Chinese justice : From the past to the Covid-19 pandemic

1 Candidate au doctorat, Faculty of law - McGill University.


The Western liberal notion of justice is generally associated with concepts such as fairness, righteousness, complete virtue, and equality. As an important virtue of social institutions, justice is a contextual notion which conveys different meanings in different cultures. Regardless of how many articles have discussed the Western concept of justice, very few have touched on its Chinese counterpart. Justice is translated into ‘gongping’ (公平) and ‘zhengyi’(正义)in Chinese. It is difficult to find a simple Chinese term to describe the complete meaning of justice. An etymological approach was taken by analyzing the structure of four relevant Chinese characters in this paper. Moreover, since the Chinese justice has been deeply influenced by Confucianism, it is necessary to explore the meaning of justice in his celebrated work: the Analects. I conclude that the Chinese concept of justice entails connotations of fair distribution, righteousness, and equality. But the Chinese version of justice focuses on the collective interest in maintaining a harmonious society. Fairness and justice are important values embodied in Chinese laws and government reports. The Chinese notion of justice emphasizes the public interest which regards individual justice as an integral part of social justice. In public health emergencies, the state interest is closely linked with global interest. Fair distribution of genomic data abroad is in alignment with the Chinese concept of justice. I argue that the Chinese view of justice should be proposed for countries to take more responsibility in genomic data sharing to find more cures to end the pandemic.

Recommended citation

Lingqiao Song, « Chinese justice : From the past to the Covid-19 pandemic » dans Ledy Rivas Zannou et Eve Gaumond (dir.), La justice dans tous ses états, Montréal, Lex Electronica, (2021) 26-2 Lex-electronica pp. 22-41. Available at:
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