Thirty years ago, in his landmark study of how “a bill becomes a law” in the United States, Daniel Berman reminded constitutional scholars that policy-making processes have an enormous impact on the content of the laws they produce, and are not mere “technical devices” designed to permit orderly Congressional lawmaking. This article begins from the assertion that 16 years after the beginning of China's post-Mao political and legal reforms, scholars of Chinese politics and law need to pay greater attention to the impact which lawmaking processes have on the content of the laws and policies that this system produces. Specifically, it asks the following questions. First, how are national-level laws drafted in post-Mao China, and what are the politics of the lawmaking process? Secondly, what factors in the process affect the “life chances” of a particular draft law? That is, why do some laws win a place on the legislative agenda, while most drafts languish in obscurity, and still others emerge briefly, only to disappear later into the bureaucratic swamp? And finally, what systematic impact, if any, do the politics of the lawmaking process have on the content of the laws which the system produces?