The China Journal
Published in December 2020 online
Abstract: Drawing on interviews with Chinese judges, this paper reveals the major effects of judicial reforms during the past half decade. It focuses on the ramifications of a new quota and responsibility system for judges and on the strengthening of central-government controls over the judiciary. The paper differentiates between what the Party considers to be legitimate and illegitimate influences on judges, which sheds light on recent legal developments and the role of the judiciary in Chinese governance. The article finds that illegitimate influences on courts have declined palpably, but what the Party perceives to be legitimate influences have persisted and even been reinforced. More direct, comprehensive control over judges has replaced previously fragmented, multilayered mechanisms. Despite important changes, the reforms did not lead to institutional independence of Chinese judges, nor has the stature of the courts in China’s political landscape changed.