Lawmakers are discussing the first draft of legislation that would gather the laws related to issues such as property, inheritance and the conduct of businesses under a unified framework.
As he held up the draft of the general provisions for China's first civil code, Sun Xianzhong felt a huge sense of achievement.
The draft, which is currently being discussed by the nation's top legislative and political advisory bodies, and the civil code it will foster are long-held dreams for Sun, a deputy to the National People's Congress and a research fellow at the law institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
If accepted, the draft will signal a move toward the establishment of the first civil code in the history of the People's Republic of China.
The code would unify laws related to non-criminal and non-administrative areas of the legal framework under a single piece of legislation.
"It is the fruits of our labor-we have spent so much time and energy preparing it," Sun said "This draft brings me closer to my dream."
A long-cherished dream
After graduating from the law school at the Northwest University of Political Science and Law in Xian, Shaanxi province, in the 1980s, Sun began researching civil law, a task that took him to Germany in the 1990s.
"I'm always willing to do things to improve our country's legal system," he said.
In 2013, he submitted a motion to the NPC urging the formulation of a civil code, but it received little attention.
Undaunted, he submitted the motion again in 2014. This time, he won the support of many deputies and the central leadership. Work to devise the code began the following October.
Sun is hopeful that the current two sessions will signal another step forward. "Our country has a number of laws to protect people's civil rights, such as those related to property and contracts, but there is no unified legislation to integrate them. Also, some older laws need to be revised," he said.
"There are two steps, and the first is the draft currently under discussion, which aims to clarify general civil rights, duties and principles. These general provisions are difficult to draft, because they will guide the parts that follow."
The second step will involve special provisions, such as enacting new laws and amending a number of existing pieces of legislation related to specific activities and industrial sectors.
Last year, the NPC's Standing Committee read the draft three times, but recognizing its importance and the need to garner a wider range of opinions, it was submitted to the two sessions on Wednesday as a major discussion point.
Some clauses, such as the protection of personal information and the extension of inheritance rights to unborn children, have already sparked heated public debate.
"We hope the civil code will cover all aspects of people's lives and protect their civil rights from the cradle to the grave," said Shi Hong, a leading official with the Standing Committee's legal affairs commission.
Shi confirmed that the special provisions will be drawn up or amended when the draft is approved: "Our goal is to finish the code by March 2020."
The introduction of the civil code, including the formulation of the draft, will be hugely significant for China, according to Shi.
"In practical terms, it will provide better protection of property and personal rights, while historically, it has been the dream of several generations of Chinese legal professionals," he said.
The code will also reflect the country's ability to enact legislation and enforce the rule of law, which means special attention will be paid to its formulation. "Preparing the draft and code is not an easy job for the legislators," he said.