He Xin & Jing Feng
2021, Vol. 55, Issue 1, pp. 104-138
Abstract: While procedural justice has been regarded as a distinct and essential factor shaping litigants’ views on civil justice, few studies have focused on China, a country with a unique legal tradition and frequent legal reforms. Drawing on surveys and interviews with litigants in a basic-level court in Southern China, this study examines attitudes toward the civil justice system. Echoing several existing studies from China, our mixed methods analysis confirms that their views are dominated by outcomes—litigants with favorable outcomes are more likely to be satisfied, while those with unfavorable outcomes are more likely to be dissatisfied. Their unfamiliarity with the operation of the system constitutes a major reason for the dominance of substantive outcomes in their evaluations of the system. Many cannot distinguish between process and outcomes, nor do they feel control over the process. Moreover, they are dissatisfied with the process because it fails to meet their oftenerroneous expectations. Our results do not necessarily challenge the importance of procedural justice, but they do suggest that China may be different. Litigants’ perceptions of justice and fairness are situated and shaped by specific contexts.
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