and professionalism of judges has risen markably since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in the early 1980s, but the Communist Party has retained effective political control over courts (indeed, China was criticized last year for appointing a party apparatchik as Chief Justice). For other countries in the region, including Burma and Vietnam, this combination might sound much more attractive than the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative.