Disaggregating the Court: A Methodological Survey of Research on the Supreme People’s Court of China

in China Law and Society Review
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


This article surveys recent academic literature on the Supreme People’s Court of China, sorting existing studies into three basic categories: those that study what the Court is allowed to do, those that study what it actually does, and those that study why it does those things. Moving from the first category to the second and third is, in many ways, a progression from a predominantly formalist method to more realist ones. The article argues that the field suffers from a lack of rigorous political economy modeling and that this affects not only the thoroughness of studies in the third category, but also those in the first and second categories. Remedying these problems will depend on whether future scholarship can successfully make use of the theoretical and empirical tools developed by political science and institutional economics. Most importantly, the field needs to develop a usable model of individual judge behavior, based on their material incentives, political aspirations, and ideological commitments, which can then provide the foundation for modeling of the Court as an institution. At the early stage, ethnography and bibliographical analysis may be more useful than quantitative analysis.

Disaggregating the Court: A Methodological Survey of Research on the Supreme People’s Court of China

in China Law and Society Review



Ahl Björn . 2014. Retaining judicial professionalism: The new guiding cases mechanism of the Supreme People’s Court. China Quarterly no. 217:12139.

Balme Stephanie and Dowdle Michael ed. 2009. Building Constitutionalism in China. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bendor Jonathan and Swistak Piotr . 2001. The evolution of norms. American Journal of Sociology 106 no. 6:14931546.

Bilz Kenworthey and Nadler Janice . 2009. Law, psychology and morality. In Moral Cognition and Decision Making: The Psychology of Learning and Motivation ed. Bartels Daniel M. Bauman Christopher W. Skitka Linda J. and Medin Douglas L. 10131. San Diego: Elsevier Academic Press.

Bufford Samuel . 2017. Supreme People’s Court interpretations of China’s bankruptcy law: Translations and commentary. American Bankruptcy Law Journal 91 no. 1:154.

Cai Yongshun and Zhu Lin . 2013. Disciplining local officials in China: The case of conflict management. China Journal 70:98119.

Chen Albert H.Y. 1999. Toward a legal enlightenment: Discussions in contemporary China on the rule of law. ucla Pacific Basin Law Journal 17 nos. 2–3:12565.

Chen Benjamin Minhao and Li Zhiyu . 2016. Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court on several issues concerning the application of administrative litigation law of the People’s Republic of China. Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal 25 no. 1:13350.

Clarke Donald . 2003. Empirical research into the Chinese judicial system. In Beyond Common Knowledge: Empirical Approaches to the Rule of Law ed. Jensen Erik G. and Heller Thomas C. 16492. Redwood City ca: Stanford University Press.

Cohen Jerome Alan . 1969. The Chinese Communist Party and “judicial independence”: 1949–1959. Harvard Law Review 82 no. 5:9671006.

Deng Jinting . 2015. The guiding case system in mainland China. Frontiers of Law in China 10 no. 3:126.

Ellickson Robert C. 2001. The market for social norms. American Law and Economics Review 3 no. 1:149.

Epstein Lee Knight Jack and Martin Andrew D. . 2003. The political (science) context of judging. St. Louis University Law Journal 47:783817.

Finder Susan . 1993. The Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China. Journal of Chinese Law 7 no. 2:145224.

Hualing Fu . 2003. Putting China’s judiciary into perspective: Is it independent, competent and fair? In Beyond Common Knowledge: Empirical Approaches to the Rule of Law ed. Jensen Erik G. and Heller Thomas C. 193219. Redwood City ca: Stanford University Press.

Hualing Fu . 2016. Building judicial integrity in China. Hastings International and Comparative Law Review 39 no. 1:16781.

Fu Hualing and Cullen Richard . 2011. From mediatory to adjudicatory justice: The limits of civil justice reform in China. In Chinese Justice: Civil Dispute Resolution in China ed. Woo Margaret Y.K. and Gallagher Mary E. 2557. Cambridge uk: Cambridge University Press.

Fu Yulin . 2015. Functions of the Supreme People’s Court in transition. Peking University Law Journal 3 no. 2:299322.

Gallagher Mary E. and Dong Baohua . 2011. Legislating harmony: Labor law reform in contemporary China . In From Iron-Rice Bowl to Informalization: Markets State and Workers in a Changing China ed. Kuruvilla Sarosh Lee Ching Kwan and Gallagher Mary E 3660. London: ilr Press.

Gewirtz Paul . 2014. What China means by “rule of law.” New York TimesOctober 19http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/20/opinion/what-china-means-by-rule-of-law.html?_r=0/. Accessed June 2017.

Ginsburg Tom and Moustafa Tamir . 2008. Rule by Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes. Cambridge uk: Cambridge University Press.

Grimheden Jonas . 2007. The reform path of the Chinese judiciary. Fordham International Law Journal 30 no. 4:10001013.

Gurgel Seth and Yu. Ping 2012. Stare decisis in China? The newly enacted guiding case system. In Reading the Legal Case: Cross-Currents between Law and the Humanities ed. Wan Marco 14258. New York: Routledge.

Hand Keith J. 2011. Resolving constitutional disputes in contemporary China. University of Pennsylvania East Asia Law Review 7 no. 1:51159.

Hand Keith J. 2016. An assessment of socialist constitutional supervision models and prospects for a constitutional supervision committee in China: The Constitution as commander? In China’s Socialist Rule of Law: Reforms under Xi Jinping ed. Garrick John and Bennett Yan Chang 3044. New York: Routledge.

Weifang He . 1997. Zhongguo sifa guanlizhidu de liangge wenti [Two problems in China’s system of judicial administration]. Social Sciences in China 1997 no. 6:11719. [in Chinese].

He Xin . 2009. Enforcing commercial judgments in the Pearl River Delta of China . American Journal of Comparative Law 57 no. 2:41955.

He Xin and Su. Yang 2013. Do the “haves” come out ahead in Shanghai courts? Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 10 no. 1:12045.

Meng Hou . 2005. Jingji tizhi bianqian zhong de zuigao renmin fayuan [The Supreme People’s Court of China in the process of structural economic change]. Zhongguo zhengfa daxue xuebao [Journal of the Chinese University of Political Science and Law] 23 no. 2:6687. [in Chinese].

Meng Hou . 2007. Zuigao renmin fayuan yanjiu: Yi sifa de yingxiangli qieru [A study of the Supreme People’s Court of China: From the angle of judicial influence]. Beijing: Falü chubanshe. [in Chinese].

Meng Hou . 2015. Zuigao renmin fayuan xunhuiting: He qu he cong [The circuit courts of the Supreme People’s Court of China: Origins and future development]. Beida falü pinglun [Peking University Law Review] 2015 no. 1:6590. [in Chinese].

Howson Nicholas C. 2010. Corporate law in the Shanghai People’s Courts, 1992–2008: Judicial autonomy in a contemporary authoritarian state. East Asia Law Review 5 no. 2:303442.

Ip Eric C. 2011. The Supreme People’s Court and the political economy of judicial empowerment in contemporary China. Columbia Journal of Asian Law 24 no. 2:367436.

Ip Eric C. 2012. Judicial review in China: A positive political economy analysis. Review of Law and Economics 8 no. 2:33166.

Weidong Ji . 2002. Hexianxing shencha he sifa quan de qianghua [Constitutional review and the strengthening of judicial power]. Social Sciences in China 2002 no. 2:417. [in Chinese].

Jia Mark . 2016. Chinese common law? Guiding cases and judicial reform. Harvard Law Review 129 no. 8:221334.

Kahan Dan M. 1997. Social influence, social meaning, and deterrence. Virginia Law Review 83 no. 3:34995.

Kahan Dan M. 2000. Gentle nudges vs. hard shoves: Solving the sticky norms problem. University of Chicago Law Review 67:60745.

Kellogg Thomas E. 2009. Constitutionalism with Chinese characteristics? Constitutional development and civil litigation in China. International Journal of Constitutional Law 7 no. 2:21546.

Kinkel Jonathan J. and Hurst William J. . 2015. The judicial cadre evaluation system in China: From quantification to intra-state legibility. China Quarterly no. 224:93354.

Lessig Lawrence . 1995. The regulation of social meaning. University of Chicago Law Review 62:9431047.

Li Ling . 2016. The Chinese Communist Party and people’s courts: Judicial dependence in China. American Journal of Comparative Law 64 no. 1:3774.

Shichun Li . 2009. Anli zhidao zhidu de ling yi tiao silu—Sifa nengdong zhuyi zai Zhongguo de youxian shiyong [An alternative path for the guiding cases system—The limited applicability of judicial activism to China]. Faxue [Legal Studies] 2009 no. 6:5971. [in Chinese].

Liebman Benjamin L. 2007. China’s courts: Restricted reform. China Quarterly no. 191:61938.

Liebman Benjamin . 2011. A return to populist legality? Historical legacies and legal Reform. In Mao’s Invisible Hand ed. Heilmann Sebastian and Perry Elizabeth J. 269313. Cambridge ma: Harvard University Asia Center Press.

Limmer Jocelyn E.H. 2013. China’s new “common law”: Using China’s guiding cases to understand how to do business in the People’s Republic of China. Willamette Journal of International Law and Dispute Resolution 21 no. 2:96133.

Lin Yan and Ginsburg Tom . 2015. Constitutional interpretation in lawmaking: China’s invisible constitutional enforcement mechanism. American Journal of Comparative Law 63 no. 2:46792.

Liu Zhuang . 2016. Formalities and utilitarian decision: An experimental investigation of Chinese judges. http://ssrn.com/abstract=2807656/. Accessed July 2017.

Long Xiaoning and Wang Jun . 2015. Judicial local protectionism in China: An empirical study of ip cases. International Review of Law and Economics 42:4859.

Lubman Stanley . 1999. Bird in a Cage: Legal Reform in China after Mao. Redwood City ca: Stanford University Press.

Xueling Ma . 2014. Zhou Qiang: Yao an xianfa de yaoqiu, zunzhong he baozhang renquan [Zhou Qiang: We must respect and protect human rights as demanded by the constitution]. Sina News (December 4) http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2014-12-04/201231246951.shtml. [in Chinese].

Mei Cigi and Pearson Margaret M. . 2014. Killing a chicken to scare the monkeys? Deterrence failure and local defiance in China. China Journal 72:7597.

Minzner Carl F. 2011. China’s turn against law. American Journal of Comparative Law 59:93584.

Minzner Carl F. 2015. Legal reform in the Xi Jinping era. Asia Policy 20 no. 1:49.

Peerenboom Randall . 2002. China’s Long March toward Rule of Law. Cambridge uk: Cambridge University Press.

Peerenboom Randall . 2010. Judicial independence in China: Common myths and unfounded assumptions. In Judicial Independence in China: Lessons for Global Rule of Law Promotion ed. Peerenboom Randall 6994. Cambridge uk: Cambridge University Press.

Schultz Caitlin E. 2016. Placing power in the cage of law: Judicial independence in China. Capital University Law Review 44:393427.

Seppänen Samuli . 2016. Ideological Conflict and the Rule of Law in Contemporary China: Useful Paradoxes. Cambridge uk: Cambridge University Press.

Stern Rachel E. 2014. The political logic of China’s new environmental courts. China Journal 72:5374.

Thaler Richard H. and Sunstein Cass R. . 2008. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health Wealth and Happiness. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Trevaskes Susan . 2013. China’s death penalty, the Supreme People’s Court, the suspended death sentence and the politics of penal reform. British Journal of Criminology 53 no. 3:48299.

Shengjun Wang . 2008. Gaoju qizhi yu shi jujin nuli kaichuang renmin fayuan gongzuo xin jumian [Raise high the flag and vigorously establish a new situation in the work of people’s courts]. Zhongguo fayuan wang [China Courts Net]August 7http://www.chinacourt.org/public/detail.php?id=316078/. [in Chinese].

Wang Yuhua . 2015. Tying the Autocrat’s Hands: The Rise of the Rule of Law in China. Cambridge uk: Cambridge University Press.

Xu Aiguo . 2002. Weifazhi er douzheng—Xi Suli de Fazhi ji bentuziyuan [The Struggle for the Rule of Law: An Analysis of Suli’s The Rule of Law and Native Resources]. Peking University Law Anthology 1 no. 1:27485. [in Chinese].

Dongsheng Zang . 2010. Rise of political populism and the trouble with the legal profession in China. Harvard China Review 6 no. 1:7999.

Zhang Taisu . 2012. The pragmatic court: Reinterpreting the Supreme People’s Court of China. Columbia Journal of Asian Law 25 no. 1:161.

Zheng Yongnian and Shan Wei . 2015. Understanding Xi Jinping’s “rule of law” campaign. East Asian Policy 7 no. 2:519.

Zhu Guobin . 2010. Constitutional review in China: An unaccomplished project or a mirage? Suffolk University Law Review 43 no. 3:62553.

Zhu Suli . 2009. The Party and the courts. In Judicial Independence in China: Lessons for Global Rule of Law Promotion ed. Peerenboom Randall 5268. Cambridge uk: Cambridge University Press.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 34 34 12
Full Text Views 21 21 8
PDF Downloads 2 2 2
EPUB Downloads 9 9 1